After scoring a huge hit in 2005 with the Young Jeezy–assisted “Icy,” things quickly turned sour for Gucci Mane. As if being arrested for murder just before the release of his debut, Trap House, wasn’t enough, his 2006 follow-up, Hard to Kill (released after his acquittal), was nationally ignored and critically panned. Luckily, the album’s inspired ecstasy anthem “Pillz” became a local smash and drew interest from major labels. Linking up with Asylum Records for his latest project, Back to the Trap House, Gucci Mane finally cooks up his formula for mass consumption.

At his best, Gucci has mastered the art of boldly spewing non sequiturs while bouncing through quirky, spaced-out club beats with his hearty drawl. On the earthquake-inducing “Bird Flu” (produced by newcomer Supersonics), the Atlanta native seems to be giggling with glee after every line: “Ha-choo! I’m rich/Say gesundheit, bitch/Please excuse me, miss/Excuse my French/My necklace look like Cris/Your diamonds look like piss.” Gucci Gucci also shows skill in turning real-life hardship into blunt punch lines, evident on tracks like “I Move Chickens” (“I did six months, incident with a pool stick/Find a nigga guilty, still say I ain’t do shit”).

Sadly, Gucci’s everlasting well of nonchalance also drowns out any real introspection (although the gloomy “Iced Out Bart” is a promising exception). Instead, he falls back on the comfort of yawn-inducing baller clichés, like, “I rock so much ice I shoulda brought my cooler” (“I’m Cool”), or tries to revisit his stone-faced trap-rap formula (“Stash House”). Gucci sounds most at ease on whimsical club joints such as the 808-filled “Jump the Line” or the breezy, Zaytoven-produced “15 Minutes Past the Diamond.” With its unexpectedly original sound, Back to the Trap House easily trumps his previous efforts. But with the whole world looking at Gucci, it might be time for him to move past the trap.—BRENDAN FREDERICK