Atlantic

Gucci Mane was in prison for the first five months of 2016, but that didn't prevent him from having a remarkable year; it's hard to say that many rappers have had as good of an output over the last 12 months as Guwop. That may be because even seven months for Gucci is the equivalent to multiple years for most rappers.

The Atlanta rapper has always been known for his work ethic, and incarceration from 2014 until May of this year didn't change that. It only took two months since his prison release until his comeback album, Everybody Looking, came out. He followed that up with Woptober in the fall. His penchant for collaborative projects didn't end either. Gucci released Free Bricks 2K16 (Zone 6 Edition) with Future and 1017 vs. the World and Lil Uzi Vert barely a week apart from each other.

While those four releases from July to November showcased that Gucci's ability to produce music in bulk never left, he's also showcased some fantastic quality control when releasing these projects. Even in Gucci's peaks of his career, he would manage to release a bit of a clunker due to the sheer quantity. Yet since being a free man, he's yet to drop a bad project. Guwop's seemingly been revitalized as a rapper and reinvented himself and his outlook.

Gucci's latest album, The Return of East Atlanta Santa, is the culmination of his hot seven-month streak. It's a follow-up to 2014's East Atlanta Santa and 2015's East Atlanta Santa 2, which served as Gucci's Christmas presents to his fans even while he was locked up.

This year's installment of the East Atlanta Santa series further serves as a celebration of the gift of Gucci's freedom. It's also the most traditionally Gucci Mane-sounding project he's released this year. Everybody Looking and to a lesser extent Woptober showed a bit of a changed Gucci Mane. He was more positive and introspective than we may have expected from the Trap God. On here, it's classic Gucci through and through to show that even with a perhaps changed outlook on life, he still shouldn't be messed with.

Despite the name, Return of East Atlanta Santa doesn't have much of a Christmas theme. The only spot the yuletide season is addressed much is the "St. Brick Intro," which is also one of the biggest highlights of the project. The song is an iced-out (pun intended) version of "Jingle Bells," featuring Zaytoven turning the Christmas standard into a more sinister, trap beat. Guwop also riffs on the melody of the carol when he spits, "I'm just trappin' through the snow/Sellin' nine half-a-bricks in four ways/Over the hills we go/Got an extendo and an AK." He goes off that by talking about how he's serving as the East Atlanta Santa who brings a different sort of snow to the people during Christmastime.

The rest of the project details the same things without as much winter imagery.  On "Nonchalant," a triumphant Gucci chills in the strip club without any cares. "Bales" is about him selling weed. "No Smoke" has him threatening other rappers that call him out as cowards that won't do anything once things actually get heated.

The project is mostly all Gucci, though a few friends show up along the way. Drake pops up on "Both" for a hook and verse. It's interesting to see how their rap relationship continues to develop since they've teased releasing a joint project, but unfortunately it doesn't hold up here. Drake's fine on the hook but his verse is just a little too short and simplistic. Bryson Tiller and Travis Scott both fare better on "Drove U Crazy" and "Last Time," respectively. Scott especially blends well and has great chemistry with Wop on the Zaytoven-backed track.

Zaytoven's not the only frequent Gucci collaborator to produce a track on Return of East Atlanta Santa. Mike Will Made It brings his trademark atmospheric haze to "Nonchalant" and just a little bit of a bounce to "Greatest Show on Earth." Southside and Metro Boomin shine on "I Can't" and "Both." Murda Beatz, TM88, Bangladesh, Honorable C-Note and more join the party as well.

The later parts of the year and especially December have a tendency to be slow in regards to new music releases. Luckily, Gucci Mane doesn't slow down at any time or season. The Return of East Atlanta Santa might be the last gift of his new music for rap fans in 2016, but Gucci makes sure it's a winner as part of his remarkable comeback streak.

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