Gucci Mane’s overwhelming onslaught of music of late has been a lot to keep up with, even for the most diehard of fans. 2013 has already seen five mixtapes from Big Guwop, and while this level of output is nothing new for him, his music has certainly taken a turn into slightly different territory. Trap House III, Gucci’s first retail release since 2011’s head-scratcher of an album, BAYTL, is marked by his transition into a darker, more menacing figure. The cartoony and seemingly happier Gucci from his 2009 glory days is scarce here.

If you’re willing adjust to a less joyful Guwop, there are actually some great things happening on Trap House III. Channeling his inner Future, Gucci drenches his vocals in Auto-Tune on “Point In My Life” and “Hell Yes,” and it results in the album’s two most engaging records. These sing-songy ballads are a welcome change of pace for Gucci, whose sound of late has been dictated by the production from longtime staples 808 Mafia and Zaytoven. And on the whole, it’s that Lex Luger-esque sound that drives Trap House III.

Gucci’s ominous presence is best exemplified on the album’s foreboding title track, a hypnotizing ode to bandos (Atlanta slang for abandoned homes occupied by drug dealers). It’s well executed, and Gucci’s abilities as a rapper are intact, but his paranoia-filled whisper is certainly a far cry from the silly and often joyful Guwop that fans embraced him for years ago. “Muddy” is an exception to this, reminding of just how fun a Gucci Mane song can be.

In all, Trap House III is Gucci’s strongest effort this year, perhaps his best since his 2012 “comeback tape,” Trap Back. The booming production and the Brick Squad CEO’s natural charisma make it so. The two aforementioned Auto-Tuned records also serve as proof that Gucci’s still more than capable of surprising listeners with some unexpected tricks up his sleeve. —Neil Martinez-Belkin