17. Gucci Mane, Gangsta Grillz: The Movie (2008)
No artist has been so defined by his mixtapes as Gucci Mane. Carrying the torch from Lil Wayne, Gucci adapted his flood-the-market approach to a more competitive mixtape era. With a deluge of free music online, the need for nonstop material put a strain on lesser artists; to meet the quantity requirements, quality would suffer. Gucci found a workaround.
Gucci's shrewd calculation was to adopt his own rap style to the needs of his growing fanbase's unquenchable thirst for new material. Thus, the rough-hewn rock of personality hammered out on the Trap House LP and Chicken Talk mixtape was chiseled for a new era on No Pad No Pencil. Like the title says, he threw out the notepad, creating a set template, then experimenting with a multitude of imaginative variations.
The Movie was the creative apex of this effort, the moment when his style seemed to compact so many contradictory tensions and energies inside one release that each track crackled with electricity. There was the Reservoir Dogs-worthy introduction. There was the club jam for the mobile camera era, "Photo Shoot." There was the cocky licentiousness of "Bachelor Pad," the intoxicated black-out circuit overload of "I'm a Star," and the breezy beach vibes of "You Know What It Is."
Gucci was never quite able to follow through on the crossover potential, thanks in large part to legal dilemmas that sidetracked his career. But the creative energy contained within The Movie mixtape was a uniquely exuberant expression of possibility. —David Drake
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