a post where i bitch about a pitchfork review

re: tom b.’s review of ‘mr. zone 6’, on the scale of pfork rap scores it got a pretty great rating, but i wonder why tom always insists on making a point of what he perceives to be gucci’s “stupidity”, or at least the “stupidity” of his punchlines. i’m of course not accusing tom of being a region racist, as his writing on southern rap speaks for itself, but this gucci review is almost like the snake eating its own tail (or maybe two steps forward and one step back would be a better analogy). obviously tom has to write these reviews knowing that there’s still a segment of people (rap fans and normal pfork readers alike) that think that gucci (and any southern rapper of his ilk) is a joke, and of course tom mentions this in his review, and yet he still seems to hedge his bets by flogging this idiotic “stupidly awesome….. OR IS IT AWESOMELY STUPID?” line of thinking and quoting lines from the tape that are gucci at his most crass.

the cassanova/bend ya ova and twitpic/dick lines that tom quotes work in the context of the mixtape as gucci goofing around and puffing his chest out a bit (and both lines are pretty rare for him, as even on his songs about fucking he almost always spends about 80% of the time rapping about cars and chains). but in the context of a pitchfork review, those lines function as that “one step back”, where tom sets a tone in the review of, and explicitly says, “gucci is a seriously great rapper! everyone should take him seriously!” but then cites out of context quotes that reinforce the exact stereotype that he is trying to dismantle in the review. i don’t see why, for instance, tom quotes lines illustrating gucci’s “non-illmatic levels of insight” (i’m not even sure why this point is brought up… it almost reads as a concession to the current wale/mos def/drake-worshiping era of pfork rap coverage) but doesn’t quote the myriad lines where gucci displays the ability to “jam as many syllables as possible into a quick-rewind clump”.

25 responses to “a post where i bitch about a pitchfork review

  1. Well first, a GREAT rapper can have “stupid” lines. How he raps and how he writes, though interconnected, don’t like cancel each other out or nothing.

    This seems a bit more of the “no one can’t write about Gucci except for me” attitude that occasionally pops up on this site. Gucci’s rapping really well right now–and by right now, meaning his post-prison stuff is the latest incarnation of him rapping well–but as Tom suggests, there’s something different about this tape and I think it has to do with the lines just being well, a bit stupider. Or STOOPIDER as it were. Tom’s concession there reads more like hedging some of the hyperbole that a lot of us rap blog nerds (me included in this for sure) can get caught up in when we discuss Gucci,and a bit of “let’s meet my readers halfway” which you know, is cool and reasonable. If Tom wanted to cite those particular lines as why he likes the tape, well to not acknowledge their silly would be disingenuous.

  2. first things first, i respect tom’s writing a lot. when he wrote that post on tumblr about being taken aback by people being influenced by ‘status ain’t hood’, well i was 17 when i started reading that blog, so i’m definitely one of those people. i like when he writes about gucci — he’s a smart dude, he knows what he’s talking about, and he’s giving good, generally thoughtful press to my favorite artist on the most important critical platform we have right now.

    so anyway — i agree that gucci is rapping really well right now. in fact i think this is far and away the best and most complete mixtape he’s ever put out, even moreso than the first burrrprint. i have my pet theory as to why there’s “something different” about it, and i think it was because a lot of it was likely written in prison, when all he had was time to labor over the verses, and play with syllables and write jokes and construct different flows for each song etc. maybe i’m wrong and he did it all on the fly, idk. but i really don’t see the “stupider” argument. not that gucci’s — i hesitate to say “stupidity” cuz i don’t really understand what it connotes in this context — silliness isn’t a selling point of his rapping, but it’s certainly not THE selling point, not from my vantage point anyway. it rounds him out as a rapper surely, gives him more personality than jeezy, more levity than pusha t, but when i listen to ‘mr. zone 6’ i’m thinking of songs like “dats my life” & “cowards and soldiers” & “stove music” & “long money”, and i don’t pick up much if any silliness or awesome stupidity in those songs. it’s just stone cold rapping, just retardedly good writing, the kind of stuff that, you know, convinces people of the man’s talent, not jokes about tweeting a photo of his dick.

    and, like i said in the post, “meeting the reader halfway” by going “hey, he definitely is kind of a clown!” but only explicitly spelling out that part of his personality just undermines the whole exercise, because i think a lot of readers are gonna leave tom standing alone at that halfway mark. but maybe i’m wrong.

    lastly, i can’t fundamentally understand “liking” ‘mr. zone 6’ cuz of lines like cassanova/bend ya ova & twitpic/dick — they’re larks, they’re colorful, they’re alright, but there’s so much better and more creative and more vital rapping going on on the tape that should be talked about. or else we should just be listening to juelz santana.

  3. yeah brandon u missed the point here — no one said he cant have ‘stupid’ lines, its that drawing attention to those while trying to make a case for him as a legit for real dope rapper is counterproductive & also misleading

  4. Gonna ignore Drake because he’s in usual condescending mode. Also feels like I’m arguing with Prince.

    I don’t think it’s intentional here, but this comes off a bit like “Tom doesn’t like the same stuff about Gucci that I do, so I’m going to call into question his critical approach”. Or rather, because you framed this as “Tom’s review is a problem” and not “I disagree with it”, it comes off a bit weird. I read your piece, I agree with it, and if anything, find these twitpic/Gucci’s dick lines really cool because they’re not exactly Gucci-like. They’re dare I say, less subtle than he usually is?

    Still, it reads like “I disagree, so Tom’s wrong.” You sorta say that right here: “i can’t fundamentally understand “liking” ‘mr. zone 6′ cuz of lines like cassanova/bend ya ova & twitpic/dick — they’re larks, they’re colorful, they’re alright, but there’s so much better and more creative and more vital rapping going on on the tape that should be talked about.”

    But if that’s what grabs Tom and/or that’s what he thinks is a good selling point for the review–especially b/c we all know Tom reads our shit and so, he’s read 1000s of words about Gucci already–then you can agree or disagree, but he isn’t like fundamentally wrong or off, which is how you make it sound.

    Additionally, there’s still the point that a very good rapper can have very stupid lines. By suggesting that this SHOULD NOT be the focus makes you come off like some kind of Gucci Gatekeeper: What critical approach is good for Gucci? How can we best counter-act the negatives rolling around out there about the guy?

    Re: Your Gucci Writing Theory
    I hadn’t considered this at all for whatever reason–the why in “why is this tape so good, so focused”–but I think you’re totally right. I’d like to contrast it to post-jail T.I who just got obsessed with syllables adding up and rapping super-precise and it got kinda boring? To me at least. Gucci here sounds like a guy who walks around daily thinking of funny things to say, clever things to say, etc. and now was stuck in jail with only his thoughts and no recording booth or nothing, so you’re getting like the build-up of all those lines and ideas.

    Gucci’s style changes flow-wise, as you guys have so artfully said, his content doesn’t change all that much. And so, imagine Gucci in jail with a notebook full of new lines and hooks or even just a brain full of them, finally having a place to put them. That’s ‘Mr. Zone 6’.

  5. Oddly, the twitpic line was one of my favorites on my first listen. Maybe I have a Breihanic sensibility. My main cavil with the review, and it’s unrelated to your complaints, is the bit about how Gucci raps circles around Waka and Yo Gotti. Yo Gotti is a really great rapper in my book and one who’s held his own with Gucci on pretty much every track I’ve ever heard the two of them on, and it just rings of this typical Breihan essentialism of the weird and formally abstruse to claim that Gucci is rapping that much better (or to put him in the same boat as Waka!) just because Gucci has an interesting flow and says whimsical shit and Yo Gotti is just a really terrific straight-line rapper. One whose shit, I might add, is emotionally a hell of a lot more resonant than Gucci’s, not that there’s anything wrong with largely rapping in a comic mode.

  6. brando

    “Tom doesn’t like the same stuff about Gucci that I do, so I’m going to call into question his critical approach”

    this is pretty much what i’m saying, insofar as the aim of a positive review of a record is, generally speaking, to convince the reader to listen to it, and i’m not sure focusing on the silliness is the best way of doing that, esp for a pitchfork audience, but maybe i’m wrong, i don’t really know. so yes, i was questioning whether or not it was the best “critical approach,” and i was coming from that more of critic-to-critic than gucci fan-to-critic.

    i was wary of posting this because i DON’T want to come off as a “gucci gatekeeper” (it was originally a message board post that i cleaned up and fleshed out a bit after david asked me to post it here), but i was just trying to point out that i thought that tom was failing… an unstated goal of sorts, but maybe i’m reading his intentions wrong.

    re: the jail thing, it came to my mind because the second verse of “dats my life” is explicitly written from jail i think (“may 12 2010 i’m free/ crawl up in the booth at like 10:17/ before i’m through fire jumpin out the roof but we don’t need water please bring more weed”) and that whole song, as intricately constructed the flow is, seems to me like something that must’ve been a bit laborious, something that took time, i.e. all the time one has in jail. same goes for stuff like “cowards and soldiers” and “stove music”, which seem a bit more writerly to me. (whereas “koolin” or “rooftop” seem like more, idk, “normal” gucci fare, but a bit better). but idk if i’m right, i would like for someone to ask him about that but i doubt that will happen.

  7. hey brandon the only thing im being ‘condescending’ about right now is your annoying habit of accusing us of having some ulterior motives when making a legitimate point of disagreement. ive hung out w/ tom, he & i are cool & he knows if im gonna disagree im gonna make that point. im sorry if u think its some kind of ‘gucci gatekeeper’ thing, its just that um jordan is right in this case, imo, and that has nothing to do with who wrote about gucci first, and everything to do w/ the fact that i agree tom undercut his argument by just quoting the goofier gucci lyrics

  8. i mean where does jordan make it sound like hes ‘fundamentally wrong’?? what you’re saying is absurd. he just says that it kinda undercuts his argument to have his evidence sound like the kind of goofy kool keithisms instead of using the more intricate lyrics

  9. Drake’s madd.

    I think you did a good job of not coming off like the 100th person to call Tom out because he’s Tom, but I’m still just confused as to not, “the point” of this post, but the approach and also, what you think or believe the point of a review is. And the assumption that all writers must write reviews with the same lofty goals.

    Is a review an articulation of how the critic feels about the artist/album? Is it a way to drum up interest in the artist, by any means? It’s both? Sort of?

    Your post being from a message board makes a bit more sense, but you know, it’s not on a message board anymore. It’s a post on your website now.

    It really reads like “this isn’t how I would’ve written the review” mixed with “this will not gain Gucci fans” and that’s just really weird man. Like, Tom’s approach apparently doesn’t spiral out to what makes ‘Mr Zone 6’ good or what you like about it, and because it’s for this imagined Pitchfork reader–p4kreviewsreviews?–you don’t think it’ll grab them.

    I think your point is clear, but the reasoning is a bit insular, while Tom’s review is not. I’d also add that I think that even if the “zany” lines are there to sell Gucci to imagined p4k audience and not because Tom just plain likes them, well indeed, it’s a perfectly fine selling point. P4k’s relatively mainstream and so, a rap blog nerd breakdown of his flow construction and meter and shit isn’t going to fly*. Also, I do think this tape is a bit heavy on joke lines, so it’s appropriate.

    *We can speak on the fact that a indie nerd breakdown of Animal Collective’s sonics is more than welcome and how that’s bullshit, but you know, things are like that sometimes. Unfair.

    Once more, to speak to the original issue I had: Gucci can have wacky, stoopid lines and still be a great rapper. If your concern is a bunch of herbs who are not gonna get that, well you got a like, Sisyphean task ahead of you, and Tom’s review, if written differently wouldn’t stop that either.

    Jail and Writing:
    We could construct some additional in-jail thesis about how a guy in jail for like the third time in a year gets out and has a had full of hilarious one-liners, but you know….

    When I read your point, I thought of “Georgia’s Most Wanted” (obvious but still) in which he has that thing about being in the electric chair and life flashing in front of [him]. Like not only is he addressing his situation but he’s inhabiting some character or hell, maybe someone he knew inside. Awesome.

  10. can’t believe y’all thought putting a butthurt message board rant on this blog was a good idea, turning this place into pitchforkreviewsreviews is not a good look.

  11. I noticed that all of the gucci mixtapes have been removed from sites such as datpiff and mixunit.com due to complaints from Gray Zone Inc. I guess it’s too late to download the cold war and burrrprint original mixes.

  12. shiplo: believe me, my butt is not hurt over gucci mane getting another 8.0+ rating on pitchfork — like deej says, i thought my criticism of the review was pretty legit and reasonable. i’ve been much, much more butthurt over gucci mane before.

  13. Drake you might think it’s a legit criticism but seriously: one of your colleagues at Pitchfork wrote about ‘your’ pet artist, and you encourage one of your friends to post a long nitpicky critique of that review on your blog? It’s just all kinds of lame.


    Mr. Zone 6 is his best tape since the first DJ Drama The Movie tape. I have listened to it non stop since it came out and will continue to.

    Best rapper out right now. Him and Cam need to do more tracks because they are the only people making hip-hop viable in 2010.

    Love this review of Tom’s review. Loved Tom’s review too. In my opinion all the butthurt comments are dumb, the only thing I thought when reading this was FUCK YES I love Gucci Mane and reading other fan’s opinions of him!

  15. To add the level of butt-hurtness here Al, David is in part madd because awhile ago, I called him out when he did a similar thing to Weingarten on twitter because–gasp–Drake doesn’t think Gucci’s flow is “elastic” and Weingarten does!!

  16. Most tasteless line on the whole tape:

    “My traphouse look like Morehouse it got niggas all around it
    Your trap like a whorehouse, you probably in there cooking brownies”

  17. i often hate on shrimps in my own head with a rationale that has them promoting, in excess, critical primacy but they’re victims of it, here. i’ll make sure to download zone 6 and cheer david for defending the honor of “elastic”

  18. lol. brandon i dont even remember your last boring criticism. stop trying 2 read my mind

    al, whats w/ the ”your’ pet artist’ thing?? i never claimed ownership of gucci here! i just think jordan **is right**

    what is the big effin deal?? this isnt ‘nitpicky’, why are u suddenly playing capn save a breihan??

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