This is big budget Gucci Mane. Even a cursory glance at the tracklist tells the tale: he didn't just bring The Weeknd and Ty Dolla $ign by, their songs are back to back. Since coming home from his sentence, Gucci has, by nature, kept more than busy. His opening salvo after his return, 2016’s Everybody Looking, may have contained an awkward Drake verse, but he largely stuck by Mike Will Made-It for the entire affair, leading to a cohesive, if somewhat uncertain, tenative first step. Since then, his most successful (in terms of vision, at least) has been DropTopWop, again casting him alongside another super producer in the form of longtime compatriot Metro Boomin.

While The Return of East Atlanta Santa did boast an array of names behind the boards (and another, more fruitful, Drake drop by), it still felt like a star stretching his legs and simply enjoying himself. All these projects have, by result, connected with the converted, but an album on the production level of Mr. Davis was always inevitable. A rapper of his stature gradually needed to buckle down and make the sort of album most stars spend years on, complete with all the bells and whistles. Equally inescapably, some of Gucci's energy is lost in the process.

Whether he isn't ready for a project of this nature, or simply isn't suited to them is debatable and ultimately irrelevant. Mr. Davis just doesn't quite work. His favored producers are scattered throughout, but just about everyone else in recent trap rap memory swings by. The bevy of guest rappers don't help, either. With the world up in arms over Harvy Weinstein, it's worth nothing Chris Brown is still somehow cooing away on major label albums of this nature, mucking it up on ‘Tone it Down’. Elsewhere Big Sean drops by to struggle with, “Beast beast beast/ Bitch watch out for my teeth”; Nicki Minaj essentially takes over the album for her appearance on the already old ‘Make Love’; and while Migos continue their essential 2017 run on ‘I Get the Bag’, the song may as well be clipped from the approaching CULTURE sequel.

Therein lies a large chunk of Gucci's problem here. He has the energy and talent to rap amusing circles around most of his peers, but seems to need a stable collaborator to come up with the sort of consistent bash that Quavo and crew made look effortless this past January. Instead, Mr. Davis seems to pull in every direction at once. Gucci himself, despite the attempted show of a triumphant album, largely seems to feel somber. In the moments that tend to hit the best, he grieves for lost compatriots. The absence of Shawtly Lo, Bankroll Fresh, and Gucci protege Slim Dunkin are felt throughout, and Mr. Davis is at its most honest when it faces them. If anything, Gucci would have been better served by holing up with one of his key collaborators and simply buckling down for a more concise release dealing with their loss, it clearly seems to be the space he's currently inhabiting. Perhaps he would have been more prepared for a commercial beast of this nature having gotten his feelings out. Nonetheless, Gucci is still Gucci, and offers more charm than most even on his tiredest, least assured day, making this far from a complete miss. We're just left to wonder if he will ever quite manage to leave the kitchen for that fully realized major effort. This certainly isn't it.