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Gucci Mane has had a frighteningly good year, and while he’s had the odd brush with the law (again), the rapper has managed to spend most of his time doing exactly what he does best – releasing mixtape after mixtape of high-grade Atlanta rap.

Towering above his eight (!) mixtapes this year is Trap House III, Gucci’s lone ‘proper’ album, and it’s a damn good one. Produced confidently and realized with a rare restraint, it pulls together some of his finest moments but fails to tell the complete story. Gucci’s poor quality control is one of his most defining characteristics, and the haphazard way he presents his tapes is without a doubt part of the enjoyment. In many ways he’s rap’s counterpart to Wolf Eyes, releasing mixtapes much in the same way the noise set churn out CDRs and tapes, as experiments to see what sticks and what simply falls by the wayside – not just for himself but for the wider 1017 Brick Squad family.

With so many releases and feature spots it can however be something of a mission to trawl through each one looking for moments of brilliance, so we’ve pulled together a selection of Gucci’s best of the year so far. We’ve purposefully left off the tracks that eventually made it to Trap House III – so that means no ‘Hell Yes’ (arguably Gucci’s 2013 high point), no ‘Birds of a Feather’ (probably the diss track of the year) and no ‘Darker’, but there’s plenty more where they came from.

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Young Scooter feat. Gucci Mane – ‘Work’

At the beginning of 2013 Young Scooter was hardly a household name, but all that would change with the release of Street Lottery. Still one of the year’s finest tapes, its success was down to the breakout of the bizarre and unexpectedly huge ‘Colombia’, and that’s not the end of the story. ‘Work’ is arguably the album’s heaviest moment, and sporting a Grade A beat from 1017 in-house producer Zaytoven, Gucci’s fingerprints are all over it.

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Gucci Mane – ‘Pistol In The Party’

Produced by New Atlanta duo DJ Spinz and C4, ‘Pistol In The Party’ sticks out like a sore thumb on Trap God 2 with its ugly distorted filters and bright neon synths. The C4-produced ‘Nothin On Ya’ is the tape’s most recognizable hit (and was re-tooled for Trap House III) but ‘Pistol In The Party’ is an ominous, druggy club destroyer blessed with the kind of lazy sing-along chorus that Gucci has made his calling card.

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Young Thug feat. Gucci Mane – ‘Nigeria’

Young Thug’s 1017 Thug is probably one of the year’s most brilliant and most divisive tapes, no doubt thanks to the rapper’s unusual wailing delivery and bizarre lyrical content. It’s hardly surprising then that on the album’s highlight ‘Nigeria’, the 1017 Godfather himself pops up for a sneaky guest verse. Next to Thug’s pained moans, Gucci sounds almost like a regular guy – and that’s worth the asking price alone.

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Gucci Mane & Young Scooter feat. Young Dolph – ‘Re-Up’

With a piano hook that’s almost Ennio Morricone’s Once Upon the Time in the West theme crossed with John Carpenter’s Halloween, it’s hard not to warm to ‘Re-Up’ very swiftly. Culled from Gucci’s and Scooter’s second collaborative full-length Free Bricks 2, it’s Gucci at his grim, frightening best growling over the kind of cheap, plasticky beat that cemented his sound back in the mid 00s.

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Gucci Mane – ‘Playin’ With The Money’

It’s hard to talk about rap’s mainstream in 2013 without mentioning producer Mike Will, but it’s easy to forget that he cut his teeth throwing down beats for Gucci. ‘Playin With The Money’ is a far cry from the producer’s patented ‘Bandz…’-esque filter-sweeps with its rugged kick and a wobbly squeak nicked straight out of Wiley’s sample collection, and that’s a good thing indeed.

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Gucci Mane & Young Dolph – ‘Get It Back’

Culled from Gucci and Dolph’s EastAtlantaMemphis tape, ‘Get It Back’ is an industrial-strength banger sporting a belter of a beat from 808 Mafia. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but Gucci and Dolph’s chemistry trading verses over Terentino’s urgent arpeggios is hard to argue with. Sometimes you just need a big tune, and ‘Get It Back’ delivers.

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Gucci Mane & PeeWee Longway feat. Waka Flocka Flame – ‘Breakfast’

Featured on not one but two of Gucci’s tapes this year (Money, Pounds, Ammunition and Trap God 2) there’s clearly something to ‘Breakfast’ that makes it worthy of a closer look. It’s a good reminder of Gucci’s now severed association with Waka (not sure what’s developed? Just keep an eye on Twitter), but its Gucci’s lean-addled, slightly demonic turn that’s the track’s biggest draw.

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Gucci Mane feat. PeeWee Longway and OJ Da Juiceman – ‘Christmas Tree’

This one’s weird even for Gucci standards, finding our protagonist singing like a peaky Kid Cudi over a dramatic beat from 808 Mafia. It’s PeeWee Longway that takes the gold here, but Gucci tries his best with the markedly distasteful “Beat her up Ri Ri Chris Brown.”

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Gucci Mane feat. Chief Keef – ‘So Much Money’

Recently inaugurated into the 1017 crew, Chief Keef is possibly the natural heir to Gucci’s showy, unfocused legacy. ‘So Much Money’ welds together both artists’ obsessions with robotic crooning, and while it’s a million miles from pretty, it gives us a sneak peek into what might develop into a very beautiful friendship.

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Gucci Mane feat. Young Fresh – ‘Don’t Save No Bitches’

Sporting another left-of-centre Mike Will beat that sounds like a smoked out Prince of Persia, ‘Don’t Save No Bitches’ is a rare high on Lean, the weakest tape of the World War 3 set. Strangely enough the very-near-parody Arabesque production gives the track the same eerie resonance that the wave of sino-grime tracks had a few years back – maybe we’re in for a new sub-genre?

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