Mobsters, MasterMinds, & Made Men, the newest release from Vinny Gigs, is a collaborative effort between the Saint Petersburg Beach rapper and the robust music community he keeps. The project hosts more rappers than tracks with a whopping thirteen other artists over eight songs. The thesis of the EP is simple: I am an Italian-American gangster, and these are my people.
Nowhere is the first half of that thesis more clearly stated than in the first track. I’m a Guinea!! takes the derogatory term in its name and wears it as a badge of honor. It is an excellent example of both world and character building, not necessarily in the sense that Vinny is playing a part, but in the sense that he develops an unmistakable identity. After listening to the song a single time, the listener knows exactly how to answer the question “who is Vinny Gigs as a human being?” This is absolutely Vinnie’s strongest attribute. While this powerful self-description is not limited to the opening track, I’m a Guinea!! is where Gigs shines, due in part to the fact it is the only track where Gigs flies solo.
In fact, I wish Mobsters… emphasized Gigs more. The biggest issue I have with this project is the same one I have with other feature-heavy albums: despite being released under his name and despite the fact that Vinny is on every track, he is not the main focus. There are only two tracks on the entire release where Vinny does at least 50% of the rapping; the other six tracks have at least two other rappers on them. This is not necessarily a bad thing and is entirely a matter of preference, but Mobsters, MasterMinds, & Made Men feels less like a Vinny Gigs tape than a showcase. In the future, an easy way to fix this would be to include more tracks like I’m a Guinea!!
Another massive upside of Vinny’s lyricism is his use of understatement. While these songs are littered with examples, one stands above the rest for me: “I love my son. I love my wife. I love my gun. I love my knife” (Don’t Give Up). I will admit, typing that out seems silly, but when you contextualize how important family is in Vinny’s world, the way this is layered screams at you but is easily overlooked.
One area where Vinny can make immediate improvement is avoiding forced-sounding rhymes. There are times when the sound of single syllabic sounds come off too bluntly:
“Should I make these sales even though I may end up in jail? I got the bail, I’m not frail” (I’m a Guinea!!)
“And I’ve cried so many times, try to shut the blinds but the sun still shines in” (Heaven 4a G)
“His name was Shane, and it was a shame that he came. Get the picture? He got framed (Invent Rhyme Scheme).
This type of structure works best when stringing together multiple syllables. When Gigs does it well, it comes off really smooth:
“I’m a Guinea, my name's Vinny,” (I’m A Guinea!!)
“Flow like Merlot” (I’m a Guinea!!)
“I’m getting plays like Nintendo so go and hit my Venmo. (Got Ya Back)
Examples like these show what Gigs is capable of. If he takes the time to sit down and hone his word choice, his lyricism will be more impactful.
The second area where Vinny can improve is his wordplay. There are points when it feels like he reaches for the simplest wordplay when something else would be more compelling:
“Don’t try to trace me like a stencil. There’ll be no point like a broken pencil” (On My Way).
“I blaze a joint like this track” (On My Way).
There are two major problems that I have with lines like these. First, I’ve heard them before, so they immediately lose impact. Second, the lead-in to them is a single line or half a line beforehand. If you’re going to use similes in succession, they need a stronger build.
From a stylistic perspective, there is a cohesion to the project that should be harder to maintain. Despite a run time of 31 minutes and 40 seconds and appearances by fourteen different rappers, Mobsters… fails to fall apart. The closest it comes is the beat selection for Don’t Give Up, as the percussion style shifts pretty dramatically. Even so, Vinny’s characteristic flow lets the listener know it’s a Vinny Gigs track, and it feels right at home.
In fact, this is another area where Gigs excels. Listeners know immediately when they’re listening to one of his verses, and there is never an opportunity to mistake him for anyone else. In a landscape full of artists who sound remarkably similar and rappers who are difficult to tell apart, Vinny shines as an example of how to use voice to stand out. He does not use any gimmicks or flashy techniques, and he doesn’t need to. He is unique regardless.
The artwork of the album, a mysterious shadow looming over blood-spattered tile, screams mob movie from the top of its lungs. In fact, I’d argue that with some tightening in the composition and font changes, one could easily mistake this for a movie poster. It certainly fits Gigs, and not much is more important than that.
Overall, Mobsters, MasterMinds, and Made Men is an incredibly easy listen. And though I wish there was more focus on Vinny in particular, I do have to admit that the number of features does increase the project’s replay value. When one includes this much talent, it is difficult not to go back and relisten to these songs. There is a particular joy in analyzing the tracks to see how the features piece together into the overall puzzle, and I believe they fit.
You can find Mobsters, Masterminds, & Made Men on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, iHeart, and Deezer.