Thomas Johnson rides for black diamonds
Freddie Gibbs’ music has always straddled the line between thuggery and attempts to reconcile it. His narration of failed relationships, how he funded his pre-rap career, and the strains of slanging reveals a persona both heartbreaking and menacing. But for all the remorse, there’s never been an inclination to change.
Like all his best, “The World Is My Ashtray” thrives off the damage he’s done to his own psyche. For more than two minutes he recounts spurned advice from his mother and grandmother, the need to rob, disillusionment with the government, even self-consciousness. The nicest car is going to pull the most, and if you can’t buy one, stealing is always an option. That and Xanax.
Gibbs can’t escape the dissonance of his lifestyle. Acknowledging misdeeds doesn’t mean that you’re ready to change, and Gibbs probably never will — at least on record. He openly admits: “Might not rap forever so I’m thuggin to my last day.” When there’s this much to get off your chest, change isn’t required—only therapy. Being self-aware and thugging isn’t necessarily novel, but when you’re this self-aware and rap this well, it always feels fresh.
“The World Is My Ashtray” begins as Gibbs mutters “You ain’t really built like me.” For most that would be a boast. Here, it’s just another confession.
Images by S Dot B