Freddie’s Back: The Return of Gangsta Gibbs

Deen takes a look at Freddie Gibbs' triumphant return.
By    June 25, 2018

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MobbDeen freestyles over “Everybody Loves the Sunshine.”

Gangsta Gibbs dropped last year’s You Only Live 2wice, long time fans probably had thoughts, however fleeting, that he’d lost his smile—on some Shawn Michaels shit. Even though his slightly darker sonic and lyrical turns on that project were understandable given the legal issues he’d dealt with just prior to its release, there was always a possibility that he was going to stay on that path for the foreseeable future. That wouldn’t necessarily have been a bad thing but a large part of Gibbs’ appeal is how he combines his sense of humor with his almost always antisocial subject matter.

Well, if you were worried then you needn’t have worried. Freddie is Gangsta Gibbs’ most hedonistic collection of songs to date—an artistic ‘turn’ that’s always welcome around these parts. Around the time Gibbs linked up with Mike Dean for “Sellin Dope,” he started occasionally employing a deliberately looser, improvisational, and sing-songy approach to lyricism that has added even more variety and dynamism to his music. Freddie sees him FULLY tapping into that vein for an entire project with delightful results. This is about as far as Gibbs would allow himself to lean into the trap/“mumble” subgenres of rap, and since he can do everything, the final product is predictably incredible.

There’s nary a breakbeat or jazz inflected beat to be found here—perhaps with the exception of the Roy Ayers/Mary J. Blige sample on “2 Legit”—thanks to the production talents of two guys more readily associated with larger production collectives (Dupri from League of Starz and RichGains of Blended Babies), and Kenny Beats fresh off his excellent work with Key on 777. Everything here outside of a ridiculous Silk-aping interlude that includes the now customary Big Time Watts (RIP) chatter is a bass heavy banger and since it’s summer, I don’t mind at all and neither should you.

As such, Freddie simply delivers a great collection of ten of the most fun Freddie Gibbs songs ever. The darkest moments come in the form of admissions of prescription drug use relapses and the references to the life he’s hopefully left for good but they pass so quickly via his playful delivery and the catchiness of the production that you don’t dwell on that stuff. No high concepts or killer narratives, just an extremely accomplished and versatile wordsmith having fun on the mic for 25 minutes that pass quickly and leave you wanting more.

That’s not to say these songs lack the depth or quotable we’ve come to expect from Freddie—far from it. The longest song on the set seemingly only stretches over three minutes because he recruits a singer to close things out and those of us from the GZA wing of rap school appreciate the continuing dedication to the maxim, “half short, twice strong.” The brevity also extends to guests: 03 Greedo is the only other rapper that appears on the project on the alternately playful and sinister “Death Row.”

Gibbs took the time to record Bandana (the sequel to 2014’s Piñata with Madlib) and complete a bloodletting of sorts on YOL2 by addressing his legal and personal issues from that period. From the Teddy P tribute cover art to the contents within, Freddie suggests that Gibbs is energized and possibly happier than ever thanks to lord knows what and all this listener has to say is “CHEERS!”

Freddie is definitely a highlight in a discography already filled with highlights and it’ll certainly serve as an alternative for Gibbs fans that aren’t necessarily enamored with the more sample based portions of his music (yes, these folks exist—Piñata wasn’t for everyone and the same will apply to Bandana). I have to admit, it’s nice to root for a rapper that’s capable of almost anything, and that’s exactly what Freddie Gibbs is.

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