Steven Louis is the Mike Miller of the bakin’ soda.
Fetti, the nine-track collaboration between Curren$y, Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist that dropped on Halloween, is lush and endlessly listenable roman noir. It was teased almost two years ago, while the music was completed in two days — the opening track has Gibbs sneering about Manafort’s plea & Le’Veon’s holdout. Two of the best and most consistent rappers of the past decade, at the direction of a prolific crate-digger. Of course this shit bangs. Still, with so many recent joint albums leaving much to be desired, and with some of those brazenly, flaccidly existing for algorithmical cross-promotion, it’s worth reiterating that Fetti feels organic and purposeful. The three of them together are 10-time All-Defense, god dammit.
The song that I keep coming back to, again and again, is “Willie Lloyd,” an adrenaline shot delivered solo by a breathless Gangsta Gibbs. “Willie Lloyd” makes the pupils swell and the heart race. Four ominous, dusty-ass notes loop as Gibbs quite literally raps nonstop for two minutes straight. It’s a punishing, relentless performance, one of my favorites of 2018, and it thrills as much as it anesthetizes. “Willie Lloyd” is a cocaine high.
Willie Lloyd was also a person. He grew up on the Chicago’s West Side, and at a young age joined the Unknown Vice Lords, a faction of the Almighty Vice Lord Nation based in the Lawndale neighborhood. Lloyd declared himself “King of Kings” and ascended to power while serving an 18-year prison sentence for his involvement in the murder of a state trooper in Davenport, Iowa. He showed a flagrant, joyful disdain for the criminal justice system. When he was released in 1992, he was picked up by a convoy of limos and gifted a mink & a Mercedes.
Lloyd later faced an insurgency from his own lieutenants. The ensuing power struggle resulted in a highly publicized and policed turf war. With state prosecutors frothing at the mouth, Lloyd was eventually caught with a gun as a convicted felon, and incarcerated another seven years. Lloyd was free again in 2003, this time working as a mediator and mentor in various school programs, before he was shot six times in Chicago’s Garfield Park. He lived as a quadriplegic until 2016.
Willie Lloyd’s story is one seeped in violent paranoia and the insatiable pursuit of power. Cocaine highs, and all dopamine rushes, are about incentive salience. The intensity, the tailored beauty of hunting down your desired outcome with tunnel vision. It makes perfect sense that this rush of a rap song is named after Willie Lloyd. Gibbs raps with a commanding, addictive energy. Insatiable, but also with a well-worn glance over his shoulders.
“I know Folks, Crips, Bloods, Renegades/got respect drippin’ from a nigga name/finna load heat-seekers and the gauge/drugs loaded in me when I hit the stage,” Gibbs spits to wrap up “Willie Lloyd.” It caps an exhausting, exhilarating run that taps into American folklore with lived-in energy. Pure, pure dope.