Douglas Martin had a pair of Air Max 90s with a sick grey and white colorway back in the day, before he started rocking dirty Vans plastered with skulls.
I. CINDERELLA’S PRISSY SISTERS WOULD HAVE PISSED THEIR PANTS TO KISS HER
You remember the Welcome to Los Santos, the Grand Theft Auto soundtrack curated and produced by Alchemist and Oh No, and how fucking fire it was. Anything that has Tunde Adebipe, Earl Sweatshirt, Popcaan, and Action Bronson on the same collection of songs is most certainly worthy of my attention, that’s for sure. It’s certainly worth the price of having some dope music as a soundscape for riding around, pulling heists, and occasionally firing rocket launcher at cop cars. The Wavves track was attempting some sort of groove they’re not really good at, but the attempt was respectable. So it goes in the life of outlaws; sometimes you encounter a punk band trying some weird shit that doesn’t really work for them.
“Fetti” is the shining star of the entire project, featuring Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs — two rappers so startingly, consistently great at what they do, their greatness is “regular” and thus undervauled, especially in the case of Spitta — technically divergent as rappers but spiritually aligned in a way mystically uncommon for any two artists looking to collaborate. That sort of chemistry which has a 1 to 10,000 ratio easily. Add in the eerie main melody of Alchemist’s beat — which sounds kind of like the scene in a robbery movie before the scene where the cops swarm in — and that is most certainly a recipe for a vivid drawn, massively enjoyable song for which to blast at obscene volumes in your old school Chevy.
Spitta possesses a flow as smooth as filtered water or something you would put into your coffee to make it less coarse, which seems to lull listeners who aren’t listening to his words closely enough. (His blunted drawl adds to the warm, hypnotic, indica-grade effect.) But if you know, you know; his writing rewards close listening. He’s sometimes effusive and sometimes dismissive; his gifts with narrative are astounding; as much game as he gives away, the fact that he’s mastered the art of the hustle financially is an obvious sign of karmic reward. Here, he rolls in a Corvette with a stock tape deck and his girl drops off bandos at night like the Tooth Fairy.
I think Gibbs’ verse here is what really unlocked his gifts to me; much, much later than many of my colleagues on this site. (Yeah, I know; shame on me and whatnot, whatever.) Every aspect of how a rapper can be measured is so precise: His sense of rhythm, the imagery and emotion and hysterical shit-talking and knowledge of history (political, cultural, artistic). I mean, it’s all there when he opens his verse here:
Dirty needle to the mainline
You play kissy-face with your bitches; nigga, I tame mine
Strap her down with two bricks and straight put that bitch on a train ride
If she ain’t ’bout that cheddar, I give these heifers no hang time
Paul Thompson once described Gibbs’ style as “athletic,” which is about as accurate a description as there has ever been. Dexterity and muscle. His flow would glide through the NFL combine workouts. A close friend — you’d know him if I told you his name — and I were talking about Piñata, and how people (probably including myself) overrate it a little. My evaluation was, “Gibbs is so good at everything, you’ve just gotta pick your lane.”
II. YOU TALK BUT NEVER ATTACK; I WALK WITH GOD, I’M RELAXED
My El Camino broke down before I could Andretti on ’em.
The day Dynamite Kid died, I was all in my feelings. Not necessarily about the wrestler himself, even though I did respect him. His matches with Tiger Mask are all-time greats, an All Japan Pro Wrestling match between the Malenko Brothers and the British Bulldogs blew my mind when I was excavating corners of wrestling I wasn’t familiar with, and there are a good number of generational talents who emulate him to this day. (One such wrestler who is not around today was Chris Benoit, but this isn’t a Supreme Blientele essay.)
So I do what I frequently do, get stoned at 11 o’clock in the morning and scribble into a $20 notebook I bought with a Barnes & Noble gift card my now-sister-in-law gave me.
A few days later, my friend from the Eastside picked me up and we swept through North Tacoma, just going on one of our famous drives, listening to Gibbs lattice cut through Alchemist’s somewhat dreary beat for “Willie Lloyd.” We briefly chatted the Vice Lords and riding down Pulaski in Chicago and what we would do if we got a Rockefeller grant. I’d probably begin a frontier into one of my media/journalist dreams, a pro wrestling publication built on great feature writing instead of news, rumors, and speculation. Profiling great regional wrestlers and regional wrestling scenes way outside of the mainstream. I’d be okay with people calling it the Pitchfork of wrestling if it made me rich.
He’s not sure he’d stop doing what he’s doing. The thrill of his occupation is what drives him.
The two of us spend a lot of time philosophizing the art of the hustle. He says I’m not going to get what I want looking for jobs, being on somebody’s staff. “If you’re going to do it your way, you have to be your own boss.” He understands I want to go into a place and help build its name, but he wants me to build my name. The fabled Aroma of Tacoma — sulfur from the paper mills, I was told weeks after I moved here at fifteen — is no match for Bubba Kush on fire.
As the Impala we’re riding in is bathed in soft blue street lights, we’re discussing recent career moves and ambitions. “Everybody you work with knows you’re talented. You went from ace shooter to consigliere on pretty much a whim. It’s what I’ve been telling you for like a year now; you can finish these projects if you get out of your own way.” These past few years have been an exercise in letting go long enough to secure the bag.
When we’re two blunts in, both of us are prone to soul searching and compulsive snacking. The cashier at Memo’s asked us if we had any extra weed. Thankfully, he found a baggy in his glove box. She told him next time we came up while she was working, our order would be on the house; she assured us she’d remember his car.
III. RAP SHIT GOT ME PARKING BENTLEYS ON THE LAWN
Fetti, Gibbs and Spitta’s collaborative project with the production prowess of the greatest rap producer since Return of the Mac dropped in 2006, delves into the jewels revealed on “Fetti” and adds a healthy handful of the ennui of hustlers along with. Curren$y writes about how he rolls with peacemakers because he’s too fly to stay strapped all the time and he observes the fake tough guys always making a ruckus. Gibbs speaks on street taxes and warns against too much disclosure on social media, lest you want your sister to get kidnapped. He mentions a friend getting shot in the thigh and bleeding out. I know I write a lot about the spiritual heft of what black men carry; it’s a difficult but essential morass to write about.
As for Alchemist, what hagiography is there to offer which doesn’t read what has already been written? Mileage my vary, but a strong case could be made for Alchemist being the top producer of his generation. A monolith of a catalog follows his name; sometimes a slog through darkness, sometimes a joyride with the sun beaming in your face, sometimes the twinkling stars of a night drive, but always crystalline and always consistently great. A great many producers have tried to copy his style over the past two decades, but it’s always a few degrees off.
Alchemist’s style can’t necessarily be identified by easily digestible terms, but like most singular artists, you know it’s him when you hear it.
Juxtaposed with the menacing “Willie Lloyd,” a showcase for Gibbs to use a semi-automatic cadence and a verse as referential to Das EFX as the Almighty Vice Lord Nation, Curren$y’s “No Window Tints” is an open air tribute to brand new luxury cars, bicoastal brunches with bottomless mimosas, and how fate sometimes delivers a left turn at the last minute. With its mournful guitar line shaped into a climactic penultimate scene, “Tapatio” finds him with a woman riding shotgun with watery eyes, crying and laughing because she’s high as fuck, while Gibbs is ducking chicks like The Matrix if they don’t give head and the psychic strain of syrup withdrawals and eviction notices.
The nine tracks on Fetti are split pretty evenly between breezy and bellicose; Gibbs slipping in and out of coked out, gangsta Freddie Jackson mode, rapping nimbly with his Virgil Abloh-edition Nike Air Max pressed against the pedal of a car you couldn’t afford to trick out as hard. In the ad-libs of “The Blow,” Curren$y is laughing at himself for something he wrote which looked great on the page but was a mouthful to rap. Belly is referenced and respects to Mac Miller are paid on “Bundy & Sincere.” “New Thangs” is breezy and blunted, hotel suites and unscuffed trainers and steel-bodied old schools rolling down the street with something being rolled inside.
“Saturday Night Special” finds Spitta coloring in the first half of Alchemist’s quietly twilit beat (with saxophones serenading some far off cloud of smoke); sticking to his modus operandi and recalling the days where MCing was an art all rappers practiced, riding clean “like I put a set of gold thangs on a bar of soap.” Gibbs dails back the clock to 2003 where he put Gucci print on practically everything he owned, bumping Adrenaline Rush at obscene levels, courting controversy like Malcolm X’s perm, and offering a kiss off: “Bitch in my line said, ‘You wanna eat and drink and smoke and shit?’/Before I hung up, I said, ‘Call me when you want some dick.'”
Even in its tensest verses, both Spitta and Gibbs are feeling loose and free, using this mutual energy in separate sessions to facilitate a project sounding absolutely seamless.
It’s astounding how great work comes with ease when you have a collaborator on a wavelength just as rare as yours and the two meet seamlessly. It’s not something to be taken for granted, as evidenced by Fetti being such a sterling, lasting document of three top-notch artists showing the breadth of their talents.