Gangsta Gibbs

25 Sep

I’d never even heard of Freddie Gibbs until sometime this spring. His name was popping up all over the internet because of his project–with the infamous producer Madlib–Pinata. I pulled it up on Spotify and was immediately floored.

My old college roommates introduced me to the madness of the Madlib. His projects with MF Doom are legendary (check out my boy Yasiin Bey’s homage),

and his foray into jazz may have arguably influenced creative genius Flying Lotus, a producer/writer/composer who seems to float in the same stratosphere as Madlib.

Madlib's name alone was worth peeping this collaboration, but Freddie Gibbs not only holds up his end of the project, he makes you say "Goddamn!! I aint heard rappin' like this since Pac died." I immediately liked his flow, and his subject matter. The things he rapped about and they way he raps reminds me of cats I knew from back in my hometown.

Gibbs has been in the game for a minute though, and after I heard the album, I couldn’t believe the backlog of material this cat has. I’ve been floating off that Kush cloud ever since.

Apparently the working title of this album was called “Cocaine Pinata” (I’m sure the record label was thrilled). Whenever I think about Pinatas, I think about playing a prank on a bunch of elementary kids where they bust a pinata and there is no candy. Then I yell, “Pinata? More like PinnnnNADA!”

Shit’s corny I know, but I can’t help myself. I giggle every time I think about this.

Anyway, the album is jamming. Gibbs is pretty street with his raps. Shit is raw, and gangsta. When I watched the Thuggin’ video I nearly lost it. You never see videos like this anymore–this would never make it onto RAP CITY without serious editing. Dudes are getting robbed and killed, cats smoking the rock. The video is mind blowing. The beat itself is so clean and so grimy at the same time–like a really polished RZA track. That is what fascinates me so much about this collaboration though, the juxtaposition of Freddie Gibbs’ raw street lyrics, and Madlib’s clean production. They provide a great balance for the album.

The track “Deeper” is another example of this juxtaposition. There are so many levels of greatness on this song. Freddie is talking about some deep shit here, discussing a universal experience involving that first real heartbreak, but in a balanced way, not in an overly macho, or syrupy context. He spits some real shit over a nasty beat with a lovely bass line.

What I like about Gibbs’ style is he isn’t just rhyming and he doesn’t just rely on using similes in his raps. He uses metaphors as a way of telling a story. For example, on the cut “Deeper” he talks about “smoking on the gateway” before getting “sucked up like a vacuum” (okay the last one is a simile–but I’m saying he isn’t over reliant on them like a lot of rappers are these days).

“Lakers” and “Knicks” are two dope tracks that seamlessly segue into each other. “Lakers” talks about when he first signs a contract and moves to Los Angeles. He reflects on the initial struggle of grinding his way through the industry and finally seeing the success he envisioned for himself (there are a lot of us out here who can relate to being the homie on the couch for a spell or two).

“Knicks” is a beautiful piece of poetic work. Gibbs uses two different iconic basketball games–involving the New York Knickerbockers–from different decades to vividly explore the distinctly different circumstances surrounding his life (and in the process parallels Lebron James’ and Michael Jordan’s careers).

The production of course is on point. Madlib threw out some dark beats for Gibbs to work with–some weird futuristic Alan Parsons type shit on some tracks, but then he’ll get on some old school 70’s pimp shit on others. There are some bangers on here. “Shitsville”knocks hard, and “Harold’s” is a dope track to drive around with the sun roof down in the early afternoon (The lyrics themselves will make you want to buy a ticket to Chicago and pay a visit to the chicken joint the song is named after).

The cameos are great as well, Scarface, Earl Sweatshirt, Chef Raekwon, and Danny Brown all stop in on some flawless tracks. Even Mac ” O’Doyle rules” Miller shows up (who seems a bit out of place here talking bout reading Emerson and Dickens, and eating Belgian Waffles) for a turn on the microphone.

I’m not one to throw around the “C” word, but “Pinata” has all the makings of a classic album. Flawless production and Gibbs inventive wordplay make repeated listening a must with this album. Collaborative efforts of this level are rare in the hip-hop world, and it will be hard to think of either artist from here on out without thinking of this project (reportedly this was a 3 year process recorded separately–Madlib gave him 8 cds worth of music and told him to go to work.

I like Freddie Gibbs as an artist and lyricist (a listen to the same album’s instrumentals gives tons of perspective–the tracks sound so naked without vocals–and that is something that is rarely said about Madlib tracks), but it would be foolish to expect future albums to be like this project (I’m sure he’ll have his bangers, but most albums feel like a collection of songs rather than a cohesive unit).

I feel strongly about this album, as I did when OK Computer, Wu-Tang Forever, Aquemini, and Atliens came out. I can remember where I was when I first heard those albums, and when I bought them. 2014 for me will forever be imprinted with this album. The shit is still banging (hell I’m blogging about it well after it came out–that has to say something right?), and I’m still bumping it as hard as the first time I heard it this spring. Trust me, “Pinata” is nothing to sleep on. I think its easily one of the best albums of the year.


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