Two years ago, Freddie Gibbs’ career seemed destined to plateau. If nothing else, he was poised to be a very, very, good blog rapper. After falling out with (the artist formerly known as Young) Jeezy and his CTE imprint label, Gibbs made it his mission to call out the rapper on his following mixtapes, radio appearances, and interviews. By his account, Gary’s own was simply too thug to coexist on a roster with an increasingly inefficient and dishonest CEO. It was a nice cosign on paper, but in practice, it proved to be extremely disappointing and problematic. Whatever the reality of the situation was, it truly resulted in the best case scenario for Gibbs, who in the end, emerged hungrier than ever.
Two years after severing ties with Jeezy, Gibbs worked on an impressive run of street-ready bangers like “Eastside Moonwalker” and “D.O.A.”. These releases culminated in an unlikely, yet massively successful collaboration with Stone’s Throw legend, Madlib. The duo linked sporadically for a minute, which ultimately resulted in a full-length LP. On 2014’s Pinata, Madlib provided an avenue for Gibbs to refine his sound, posture himself with more ambitious flows, and weaved his most cohesive narrative to date. The album was a critical hit, appearing on many “Best Of” lists, and it projected Gibbs into the mainstream conscience. Despite Pinata’s success, it was still undoubtedly viewed as a joint effort. It was an immediate reminder of Madlib’s brilliance; becoming an important success for the backpack community, in an era oversaturated by trap-oriented aesthetics. Most noticeably, however, it forced Gibbs onto an eclectic platform, and augmented his already vicious delivery with something entirely new and refreshing.
Freddie Gibbs now follows up his best calendar year ever with, “Shadow Of A Doubt”. The gloomy and brooding collection runs 17 tracks deep, ultimately ending up as a victim of “quantity over quality”. “Shadow Of A Doubt” is a mixed bag. In fact, it’s more of a mixed duffle bag, something you’d be familiar with in listening to the rapper’s mythos. There’s a little too much being offered on this LP, and would do well in leaving a few numbers on the cutting room floor. The strength of the album lay in its first half, however, which makes a strong case for one of 2015’s best run of tracks. From “Narcos” to “Lately”, Gibbs swaggers through fine production, making it look way too easy in the process. Assists from Boi-1da, Tory Lanez, and Gucci Mane, help to paint some hypnotizingly gritty soundscapes. There are some still, however, some real duds. Take for instance, “Cold Ass N***a”, which sounds like a forgotten Pusha T demo. Then there’s the offensively boring, “Basketball Wives”, which brings the amazing and aforementioned run of 9 songs, to a screeching halt. These few stinkers make it challenging to sit through the entirety of this project. However, the handful of excellent songs are enough to salvage “Shadow Of A Doubt”, and make it something to revisit again (even if it’s only for one or two songs a sitting). This album is another notch in the belt for Freddie Gibbs. If nothing else, “Shadow Of A Doubt” is a nice way to maintain relevancy, and a way to satisfy fans new and old.
By: Aidan D’Aoust