The rapper cleared his personal path and now he is merely allowed to be himself
The brand new Freddie Gibbs album, $oul $outdated $eparately, arrives with the status and buzz of an artist’s Large Second. Solely Gibbs has cycled by means of a handful of those moments already — and delivered with aplomb. Now 40, he is dispatched an emotionally nuanced file, one which’s neither a self-indulgent victory lap, a re-telling of the origin story for newcomers or a bespoke undertaking laced with beats from a hypebeast icon. Titled after a snatch of a line from “Training,” a key observe from 2019’s Bandana (“Medication free of charge / Soul bought individually”), Gibbs is an amalgamation of each side of his artistry on this file: the hustler, the vendor, the road veteran, the effortlessly gifted MC, the audio tour information by means of a beatmaker’s fanciful compositions. It is a rewarding hear from an artist nonetheless in his prime that leaves questions on what may come subsequent.
Neglect what F. Scott Fitzgerald mentioned about American lives and second acts, Gibbs is on his third or fourth by any account. What to make of the delight of Gary, Indiana, signed to Interscope in 2006 then unceremoniously dropped with out releasing an album, who latched onto Younger Jeezy’s CTE World label just a few years later earlier than acrimoniously departing to start out his personal imprint in 2013. Alongside the best way he tore by means of a scorching streak of simple street-rap mixtapes from 2009’s The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs till 2012’s Child Face Killa. However with 2014’s collaborative album with Oxnard producer Madlib, Piñata, listeners heard Gibbs reborn: a real-deal gangster rapper who might sail on high of a beloved sampler’s frayed analog beats to common acclaim.
Gibbs now appears to be opening one more act. After managing to reinvent himself for just a few key quadrants — from the form of man who treats r/hiphopheads as gospel, to a classy listener lured by the magnetism of tightly looped beats from revered indie beatmakers, to the longtime devotee who fell in love with the verisimilitude of his older materials however finds this sustained profession arc good — his portfolio is the stuff of indie-rap fantasy. Piñata signaled a shift in concentrate on the trajectory of Gibbs’ profession: in 2018, he launched Fetti, a collaborative EP with New Orleans rapper Curren$y helmed totally by blunted bicoastal producer The Alchemist, earlier than a reunion with Madlib on Bandana, an equally celebrated full-length of impeccable rapping amid completely complementary and just-outre-enough manufacturing. 2020 noticed Alfredo, a full-length solo undertaking totally produced by The Alchemist that nabbed him a Grammy nomination, cap Gibbs’ six-year run as a one-man auteur who might rap over something and whose new releases had been immersions into lush hip-hop panoramas. On this stretch of his profession, Gibbs has clearly discovered just a few muses with out sacrificing an oz of credibility. These singular albums are all profoundly satisfying and never the one-dimensional output of a dilettante.
$oul $outdated $eparately lacks the lyrical and thematic cohesion to really be an announcement or legacy-defining masterwork above the remainder of his distinguished catalog, and it generally labors below the load of a compelled development. The album’s free conceptual framework — Gibbs is staying at a luxurious Las Vegas resort, ignoring well-known mates to gap up and end the file — hints at a degree of paranoia and trauma that’s not examined as totally as attainable. (Refer again to moments like, “The revolution is the genocide / My execution is perhaps televised,” from Alfredo for extra pathos.) After the only real Alchemist collab on the album, the ferocious “Blackest within the Room,” the place Gibbs depicts a barrage of vivid scenes that set the desk for an album of fiery reflection (“My cousin dwell in Flint, she been sick since they fucked the water up”), the album sputters a bit in looking for a stability between a blockbuster file and Gibbs’ pure tendency towards dense and unyielding raps. Lead single “Too A lot” is a high quality crossover try however Moneybagg Yo steals the present together with his nonchalant bluster and charismatic flexes; there’s an nameless Offset verse on the tasteless “Ache and Strife” on the best way there. Gibbs acquits himself properly on “Lobster Omelette,” however Rick Ross exhibits up, uncharacteristically languid, failing to dwell as much as the delirious luxury-rap promise of the title or seize the magic of earlier collabs like Alfredo‘s “Scottie Beam” or loosie “Ice Cream” from earlier within the yr.
However even at his most compliant, Gibbs can by no means stray too removed from the craftsman-like method he brings to his music. “Area Rabbit” boasts an opulent Boi-1da beat and Gibbs is locked in, providing surgical bars that discover him navigating between the rapid-fire realities of dealing and soul-searching: “Sunday night time by means of Thursday, you hit me, I am going to get you located / Marvel if I’ll Hell or my soul obliterated / Neighbor children simply hit me, they mama simply bought the ‘fridgerator.” On “Rabbit Imaginative and prescient,” he soberly addresses his previous beef with former mentor Jeezy. Each of those songs heart his Rabbit persona, evoking his Vice Lord gang affiliation. It is these meticulous particulars and private prospers that separate Gibbs’ deft pen from the movie-villain flows of peer Pusha T. Gibbs isn’t sentimental, his verses level towards an ethical reckoning however do not make apparent the inward battle — he is so expert within the sales space you must meet him midway to extract the penitence and sorrow within the marrow of a few of these songs.
His willingness to bend in any respect accounts for the minute shifts in tone and perspective on the album. “Grandma’s Range” finds Gibbs considering the fallout of a flourishing rap profession. A diaristic journey into his come-up, rising celeb stature and deep-seated fears, he raps, “I purchased a home in Cali, I made it out for actual / Pop Smoke killed within the hills, that shit gave me the chills,” accounting for his “lane out of Gary” to the rising existential hazard of being a rapper wherever. The comedown is the one observe sporting a Madlib beat, the penultimate “CIA,” which finds the person affectionately nicknamed “Gangsta Gibbs” exhibiting his playing cards (“I did this album off pages ripped out my diary”), peering beneath the notion of pivotal scenes in his story. He is typically made ideas like this sound exuberant and blistering, however right here he appears resigned and wistful. Typically you would like for the levity, or at the very least the bounce, of non-album singles like “Gang Indicators” with Schoolboy Q or “Black Illuminati” with Jadakiss, however the sincerity will be bracing, sidestepping Actual Hip-Hop fetishism and as a substitute conceding that the lengthy street to success is plagued by acquainted potholes that make the tenure of an esteemed rapper tenuous.
After the breakthrough of Piñata, Gibbs retreated to the murky, features-addled waters of Shadow of a Doubt in 2015, the kind of album he deserted till this one. However even the deviations in his discography are by no means all that experimental. At their most probative, his information discover new methods to measure options of his persona. Right here, Gibbs delivers an important album that excels when he brings the listener into his headspace, even when it would not uncover memoir-tier revelations. There is a through-line of old-head references — memorable appearances by Kelly Worth and Musiq Soulchild, interpolations of Maxwell and Bone Thugs hooks, a outstanding pattern of “Sippin’ on Some Syrup,” strong options from Raekwon and Scarface — that appear to lengthy for an period the place a journeyman rapper might turn into a star nearly by chance. However that feels a bit like wish-fulfillment for a rapper who has spent his profession ignoring the zeitgeist.
The well-worn mythology of the reformed gangster will not be new, however Gibbs has turn into probably the most notable artist embodying a extra refined, much less late-capitalist mogul imaginative and prescient of rising older in hip-hop, one he’ll possible by no means totally abandon. If $oul $outdated $eparately desires for something, it is the cold-blooded precision of Roc Marciano and Alchemist’s collaborative album The Elephant Man’s Bones or the ethical wrestling of billy woods’ Aethiopes, each from earlier this yr. Gibbs continues to clear his personal path and now he is merely allowed to be himself, armed with the boldness of an artist that is lived 100 lives towards self-actualization. $oul $outdated $eparately is probably not a slam-dunk thesis assertion, the unassailable capper on a storied arc, nevertheless it does match with Gibbs’ different stabs at rap immortality; he is aware of that after you have put within the work, legends by no means die, and Gibbs, the everlasting technician, by no means stops working.