Freddie Gibbs – ESGN – The STiXXclusive Review

Freddie Gibbs is a rapper – there’s nothing more to it than that, because if you throw him any beat, he’ll rap his ass off and that’s something that I’ve come to appreciate about him over the past year that I’ve been listening to his music. From the trap beats on Baby Face Killa to the soulful samples on the Thuggin & Shame EPs, there’s really no style that Freddie Gibbs can’t touch and put an effect on. His recognition as being one of the more underrated rappers in the game is not something that is quiet, because he does get his due respect – just not nearly as enough as he should be. The motivation behind his music is that he’s honest about the lifestyle that he raps (and even tweets) about, and I think that’s what has me respect him more as a person than just the artist, but let’s not forget that this guy is a hell of a rapper. In what is the first of 3 projects to come out this year, ESGN is the follow up of the largely successful BFK mixtape that he released last year. Of what to expect from it, I knew that it was going to be street driven, but also with his recent departure from Young Jeezy’s CTE label there was tension and Gibbs even called out Jeezy for being a fake. This was definitely going to be interesting, and a lot of the features would be rappers based in Gibbs’ hometown of Gary, Indiana (which I didn’t know was a bad place until I started listening to Freddie Gibbs). Evil Seeds Grow Naturally is the abbreviation spelled out, so let’s take a glance as to where they were planted.

            Wasting no time at all, Lil Sodi starts it off by giving the album’s premise (with the ‘not-really-subtle’ Young Jeezy line repeating in the background), and he talks about exposing the fakes and how people turn on loyal individuals, and it’s intriguing to a sense as to just what happened between Jeezy & Gibbs that was so conflicting, but there’s always 2 sides to the story, and I doubt will ever hear Jeezy’s version. With the loyalty card being played, it’s wicked how he used New Jack City as a reference in The Real G Money comparing himself to the character Gee Money, and Jeezy being Nino Brown in terms of the type of relationship that had while Gibbs was in CTE.

From a G to a kilo
To a mill from a motherfuckin zero
4-5 when I look through the peephole
Nigga, I’m the real G Money, no Nino

When I mentioned that he was honest, I meant it because he is. When he talks about where he came from and how he came up to be who he is, he still embraces that hood mentality by looking at it like ascending in the ranks of a local gang (GD, Vice Lords, etc.). When you live in a certain area, many are succumbed to the fact that they become a product of their environment, and many never leave and better themselves for that reason

“Hustlin’, jackin’, murder and mackin’ been such a part of me
Such an evil seed, wonder what will my son or daughter be?
Killers. I’m too crazy, ain’t fit to raise em
Streets might send yo daddy off on vacation and early grave em
Asked my pastor, is there some special place in heaven for gangsters?”

This track sets the tone for the album as far as the direction that he’ll be going in and the particular sound that you’ll be hearing throughout – rugged, raw, but with a sense of frustration coming out in the form of ventilation.

Gibbs loves to embrace his haters and as he states in the opening, he wrote this for the haters, so he knows they’ll be listening. On Came Up, Freddie tells more of his story as far as how he not only came up on a street level, but also how he came to get into the rap game after being counselled by older heads in the community to tell him to ‘change up his lane’ because what he’d been accustomed to – translating the street life into lyrics seemed to be the best fit for him, and seeing how he represents his hood so much lets you know that he definitely hasn’t forgot where he’s come from. Freddie knows how to ride on a beat to make a great song overall, so I’m not surprised that he hasn’t lost step with where he left off with BFK.

As I said from the beginning, there’s a lot of features on the album that are Gibbs’ boys from the hood (I know because I recognize a few from his earlier mixtapes) and that was one of the weaker points on the album, because not all of them fit the dynamic that Gibbs brought on, but to put your boys on your album, he’s still looking out for their best interests – can’t be mad at that. I will admit, however that Big Kill’s verse on D.O.A gets me hype for no reason (it’s probably his voice because I’m used to the high pitch) and the beat itself (as for 80% of the album) is vicious. Not only are these guys rappers, but they’re fully fledged gangbangers

“I fuck with gangsters, now all my niggas makin’ papers”

Flatbush Zombies said “rap game crack game apparently the same thing,” and it’s evident if you listen to Trap music enough, and the dope game is how a lot of rappers started off in the first place. Success breeds envy, and it’s definitely something that is being emphasized as the tracks go by.

            “Dirty dancin’ with the Devil in my darkest hour, whatchu know about it?”

That line caught on to me because you don’t really get the real perspective painted in your head as to just how a lot of people live day to day. There’s a reason why you hear so many rappers talk about trying to make it to 21 or even past 25 years old, because of their living surroundings and the environment that doesn’t exactly work in their favour. As a Canadian, it humbles me in a sense that we don’t remotely have it as bad as millions of Americans who wish they had a more positive outlook on life beyond the next 24 hours of life (again, depending on where you live), but Dead or Alive is really a phrase that people live by day-to-day. It’s crazy.

Lay It Down is one of my favourite songs on the album overall because it’s simply the hook & beat that provide the necessary hype and aggression that you’d expect out of a street track that Gibbs can provide, and plus he gives you a sense of just what type of people he keeps in his entourage. I Seen A Man Die gets more emotional (gangsters do have some type of emotions) as he recalls witnessing someone getting killed and wondering if he’ll be able to outlast an early death in his own surroundings. Have You Seen Her is another song that adds hype to it because for the majority of the song, it’s just Gibbs repeating the hook over and over, but letting you know just how much drugs he has to his availability (‘her’ in this case would be Cocaine). The only complaint I have against the album so far is the fact that the features take up the majority of most of the songs, because if he had more solo tracks, it would have elevated the likeliness (and maybe length) of the album. Gibbs never disappoints me on anything and the beats on this album are your standard trap beats, but he does them justice because that’s the intention of the album to begin with.

I’ve yet to listen fully to Problem, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about him. On One Eighty Seven (the police code for Homicide) he showed off what he could bring to the table, and although I wasn’t wowed at the slightest, he still had a verse that I could rock with, but I’d definitely have to listen to him more often to get an overall judgement of his work (his ‘what’ adlib is addictive). Gibbs loves the ladies (listen to Shame and Neighborhood Hoez for examples) and this song is about them and their killer sex game that would make a dude repent. It’s funny how he depicts women (obviously it’s not ideal to degrade women), but because he’s straight up about it in his lyrics, he does generate some humour from ‘the tales that he tells so well.’

If Lay It Down is one of my favourite songs, then Eastside Moonwalker is my favourite song on ESGN. How the Moonwalker fits in is because the Jackson family was originally from Gary, Indiana before they blew up and moved on out. Aside from talking about his thought process and depicting the life he lives, this track features a shot towards Jeezy since the departure (and the more memorable bars of the track)

“And rest in peace to my motherfuckin homeboy
But hold ya tears, he ain’t die, he just a fuckboy
You might as well be a dead man in my eyes
2-2-3 sucker free when I ride”

Now, I can’t relate to everything that Gibbs raps about, because obviously I’m not a gangster, but I knew a few who I grew up with so I understand the game and how certain few how to live when a 9-5 isn’t the ideal position to make money fast and get what you want. Get it how you live, as they say. I hate that this song is so short, but then again some things just have to be said in 2 verses and that’s it (that’s why we have the repeat button).

F.A.M.E stands for Fuck All My Enemies, and the beat blended in with the Daz Dillinger & Spice 1 features give this a very west coast feel (even with Freddie doing an interpretation of Tupac on the hook). I liked it because he paid homage to some West Side legends, and kept it G to the T. To switch up the style a bit was pretty dope to hear because it makes you want to do a little mini crip walk in one spot on throw up imaginary gang signs in the comfort of your own home (unless that’s just me). Freddie Gibbs in a way emulates some of the attitude that Tupac made a name for himself by going out of his way to call out his enemies and say that he wasn’t afraid of anyone. Many people say that Ja Rule was the incarnation of Pac, but I think (if there were ever to be a comparison) Freddie could make the case.

Paper is a cool track, because Gibbs flaunts on the fact that he’d been a hustler from a young age getting money like it was nothing, and that mentality hasn’t changed a bit. The voicemail at the end of the track had me confused, because I could barely understand the hell the dude on the phone was saying, so it’s one of those ‘wtf moments’ that you just bypass in the future.

The Color Purple is a dope track because of the slowed down vibe of it, but because of the rap/sung style that Freddie has laid down so well. Everything is pretty repetitive lyrically, because it’s drug induced, and I can only imagine (if I smoked or drank Lean) that this track would sound amazing under the influence – it’s one of those songs that the stoners would appreciate.

Certified Live is a track that I was anticipating when I saw the tracklist initially because of the Jay Rock feature (and they’ve collaborated before; I’m just waiting for a ScHoolboy Q feature). I thought it would have been better (the beat, mainly) so I was a bit underwhelmed, but lyrically they put it down (just a couple of gangster rappers on a track doing what they do). Both of them come from heavily influenced gang affiliated areas and they’re products of that, so they’re just in their natural element on this track, which is why the chemistry was on point from the get go.

Ten Packs of Backwoods & Dope In My Styrofoam are a couple of more stoner tracks that I honestly thought Wiz Khalifa or Currensy would come out of nowhere to lay down some bars, and as much as I don’t like the guy, I thought Dom Kennedy would have fit on this as well for beat purposes. Both tracks feature verses from the homeboys, so there was nothing special there – just filler to occupy the dope instrumentals.

On 9mm, I like how Freddie Gibbs paid homage to the classic KRS-One track ‘9mm Goes Bang’ as he descriptively goes into the violent lifestyle that is everyday life in Gary. I think KRS-One would be alright with how Freddie Gibbs put his own spin on it, plus the features did the beat justice overall, so I can’t even be mad at it. It’s one of the smoother tracks although there’s a violent background to it (Americans love their guns; it’s in the Amendment).

When Freddie & BJ The Chicago Kid teamed up ‘Shame’, it was a collab that was unlikely, but it worked really well, so to hear them collab again on Lose Control (and hopefully more collabs in the future) it sounded great, and the beat helped compliment the story behind it – it’s not far off from the theme of Shame, but this ode to the ladies is sincere. Styles P taught many of us how to be a Gangster and a Gentleman, so why not implement it? The remainder of the track was filled by the return of Lil Sodi talking about how Gibbs looked out for his boys’ families and the loyalty that he embodies to his personality, and it’s important to remain loyal to the people that you came up with (granted that they are to you also), because it can make your life a lot easier if you’re genuine to those you care about. It may not always be sunshine and roses, but a majority of the time; it works out well in your favour.

Freddie Soprano was the first song that I heard off the album before it came out and unfortunately enough, James Gandolfini, the actor who played the legendary character Tony Soprano, passed away not too long after the song came out (talk about bad timing). On this track, Freddie went off in a way that I was hoping would have been consistent throughout the album, but I’m not even mad that he left the best for (almost) last. Calling out artists like Jim Jones and LL Cool J was funny because there’s not much that you can say to him, based on the fact that he holds himself in a position where it’s comparable to Tony Soprano.

“Everlasting, headed for Hell or the jail cell
Won’t be a monkey for them crackers like I’m LL
So fuck a Cool J cookie, it’s shrimp and lobster tail
I’ve got two dykes that’ll throw a bike out in Lauderdale”

“Workin’ that scale through the day and the night
This V & this L that I throw up don’t stand for “Vampire Life”
So sorry Mr Jones, twisting your fingers can get you gone
Shout out to the Lords, shout to the Folks, word to the Stones”

This is probably the best song on the album, because it brings everything that Freddie was talking about to the bravado platform that he alone stands on when it comes to the essence of his gangster rap persona. It tells you that he’s truly a gangster first, but not just someone who was in it to be in it, but he was in it, and was a ‘ranked’ member so that he got that respect from a lot of people in his hood. Given what he’s been talking about throughout the course of the album, would you not take him seriously?

It’s hard to follow up Freddie Soprano with Murda Dem because it was drastically weak in comparison when it comes right after the best song on the album. I just left it alone, because it wasn’t anything special. My overall opinion of the album is that it wasn’t as good as BFK, but as a first album, it’s not terrible. When you’ve came up and you’ve gone through loopholes because the music industry is scared of the message you would be projecting in the mainstream music world, it would be difficult to get an album out. It’s crazy that this is his first studio album (although a few of his mixtapes are on iTunes), but I’m hoping that this is the beginning of what will be more people appreciating the honest (and dark) content that Freddie Gibbs provides. He has the ability to make great songs (granted he doesn’t have weak features anymore), and rapping over any style isn’t an issue for him. He’s truly underrated, and I hope this album gives him a bit more exposure that he truly deserves. I’m going to buy this, but if you have no interest in buying it, I’d still say listen to it just because he’s a fresh talent. This is my opinion, this is my review, but for now

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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