Freddie Gibbs is one of the most skilled rappers out in the game right now because you can throw him on virtually any beat and he’ll do damage. There has been constant evidence of his work from The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs, to Cold Day in Hell, and everywhere else in-between. In the period of time that I’ve been listening to his music (so, going on 2 years), there’s been a range of different styles he’s come across, but the consistency has been the same. What made him stand out to a lot of people, was the unexpected collaboration with California based producer, Madlib, who has really flown under-the-radar for a lot of people unless you’re really into Hip Hop where his name wouldn’t be any news to you when it comes to how great he is. The brash rapper in Gibbs, with the souled out producer in Madlib, would team up for 3 EPs that would ultimately come together in one album that now goes by the name of Piñata. Thuggin’, Shame, and Deeper were the EPs, and they helped build the anticipation for this album, but if one thing was for sure, it was that Freddie Gibbs would be consistent with his aggressive nature, revealing the violent truth of his life before music, and also his vocal and passionate disdain for former label boss, (Young) Jeezy. Ever since Freddie Gibbs left CTE, he’s been on a tirade going on aiming to expose the fake and separate them from the real Gs who do music, because as Gibbs likes to proclaim, he’s the last ‘bad guy’ in the business because he’s too much of a gangster for labels to take on, which is why he works with the villainous role well with his music. However, with ESGN being essentially an album dedicated to his hatred of Jeezy, I wondered what else was left to say about him this time around, and if it was going to be on more than one track? Whatever lied ahead, I was hyped for, regardless.
Much like the EPs prior to the album, and like Madlib’s style overall, there’s a lot of audio clips and excerpts throughout that play the album out like a movie and every track is a different scene, and on Supplier, the emphasis of ‘only the strong survive’ was used here, since Freddie Gibbs portrays himself as a villain, it’s the perfect phrase to lead into Scarface where he puts himself in the shoes of Tony Montana, recalling his own history of violence and drug dealing. I hadn’t known prior that Gary, Indiana (birthplace of Michael Jackson), that it was such a gritty city with a lot of hood influences. When you think of the standout cities that have known histories of gangs & high levels of violence, you see Detroit, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and various parts of the South. Through listening to Gibbs’ music, Gary is right in line with a lot of those cities that has a dark history around it.
“Let’s jack this nigga cause he got some shit we can’t afford
Another day in Gary, ‘nother couple niggas in the morgue
He got the beating, his weed crumbs on plush seats
Niggas wanna hate, they get yellow tape’d and white sheets
And he steady talking, my chopper, he gonna let it rip
All the bullets tagging my name on this banana clip”
He’s brutally honest with his storytelling, which is what he’s thrived on and the image that a lot of people resonate with him, labelling him as the ‘bully’ in the industry (but not 50 Cent, 10-15 years ago level). After the verse, he has a moment where he recalls doing armed robberies, tying up people’s families and you really look at him like ‘how’s this guy not dead?’ The skepticism when it comes down to gangster rap has been if they’re really about the life they live, and Gibbs boasts about his, so it’s safe to say that he is.
Going from straight up criminal to straight up lover-boy in a flip of a switch, Deeper is a heartfelt track, one that I could relate back to My Homeboy’s Girlfriend from Cold Day in Hell. They always say that there’s the one that got away, and this girl happened to be the one in Freddie’s case. The girl on the block that had it going on, left, and changed for her better, and his worse. It seems to be a tale that has been written forever, but every gangster falls in love sometimes (see: 50 Cent’s 21 Questions). Women are precious, yet can be sneaky individuals, and as the story goes, Freddie plays out that she slept around with other dudes while he was in jail, and then that’s when thoughts start to circulate as to just how loyal his girl really was.
“Took off the glove, say it’s love when it ain’t though
Her classmate was coming over, that was strange though
Apparently the homework ain’t all he came for
Maybe yous a stank ho, maybe that’s a bit mean
Maybe you grew up and I’m still living like I’m sixteen
Like a child running wild in these sick streets
Man I put that bitch up on her feet, she cut a nigga deep”
Moving forward, she leaves him for a dude who’s ‘safer’ and can give her more opportunities to advance her life instead of running around with Freddie and his thuggish ways. The 2nd verse is where you get deeper (no pun) into how Freddie feels because the girl he loved changed her whole perspective of him because she matured and wanted the finer things in life although Freddie did what he had to do and still took care of her (to quote Trick Daddy, “Maybe cuz I’m a thug” ).
“Girl you used to say them other niggas wasn’t hood enough
Got your hood degree, now niggas from the hood ain’t good enough
Bitch you wasn’t trippin when that old school was pullin up
You was short on ends at your college, you would put em up”
As Fabolous once said, “a thug changes and love changes, and best friends become strangers, Pachanga” (ironically, a Scarface reference) and it’s exactly what has happened in this song, and then we hit the 3rd verse where little miss runaway has come back to Freddie after some years, and to Freddie’s surprise (and confusion) there’s always a catch to it. After running off to get engaged with the straight-edged dude, that hurt, and to add insult to injury, it turns out that it’s not even the guy’s baby? It’s possibly Freddie’s? This has the makings of a daytime soap opera all over it, and so goes life and the world coming full circle as usual. This isn’t any different from what Gibbs has done before, but yet it’s another story told in an enticing fashion. It’s crazy how shady people get over the years, but that would be a theme that would carry forward.
From Gangster, to Lover, to Smoker, High reunites Gibbs and Danny Brown (and hopefully they work more often) to come through with a smoker’s anthem. For Hip Hop fans, I’m sure you’ll recognize the sample that was famously used for Styles P’s Good Times (I Get High). The first time they came together on a track was on Danny Brown’s album, Old, for The Return, and that was pure fire. They don’t disappoint yet again as they share experiences of either doing drugs or selling them (and of course – there are women involved).This is really laid back, and then at the end it gets weird because all you hear is someone trying to help out (what sounds like) Danny Brown as he might have got a little bit too high for his own well being.
Now, in Canada (where we’re not exactly openly accessible to a majority of things that is exclusively provided by our neighbours to the South, America), we don’t have Harold’s Chicken, and I’ve heard nothing but great things about it (I’ll be Chicago in May; must investigate). Now, you can say everything in the book about Black stereotypes when it comes to Fried Chicken, but it’s fried chicken – it’s damn good, and that shouldn’t just be a Black thing. Food is food, people. I found it hilarious that Freddie rhymed about his love of Harold’s as he recited his personal order throughout the track, but it was just one thing about him that he carried along with his gangster habits. Adidas suits, fresh Jordans, and guns by the plenty at his disposal were also part of his overall look when he was younger (as he recalls tales of his youth – he’s into his 30s now).
“KFC, Harolds, Sharks and Popeyes
Adidas suit with a plate of chicken, got mob ties”
He’s still out to get his enemies, and he’s still ducking the feds by keeping his SIM card out of his phone so he can’t get tracked – it’s just a typical day in the life of Gibbs.
Now this was a collaboration that I didn’t see coming, but on Bomb, Raekwon makes an appearance, and it’s cool that even one of the older heads in Hip Hop can still get into the booth and keep up with the newer generation of rap that he helped orchestrate along with the Wu. Opting for the more luxurious theme, as opposed to Freddie’s tale of cocaine buying, cooking, selling, and G-checking, Raekwon gives glory to the finer accomplishments that he’s achieved in his life, but is still hungry for more and the satisfaction isn’t there yet. More of Freddie’s past endeavours come into play as he recalls stick ups that he did when he was 12, and that he’s always been the cold hearted guy to rob people who were robbing other people. It was the way of life, and although he may have gotten older, a part of that is still there where he wouldn’t hesitate to rob more – just in the industry (How to Rob, perhaps).
“Cheffing up the crack, the heroin, and the weed a la carte
I call it Fast Freddie’s, I should own a fuckin’ restaurant
Cuz back when I was 12 threw some bells on a scale and I got a pager
We broke them down and started selling nickels to the neighbors
Eventually the penitentiary gon’ see me later
Kiss my momma, told her if I die, then it was part of nature”
Shittsville is one of the better tracks on the album when it comes to Gibbs’ flow and the beat itself. It’s more upbeat, but the emphasis is that no one is different from each other. In a way (not overall), this track reminded me of Biggie’s Niggas Bleed, because of the emphasis that he isn’t scared of anyone because his enemies and himself are all one in the same – human.
“You wake up every day and pray before you sleep, right?
You motherfuckers just like me
You shed tears when you hurting, if I cut you then you bleed, right?
You motherfuckers just like me”
As the consistency of riding on his enemies continues, that leads into Thuggin, which was the initial track to start off this movement between Gibbs & Madlib. It came out such a long time ago, but it’s still an enjoyable track to listen to because it’s so dark and gritty.
“Fuck the rap shit my gangsta been solidified
Still do my business on the side
Bitch if you polices, then pay me no nevermind”
The music industry should be used to those who have rough backgrounds, especially in rap, but apparently according to a lot of labels, Gibbs is too much of a gangster because he’s still tied in with that other side of life. As he goes on to say on the track, there’s a lot of things that he’s done, even including dealing drugs (not just weed) to his own family members, and that was to not only make a living, but at times to get by.
“I done been to jail and did my best not to repeat that
I’m tryin to feed my family, give a fuck about your feedback
Critically acclaimed, but that shit don’t mean a thing
When you rocking mics and still in microwaves cooking ‘caine”
He has a strong dislike for the industry because there are a lot of fakes out there perpetuating what real gangster life is like, and it makes the real ones seem like they’re the bad guys, when it’s all honesty – which is what Freddie provides. Drug addiction is in his family, and he’s often their supplier, but unfortunately it has claimed lives, and Freddie wonders how his time hasn’t come up yet. It’s a more revealing track about his views on the industry and just how music & the drug game tie into how it shapes him as a person in general.
Where Thuggin was the initiator, Real was the crown jewel of this album, because before the album dropped, he performed this song in Chicago, and it’s a full on diss directed towards Young Jeezy in a manner that had people comparing it to Jay-Z’s diss towards Nas on the legendary Takeover. The first verse set up the eventual haymaker as the acronym, Remember Everyone Ain’t Loyal, was in play and although Jeezy’s name wasn’t used, you know that it was still subtly directed towards him.
“Remember everybody ain’t loyal
You soft as gelatin, sick of telling them, nigga show ’em”
Now, when the beat switched up on the second verse, this is where you’re on either side of the fence with Gibbs, because in one way you’ll look at it like he’s just bitching about a messed up deal with CTE, or on the other side where you see him as telling the absolute truth in exposing Jeezy for who he really is. It all comes down to the tale of the tape, and I highly doubt that we’ll ever get to hear Jeezy’s side of the story, so this is all we’ll have to deal with. Freddie Gibbs when full throttle on this track as he brought up Jeezy’s beefs with Gucci and Ross, but when it came down to approaching the situation and handling it with them – nothing happened, and to claim to be one of the real Gs in Hip Hop, the lack of action was weird in Gibbs’ eyes.
“Thought I’d say this shit cause you ain’t man enough to come discuss it
You wanna be Jay-Z? Nigga you just a fucking puppet
Gary boys ain’t ’bout talkin’, so bitch I had to show ya
Don’t make me expose you to those that don’t know ya
Ran and said he the realest nigga in it, motherfucker check it
But Ross had you scared to drop a diss record
No nuts, got the whole team looking weak
Guess that’s why they ran up on you at the BET”
“Pray the Lord’ll take my breath before I be like this monkey nigga
Just a whole lot of rapping, but no motherfucking action
Seen Gucci by himself while we was 30 deep at Magic
And you didn’t bust a grape, was shook from the gate
It make it seem to me the gangsta shit you kick be fake
Cause all my enemies, I put them suckers in their place
So take them shades up of your eyes, and look me in my fucking face”
I’m listening to the verse, and all I can say is ‘damn’. It was like hearing 50 Cent get at Ja Rule or Fat Joe back then, or even when Rick Ross was getting exposed for being a C.O (which I think a lot of people have brushed off). It seems like there’s finally an answer as to why the ongoing jabs at Jeezy were constant, where at times they were annoying – if the man isn’t going to talk to you man to man about it, then might as well air it out, and sometimes, it’s very necessary – it also opens the door for a response, although (as I said before) one may never come, and Jeezy might just euro-step crab walk the entire subject altogether because he’s still making more money. It still, however, doesn’t take away from the fact that there might be truth for everything that Gibbs has said on this track. A lot of questions, maybe some answers, but there’s a whole lot of wonder.
Different song; more subliminal shots. Uno is a fan favourite (also a personal of mine), and as Gibbs makes his claim to be the number 1 rapper (at least the most authentic), he stops at nothing to get at the rappers who are frauds in the industry, specifically calling out Lil Wayne
“And I don’t believe these rap niggas
You can front for your fans, but I know it’s an act, nigga
Judge a man by his character and not by his wealth
A real G, I never kissed niggas or shot myself”
I’ve realized that there are different sides to rap fans. There are those who want the gangster attitude towards the genre and calling out the fakes, whereas there are others who simply want to enjoy stories being told about the struggle, or others who simply want to be entertained while being intoxicated. Gibbs isn’t the first to be part of the line up of rappers who are down to call out the bad tastemakers in the industry, and he certainly isn’t the last, but it makes for spirited competition between the peers, while respecting the game and putting out quality music. It’s not about the accolades when it comes to what Gibbs wants in the industry, he’s in it for the love of the culture and the frustrations that he’s putting out is that it’s full of fake and soft rappers stinking up the joint. I mean, in a lot of cases, he’s not wrong.
“Seeing plenty dudes in Dolce Gabbana’s and marijuana fog
Niggas trying to vulture the culture, motherfuck all of y’all
Dickblowers, rapper reality shows, y’all just attention whores
Don’t give a fuck if I set a record or win awards
I’m just blessed to be out here living life
Giving these niggas hell, so records with everything I write
Shit got me wishing DMX had never hit the pipe
Pun ain’t never died and Big L was still here to bless the mic”
Odd Future is a group where the majority of people only feel like they make music for white kids (I mean, white people do buy the majority of music that’s released), and because of their concerts and alternative rock style at times, people seem to forget that they’re rappers from different upbringings – some from the hood, some not. Domo Genesis and Earl Sweatshirt are a couple of the groups better representatives (Domo growing to become one of the best after starting with a struggle), and coming together on Robes with Gibbs was something special. It’s not the first time that Gibbs & Domo collaborated. They teamed up on No Idols for Till The Angels Come (one of the best songs on that album, might I add), so I was expecting nothing but good things to come of this. Earl released his debut album, Doris, in 2013, and it was acclaimed as being one of the better rap albums of the year. Domo has been doing really well with his features, and he didn’t disappoint yet again.
“You ain’t shit if you ain’t ever struggled
You gotta put in hard work before you flex your muscles
I see where niggas fall off tryna perfect the puzzle
You ain’t gotta like my work shit, respect my hustle”
Those lines (the first ones of the song) hit me right off the bat, because I always say that struggle builds character, and when hard work does pay off, you can flourish with the success. Earl’s verses are usually met with complexity as to why he’s been praised as one of the great young rappers, but at times he could be saying a whole lot without saying anything at all. This time around he gets personal (much like the theme of his album) and talks about how he deals with his depression or the stresses of having a father who went out on him, but at the end of it all, he’s still basking in some glory with the rest of Odd Future. It’s sort of like the Domo & Earl collaboration on Knight that gives this track such a soulful feel. I had this track on repeat the most out of every song on the album because of the melodic groove that it provides, and the hard verses that everyone put in.
If Real was Gibbs’ version of Takeover, then Broken must be his own version of This Can’t Be Life, because he opens up more about his past, but in a way where it’s not as hard, but it’s the grass roots of his drug dealing & violence. He also includes family in here in a way where it’s a more emotional tale; his grandmother and father playing roles into shaping his mind state. His father was a police officer, and the 2nd verse of the song depicts what it was like for him and what their relationship was like. The common element for a majority of rappers is that they have father issues, and that’s not just in music, but that’s in life generally speaking. Coming from a household that didn’t have a permanent father around, I can (kind of) relate to a lot of what rappers mean, but in this case, Gibbs lived with his father and the relationship was strained to a certain degree because they were both on opposite sides of the law.
“Can’t see eye to eye with my old man
Hiding my insecurities with this gang flag
We both despise the police, but he wore the same badge
And as I child I admired that, now I wonder how”
“And I’m a crook and you crooked, that’s all we got in common
He chunked the deuce to my mama, so much for family bonding
But how could something so destined to be just get demolished?
Running through groupies and whoppers, I guess I got it honest”
Scarface is one of the best rappers ever, but doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he’s from the South. For him to jump on this track adds a lot to my comparison of Jay’s This Can’t Be Life, and as the storyteller goes about his verse about what it’s like to be a drug dealer, working hard just to die, and wanting more out of life, there’s a perspective on the song that hints to the listener that it’s better to do what you love rather than just to do what’s necessary to live (9 to 5 just to stay alive, to quote Beyonce).
I made a joke earlier when the album first came out, that the songs Lakers and Knicks were better songs than each of the teams’ seasons (Knicks are in 9th place only a few games behind a playoff spot, but still – terrible season), and there’s truth to that. Freddie Gibbs is a man who loves his sports, and through following him on Twitter, or watching interviews, you know he knows his stuff. Lakers is dedicated to LaLa Land itself, where he pays his allegiance to the West coast, where he regularly stays at. Ab-Soul (Cali native) drops off a surprise verse for Gibbs as it adds to the West coast authenticity, along with references to Crenshaw, Boyz In Tha Hood, and notable blocks & gangs that are established in LA. This would make the 2nd time that Gibbs has linked up with a TDE member (has worked with Jay Rock on a couple of songs, and I’m still waiting on that ScHoolboy Q collaboration – if it happens). Knicks is a tale of time between notable moments like Michael Jordan scoring 55 points on the Knicks in 1995 (he’s a Chicago Bulls fan, by the way), and in that time, Freddie was in middle school selling nickel bags of weed (nickels…Knicks…you get it) and getting into gangbanging with his friends. Flash forward to 2005 and Lebron puts up 56 on the Knicks, and in the 20 years that have passed, it’s been a lot of reminiscing that Gibbs has been doing, especially his friend that was murdered by police in 2006. Heartfelt and more authenticity that he brings to the table. It’s what’s made this album enjoyable to listen to, besides the mellow vibes that Madlib provides (hey that rhymes).
“Police killed my nigga in 2006
Only thing he losing is his pension, ain’t that ‘bout a bitch
If I see that ho I got a slug for him
I wanna kill him slow like I ain’t got no love for him
I wanna torture and burn him, drag him to hell with me
This for my nigga just lurking, working the scale with me”
Shame was another EP that came out months prior to the album, and featuring BJ The Chicago Kid on the hook, it’s about that dreaded walk of shame. We all know it, most of us have done it, and it’s not enjoyable, but it happens. When two people aren’t on the same page when it comes to sex, it messes up everything, and even if the intentions are mutual, when one person wants more than what’s offered, it’s embarrassing when the end result is walking out of that door on the long way home hoping no one notices what just happened.
“Time to take that walk, just take this dick, don’t take it personal
Your friends probably gonna call you a ho, but you should have known
Them bitches want a grip from the same dick you be sitting on
And your girl Monique, she be hitting me when her nigga gone
Trying to buy some weed she proceed with nothing but Vicky’s on”
Scheming and plotting on the low is nothing new and people who claim to be your friends and ‘appear’ to have you in their best interests always seem to be the first to call you out when you’re doing something (or in this case, someone) that they want. Freddie’s a player and he takes pride in that, but having sex with girls and their friends aren’t anything new. That’s the type of stuff I’ve seen growing up, and is still happening, so it’s all a process of life. Women are funny when it comes to being shady, and this is just another example.
Piñata is the final track on the album, and it turns out to be a large posse cut, much like A$AP Rocky’s 1 Train, or even if you go back to when Freddie dropped Oil Money with Bun B, Chuck Inglish & Chip Tha Ripper. Posse cuts in rap (well, the good ones) aren’t always common on albums, so when there’s one available to hear verses and debate who had the best one, it’s always a good time. This was a random assembly of rappers: Meechy Darko from Flatbush Zombies, Casey Veggies, Domo Genesis, Mac Miller, G-Wiz (part of Freddie’s ESGN label), and Sulaiman, and for the most part (with the exception of Mac & Casey), everyone held their own on the grand finale.
I was satisfied by the outcome of this album and since the early leak, it’s been on rotation ever since. I’m not a gangster, nor do I try to be one, and there are a lot of people who claim to be gangsters who aren’t, but they try to be. Freddie Gangsta Gibbs is one of the only Gangster rappers out, although the type of Gangster rapper to emerge has a different style, and the traditional style is essentially obsolete. Taking on the role of a villain in the industry going after the higher ups is what society was founded upon, so why change it when it comes to rap music? It makes it interesting, and given the violent background that Gibbs has portrayed over the years, it’s interesting to hear it from his perspective because gangsters usually aren’t open, but the story must be told in order for people to grasp an understanding, even if that means some dirty laundry (Jeezy) has to be aired out for better interpretation. Regardless of how you feel about rap itself, Gibbs and Madlib made an unlikely collaboration come together and bring a soulful spin on gang banging and drug dealing. Just like a piñata, you never know what’s inside until you beat it open with a stick…or in this case, when you open up the CD Case. This is my opinion, this is my review, but for now
That’s My Word & It STiXX