Release Date: Nov 20, 2015
Record label: N/A
Piñata, last year’s collaboration with Madlib, helped propel Freddie Gibbs from rank industry outsider to fully-fledged underground rap star. It was an odd pairing, with several outstanding moments, though ’lib’s cerebral, idiosyncratic productions occasionally jarred with the rapper’s nihilistic street talk. Gibbs clearly thrives on the challenges of collaboration though, and for this follow up album he’s spread the production duties far and wide.
Gary, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs is a tough, urban storyteller who can rifle off a steady stream of greatness before he lands on the hook, and with his 2015 release, Shadow of a Doubt, the hooks, plus production, are on the same level as his rhymes. This has happened before, as The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs and Piñata both shine, but here, the beats come from up and down the hip-hop spectrum as Boi-1da, Mike Dean, Kaytranada, and other producers all offer vibrant, often kinetic constructions. Check the great "Extradite" ("Man, I stay on point like icicles") for instant gratification or "Basketball Wives" for an abstract take on the Miguel-flavored bedroom number, then appreciate how this album goes 17 tracks deep and never runs out of inspiration or ideas.
Monotony jails growth, but consistency grows legacies. Freddie Gibbs has been rapping since 2004, but he’s ascended from only being unknown among the barz-only set to being arguably the best rapper of 2014 in five years on a torrential wave of vivid tales of his life on the street only matched by Pusha T. He’s a rapper’s rapper who is as good for a “Gangsta Gibbs, hoe” and making “coca cut the curriculum” as Common is good for a “yes, yes y’all” and musings about why love is cool.
Between becoming a father and launching his own strain of cannabis, life couldn't be much better for Freddie Gibbs right now. And if good things really do come in threes, the arrival of Shadow of a Doubt completes the trio. It's the positivity from these aforementioned emotional events that has led the Gary, Indiana native to explore new musical territory on his second solo album, apparent in more ways than one.An increased attention to melody is demonstrated when Gibbs takes the mic to sing the flighty hooks of "Careless," "Lately" and the AutoTune-laden "Basketball Wives," which treads dangerously close to R&B.
In many ways Freddie Gibbs feels like a throwback: a macho, bellicose rapper whose warts’n’all approach stands out among the Instagram-ready introspection of his younger contemporaries. Last time out he teamed up with Madlib for Pinata, a fun, sample-heavy boom-bap experiment. But Shadow of a Doubt is a wholly modern affair, featuring beats from Blair Norf and Jay Z’s go-to guy, Mike Dean, and on which Gibbs’s dextrous delivery is encased in minor-chord synths.
Freddie Gibbs doesn’t believe in resting on his laurels. After dropping last year’s Piñata with Madlib at the helm — the rapper’s most commercially and critically successful project to date — he could have taken some well-deserved time off. Instead, he toured non-stop and played festivals, put out two EPs The Tonite Show with the Worlds Freshest and Pronto, and last but not least, became a father.
At one point on his third album, Shadow of a Doubt, Freddie Gibbs samples a clip of his June appearance on Snoop Dogg’s beloved GGN series. Specifically, he samples Uncle Snoop’s correct observation that Gibbs, following the likes of Will Scrilla and the Grind Family, CCA, and MCG’z, has given Gary, Indiana hip-hop more of an identity than any artist before him. It’s a telling moment on what is Gibbs’ most mature album yet, one that shows off his penchant for densely written verses, his impressive rapping technique, his knack for melodic hooks à la Bone Thugs and Z-Ro, and his astute ear for both sample-based and synthesized beats.
There was a moment there when Freddie Gibbs could have been taken for granted. His workman-like flow and consistency were things we started counting on and then, nonchalantly expecting. So Baby Face Killa came out—strong and confident throughout—we head-nodded in appreciation, and then went waiting for him to raise the impossibly high bar he’d already set.
While many contemporary rappers seem more interested in branding and endorsements than actual songwriting, Indiana veteran Freddie Gibbs has been busy raising the hip-hop bar with taut, determined rhymes and crisp storytelling. He follows last year’s creative breakthrough with Madlib, “Pinata,” with this strikingly dark and insistent mixtape. Gibbs has emerged as an MC’s MC, with an astute sense of the architecture of a verse and love for the sound and shape of language.
On November 4 2014, someone tried to shoot Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs while he was sitting in his car outside the Rough Trade record shop in New York. “They tried to kill Tupac. They tried to kill me.
Few rappers can match Freddie Gibbs’ ceiling when he’s at his best, and while he doesn’t get there as much on Shadow of a Doubt as some previous records, the project still bristles with his signature grayscale hustler’s charisma. There may not be a single cut as immediately arresting as Str8 Killa’s “National Anthem” or Baby Face Killa’s “Stay Down” on Gangsta Gibbs’ latest release, but over 17 tracks he gets back to his grimy, base-serving roots after mellowing out for Piñata, his 2014 joint album with Madlib. Gibbs’ blackberry molasses flow allows him to ride almost any instrumental with ease, but at his core he’s most comfortable on the menacing, synth-and-808 heavy beats that comprise most of Shadow of a Doubt’s runtime.