Written Before Listen
Freddie Gibbs has been one of my favorite rappers in recent times. Mainly because he’s just been enjoyable, and accessible yet technical. His flows are some of the tightest, his one-liners are recognizably his and his beat selection is usually really good. With modern classics such as Piñata, Bandana, and Alfredo under his belt, he seems to know how to work with one singular producer. This time around though, he is the main focus and no one more. He has chosen multiple different producers for this record. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
When Freddie teased this album, he showed not only the features but the producers this thing. He wanted to show the producers that guests appear on the album. The first well-known producer on the album is The Alchemist and his two great beats on “Blackest In The Room” have a soulful drumless beat first and then transform into something more aggressive and more of Freddie’s lane. On “Zipper Bags”, we have Kaytranada and both Freddie and Kaytranada know how to approach each other but the flow is just super predictable and I’ve heard much better from Kaytranada. We have “Lobster Omelette” with Jake One behind the boards it’s a laid-back boom-bap beat and it might be one of my favorite beats on the album. The following beat for “Space Rabbit” is also really good. I’m telling you, Boi-1da doing boom-bap beats can’t be beaten sometimes. “Rabbit Vision” has the luxurious production of JUSTICE League and it shows with its electric guitar, live drums, and glamorous piano. On “PYS” we have DJ Paul from one of Freddie's biggest influences Three 6 Mafia the song and beat are solid but it’s not the best thing DJ Paul made. We have the weird combination of Freddie and James Blake on “Dark Hearted” and both know how to work with each other but in a really good way. We have the classic combo of Freddie & Madlib with “CIA” and it's never a bad thing to hear them two together, but this might have to be one of the worst songs they ever did together. The beat is bland and the rapping is nothing too different from his other introspective stuff. There is also “Decoded” which is a bonus track that has a beat from DJ Dahi. Overall, most of the beats done by well-known producers are pretty good, but there are some beats like “Pain & Strife” “Too Much” and even “Grandmas Stove” where there isn’t anything special with the beat. Other than that, the beat selection isn’t half bad on this.
Not only this album is producer heavy but it’s feature heavy. The opening track has a great fucking contribution from Kelly Price and hell all R&B features on this thing are pretty good. Anderson Paak & Musiq Soulchild do pretty well as well. It's when some of the rap features come in that the features decline. Offset and Moneybagg Yo’s features are just phoned in. Luckily some of the gangsta rap features on this album are pretty good. Rick Ross does his usual mafioso thing on “Lobster Omelette”, Raekwon fits perfectly on “Feel No Pain”, DJ Paul does his thing on “PYS” and Pusha T continues to have a strong feature catalog on “Gold Rings” With that being said, most of the features are solid, but there are some weak points.
There aren’t a lot of left turns on this album as the album is the usual gangsta rap we know from Freddie Gibbs with some jazzy tracks in the mix. I will say that “Pain & Strife” is a big left turn as it is a pure Bone Thugs track. “Feel No Pain” is also a hard track but like it’s Wu-Tang as fuck which explains the Raekwon feature. “PYS” is probably the most southern-rooted track as DJ Paul takes over the track's feel and aesthetic. Other than that though, we have the usual Freddie Gibbs which has its pros and cons.
My favorite thing about Freddie is his flow. I’ve always thought his flow was very straightforward and tough, yet slick. Very 2Pac inspired, Very Bone Thugs inspired, and very Three 6 Mafia inspired. This time around though, it’s honestly starting to feel pretty forced. “Zipper Bagz” for example doesn’t stick out to me for that reason. I’ve just heard him use that flow so many times it has just gotten old. Similar thing with “Too Much”, At the same time, he has some of the best flows in the game so I guess I shouldn’t complain a lot.
Other than some of the recycled flows and some dull tracks, I just think Freddie Gibbs isn’t that exposed to some of these styles. The stuff that he's familiar with and is strong with usually has the best tracks. He knows how to work over soul samples as well as Alchemist beats so the first two tracks are two of my favorites. He knows how to do some old-school shit so that's why “Space Rabbitt” and “Feel No Pain” are two tracks to highlight. So I guess my thoughts on this album are that Freddie can show how versatile he can be, but this album does come with its weak points.
I’m always glad to get new Freddie material no matter what so that's what makes the album enjoyable. Would I say this is his best project? No, but this is still a great and enjoyable project nonetheless. Great beat selection, great flows, and solid features. There are some amazing tracks I’ll go back to on this album and it’s another solid rap release in 2022.