By the time Freddie Gibbs released his Madlib-produced album Piñata in March of this year, the Gary, Indiana rapper had already been making hip-hop for ten years. From the Full Metal Jackit days up to his debut album ESGN, “Freddie Forgiatos” developed a unique aptitude for storytelling through his insightful, imaginative rhymes. The 2010 XXL Freshman Class recipient received a boost when he signed to Young Jeezy’s CTE World label, but creative differences drove Gibbs to pursue his own ventures. This has certainly served him well, with the success of Piñata buoying his career to new heights. In the interceding eight months, Gibbs has stayed busy, released The Tonite Show EP produced by The World’s Freshest, dropping the Knicks Remix EP, nailing a freestyle for Westwood’s Crib Sessions, touring throughout 2014 and surviving an apparent attempt on his life.
During a recent interview with Montreality, Gibbs revealed that his next project, Lifestyles of the Insane, was more than half complete and would likely be released next year. This is the first we’ve heard of it, and hopefully it won’t be the last; some time ago he announced an album titled Eastside Slim, which he said was about 80% finished and would be released in 2014. That hasn’t happened and there hasn’t been any news about it recently, but Gibbs has been playing new songs during his recent shows and it does seem likely there will be a new mixtape or album from him in the near future.
While we wait, I’ve put together a selection of guest spots Freddie has laid down over the years.
11. “Certified Gs”
This track never made it on an album, despite the massive star appeal of its performers. Bun B and Slim Thug offer their celebrity status to the song, while M.U.G. (rest in peace) delivers his own Southern style to the song. Freddie’s the only rapper here not from Texas, and his verse is arguably the best, showcasing his lyrical ability and strong cadence while staying gangster to the end.
10. “Run DMC”
Before the vendetta, Young Jeezy and Freddie Gibbs made a great team. Jeezy’s gruff, moderate style complemented the Gary gangster’s sharp delivery. “Run DMC” is a great example of this, with Gibbs delivering the strophe and Jeezy filling in the rest.
9. “Kush and Leather”
Freddie Gibbs likes women, not just in the sense that he portrays himself as a heterosexual but also in the way he describes his fondness for sex with them. “Kush and Leather,” a song off LEP Bogus Boys’ mixtape Don’t Feed Da Killaz Vol. 3, features just such lyrical content, along with drug references and a willingness to shoot his way out of tough situations.
8. “Take Aim”
Kid Daytona is a rising star, but Gibbs has a great velocity. This track, pairing the two, utilizes a nice bit of G-funk synthesizer over a boom-bap beat which Freddie spits fire over. Assuring us that his rap career isn’t slowing down his stickup activities, he’s “doing dirt on a daily basis.” “I’m trying to rap my way up out this shit,” he says, but in the mean time he’ll still be out committing crimes.
Thug Motivation 103 was a decent album for its time, but contained signals that Jeezy might be slipping. It also featured “.38,” one of the last songs he’d ever collaborate with Freddie Gibbs on. It’s one of the album’s strongest cuts and shows the eclipse of a star by an eastside moonwalker.
6. “Need More”
Joey Fatts crossed paths with Freddie Gibbs and they two recorded a song and music video together. “Need More” is as gangster as it gets, with a smooth, trap-inspired beat, motivated lyrics and, importantly, recognition of dark side of street life which is so often glorified without qualification. As he would later do in “Thuggin'” (when rapping about his uncle), Gibbs talks about the “glass dick” that delivers to crack addicts the high he supplies; it’s not a pretty picture, and Fatts also uses his verses to acknowledge that the streets represent a struggle more than they do a success.
5. “Scottie Pippen”
It’s hard to pick the best lines in Freddie’s verse on this Alchemist-produced Curren$y song, as he adeptly shifts topics like they’re gears in a foreign drop-top and mixes up his delivery to suit the content at hand. “I’m gang-bang affiliated, federal investigated / Self-educated, all my co-conspirators catchin’ cases” is great, but then he follows it immediately with “I dropped straight outta college and I majored in home invasion / Believe I got the balls to clear up all of my altercations,” a powerful line which says a great deal about his priorities and responsibility. It’s a strong verse and is some of Freddie’s finest writing.
4. “Hard As They Come (Act 1)”
Providing support on this CunninLynguists track, Gibbs tells an emotional story from his past and bares his soul. It’s about how a friend of his became addicted to crack and ruined his life, and the way Freddie had to eventually turn his back and walk the other way. This verse is powerful, both for its emotional content and unflinching decisiveness. There’s an authority to it which is hard to match, let alone hold a candle to.
3. “Talk To Me”
For a song cut from TM:103’s final tracklisting, “Talk To Me” has a lot going for it. Freddie Gibbs steals the show with his dark depiction of the haunting consequences of sins he’s committed (a la “Nightmares,” he raps “I swear sometimes hear voices talking to me in my head / Some nights I slept for months, the living dead to get this bread”), his ambition to rise up from poverty and hardship through selling drugs, his respect for his mother (a theme which can be traced throughout his career) and the feeling that he’s alone with no one to trust. It’s a poignant, measured, tempered verse, on a song ultimately ruined by Eminem’s “Not Afraid” style singing during the hook and bridge. This is a verse which history might not remember, but Freddie Gibbs fans would be remiss to miss it.
2. “Old English”
Salva produced this song for his freely available LP Peacemaker. Young Thug, sailing on the hype generated by 1017 Thug, provides the chorus and first verse, and A$AP Ferg, still hot from the buzz over “Shabba,” delivers the last verse. In between, Freddie Gibbs drops any pretensions and drips a little of his essential oil: Gangster. “Fresh up off a powder pack, solo on the ‘94, bitch I brought that powder back” he declares, a juicy cocaine verse that segues into a Tomahawk chop reference regarding how he likes to let his gun talk. He ends his verse by proclaiming that if the “police ever catch me then they gon’ catch a body,” a hardboiled line which epitomizes his philosophy of “fuck police.” While Gibbs is currently dodging bullets from civilians rather than police officers, it’s reassuring to know that if he ever does get caught up he plans to stick to his guns.
It’s clear that Freddie Gibbs is doing just fine without CTE. His recording sessions with Madlib started in 2011 (“Thuggin”‘s reference to the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords was current at that time), while he was still signed to Jeezy’s label, but his breakthrough 2012 mixtape Baby Face Killa was followed three months later by his decision to leave the label. This gave him the leeway and freedom to focus his creative talents on ESGN in 2013, his proper debut album, which received a divided response even as it introduced new listeners to his music and features several of his more popular songs. When Piñata came out to widespread critical acclaim (keep in mind, “that shit don’t mean a thing“), it was just the culmination of a rise to success which some would argue began in 2009 with Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik (about which Jeff Weiss said of Gibbs, “a rapper as good as this has no place in the major label galaxy,” an interesting observation given that Freddie had already left Interscope and would, in a few short years, be quitting CTE).
Gibbs doesn’t need Jeezy, but it’s hard to argue that their partnership was anything less than excellent. Songs like “Sittin’ Low,” “Gotta See This” and the other Young Jeezy songs featured on this list portray a rap duo the likes of which haven’t been seen since DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (sorry, Ying Yang Twins, you’re just not talented enough). Though they never collaborated on a full-length project, there are enough individual tunes they worked on together to make a fine anthology, and the centerpiece would be “Rough.”
This cut from The Real Is Back 2 is close to perfect. The song’s trap heavy beat is consistent with what Jeezy was utilizing at that time, and it progresses nicely as Jeezy delivers his verse and hook (with a nice nod to Fat Joe). Freddie’s verse, in which he uses “Lewinsky” as a verb, references Gary’s high murder rate and describes the volume of communication he receives through his burner phone, demonstrates better flow control than a carburetor’s choke-valve. He talks a little about cars, territory and murder, calling out fake gangsters while reinforcing his image as genuine product. His own mortality, the subject of songs like “Still Livin’” and “187-Proof,” is referenced when he says “might be my last night,” which might be any night. In the wake of his attempted assassination, those words have an even more profound significance.
It’s interesting to note that Jeezy, in the beginning, says “I solemnly swear to take my team to the top.” Jeezy may have intended to elevate his crew in such a way, but it turns out that one member of his team didn’t need his help to get there. The story of Freddie Gibbs has always been one of independence and personal development. Even when he teams up with Madlib or Statik Selektah, The World’s Freshest or Young Jeezy, Gibbs remains consistent with his own goals and principles. This is my favorite Freddie Gibbs guest appearance, not just for the value of the verse itself, but because of what it says about him and his career.