In Review: Freddie Gibbs - Alfredo

Collaborating with Eminem's and Action Bronson's choice beat-maker in The Alchemist, Gibbs' latest full-length is a bonafide contender for rap album of the year.
Posted: 8 June 2020 Words: Tom Cramp

Freddie Gibbs makes mature hip-hop. You’re not going to find him doing an in-game concert on Fortnite. His raps are unapologetically crass, full of grime and tales of the streets. This, along with his immaculate flow, is why hip-hop DJs who remain true to the traditions of the 90s seem to gravitate towards him. You thought Gangsta Gibbs and Madlib were a perfect match? Eminem’s official DJ The Alchemist has something to say about that. The two collaborate to produce Alfredo - a contender for rap album of the year.

‘1985’ is an explosive start and a serious sign of intent. The theme of timing is heavy and resonates throughout the project. Not only is the timing between rapper and beat synchronised expertly, but mentions of Michael Jordan and Joe Exotic are also timely references to today’s pop culture. At least we know Gibbs is getting his money’s worth from his Netflix subscription. 

Melodic piano-based beats in ‘God Is Perfect’ and ‘Scottie Beam’ provide the Indiana-born rap maverick with a platform to showcase his versatility. If Gibbs was a weapon it would be a fully-automatic M16, delivering ferocious material in bursts then stepping back to reload whilst admiring the beat as it plays out. In a recent interview, Alchemist even described Freddie as “machine gun lightning.” He goes on to say that, “ever since we did ‘Scottie Pippen’ (a 2011 collaboration) it was like all right, we knew what we had to do. It just took time. Everything is timing.” ‘Scottie Beam’ also begins with the line, “the revolution is the genocide, look, your execution will be televised,” – a poignant reminder of George Floyd’s heartless murder in Minneapolis and the civil unrest that has followed. 

Track five, ‘Frank Lucas’, is one of those songs where you catch yourself kind of nodding and shaking your head at the same time with a look of pure disgust on your face, the kind of song you’d want for a ring walk-out. In stark contrast, melodic electric guitar in the following track, ‘Something To Rap About’ featuring Tyler, The Creator, strums the listener into relaxation. It almost sounds like a romantic number, although Gibbs’ interpretation of romance may not be quite the same as mine. Rapping for longer periods is light work for the pair of them, with Tyler far exceeding the standard bar count some modern rappers would shamelessly deliver for an insane fee (no names). Who says you can’t have quality and quantity?

Gibbs’ bouncing flow on ‘Baby $hit’ is coupled with the standout beat on the album, while ‘Babies & Fools’ and ‘Skinny Suge’ are both odes to street life and examples of the rapper’s compelling ability to spin a yarn. ‘All Glass’ is an excellent parting piece. It feels like when a long-distance runner turns on the afterburners toward the end of a race to pull away from the rest. If you didn’t already marvel at Gibbs’ wordplay, you do now.

After listening to a Freddie Gibbs album from start to finish, you’ve usually heard a lot of words and a ton of figurative language. This LP is no different. Metaphors, similes, hyperboles, personification and oxymorons; it’s an assault on your linguistic imagination that takes a few listens and a peek at the lyrics to avoid a lot of them going over your head. Previous Gibbs albums with 15+ songs can be a little overwhelming at first, but with just ten songs lasting 35 minutes total, Alfredo is a much more palatable length. It’s a delicious blend of beats, samples, lyricism and flow, bound together by a tangible level of trust between the two artists. They’ve honed their craft to an absolute tee. Feed us more.

Alfredo is out now on ESGN Records / ALC Records / Empire Distribution.

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