Monday, April 3, 2017

Freddie Gibbs - You Only Live 2wice Review

False rape accusations never do any good. Not only do they ruin the lives of those falsely accused, it desecrates on those who have been actual victims and are in the lengthy process of standing up for themselves and seeking justice. Toxic for all party's involved. That's why I don't blame Freddie Gibbs for letting his anger over last year's case in Austria dominate You Only Live 2wice. In fact, for lyrical purposes, it gave Gibbs something to focus on that wasn't gang violence, drugs, or sex. Although, suffice to say, those still play a prominent role in his latest LP. The Indiana rapper just can't shake trouble, whether it's from his own backyard or halfway across the world. Fame, popularity, and wealth didn't change anything. That's why, despite gaining fans year after year, Gibbs' music is just as aggressive, angered, and antagonistic as it was when he was trying to escape the streets. However, the means by which he limits himself, reverting back to Trap and Gangsta Rap as his foundation, something he escaped briefly with Madlib on 2014's Piñata, is disappointing. Unlike that LP, 2wice doesn't intend on changing the course. It's not as forgettable as 2015's Shadow Of A Doubt, but 2wice won't alter any staunchly held opinions Hip-Hop fans may have.

For sanity sake, it's a blessing in disguise Gibbs was only able to complete eight songs in time to announce his mighty comeback to American soil. As we know, copious filler on an LP lacking any foreseeable vision never works out too well, and that was partly the case on Shadow Of A Doubt where 15 tracks ran the gamut. Half were easily disposable, much like any Trap/Gangsta Rap project of a similar length. That's why 2wice's short duration, leaving no space to fill in the gaps, is a refreshing structure for a genre so stuck in excess thanks to the egos of those who run it. While it wouldn't be a Freddie Gibbs project without some seemingly unavoidable duds, the fact you're not far removed from the beginning, nor have a long ways to go till the end, allows for one to appreciate 2wice without expending much energy. Let Gibbs do that for you. His distinctive vocals and to-the-point flows never fail to appear, and, along with the often boisterous production, create a template that's direct and abstains from being multi-dimensional.

At this stage in his career, playing it safe seems to be the main priority. Introducing a lick of artistry would denounce his hardened roots, making him seem weak to those that still rep his Gary, Indiana streets. That's why, from year one, Freddie Gibbs has always been about those street tales. 2wice has the honor of introducing a court case not directly tied to illegal dealing's of his past, but one directly instigated by his fame and fortune. This allows Gibbs to relate past to present, and on tracks like 'Crushed Glass' and 'Homesick,' lines confrontationally speaking about the false rape allegation find a home in events of his past. The latter in particular is one of 2wice's best tracks, as it reflects on Gibbs' experience in an Austrian prison. Thousands of miles from his home, with reading material that was only in German, Gibbs found value in the livelihood of his child, and those who raised him. A distaste for what was once close friends seemed to have spurred from this incident as well, as 'Homesick' rescinds the need to care about those not related by blood, while 'Alexys,' through an intensely fiery and personal verse, goes on to confirm this.

Unfortunately, there's also a handful of tracks that don't really have anything interesting to say, and that provides our essential duds when it comes to Freddie Gibbs. 'Crushed Glass,' the album's lead single, features a trifecta of ill-fated ideas that excuse any chance at being memorable. A gross overuse of "nigga," Trap production that feels painfully 101, and an unnecessarily cheesy hook that tears back any shred of aggressiveness Gibbs harbored, makes for a song entirely derivative of itself. Along with that, there's 'Andrea' and 'Phone Lit,' which proves, musically, that Gibbs hasn't really gotten anywhere. The first panders to Hip-Hop tropes, speaking on behalf of a romantic interest in the verses before awkwardly switching things up and talking about money in the hook. And while I appreciate the commitment to a singular idea on 'Phone Lit,' Gibbs' singing has never been good and the production, like much of 2wice, feels like drab wallpaper for someone who treats it as if it's the second hand. Even Shadow Of A Doubt had more interesting production, with Gibbs trying his hand at Southern Trap. Here, there's only a select few cases of above-average beats. 'Alexys,' for one, is of no surprise, as Kaytranada and BADBADNOTGOOD come together to create something Piñata-esque.

However, there's one noteworthy track I've failed to mention. That award goes to opener '20 Karat Jesus,' which is easily 2wice's best song. Despite production from the same no-names that Gibbs has been dragging around, '20 Karat Jesus' feels reinvigorated, complete, and centralized. Gibbs' lyrics are both aptly relatable to his past and present and, at times, memorably hilarious ("I be kicking shit like Solange in the elevator" is a good one). Even more than that though is the beat switch to '20 Karat Jesus'' second half. Where did this come from Gibbs? Absolutely nothing on 2wice, Shadow, or Piñata sound remotely like the College Dropout-era, Kanye West-inspired production that glistens from wall to wall. With an excitable flow intact, it's really shocking just how well Gibbs works over this, despite almost immediately becoming a disappointment because the appalling rarity is now a sudden realization. More of that please! Really, you have to go back to 2012's Baby Face Killa to find something similar, and even then it's only off-handed and seemingly by accident. '20 Karat Jesus'' second half goes all-in, and comes out a resounding success. It's just a shame the rest of You Only Live 2wice didn't impart the vision of that moment. It is the way of Freddie Gibbs to stay cautious in his musical risks, after all.


  1. "Introducing a lick of artistry would denounce his hardened roots, making him seem weak to those that still rep his Gary, Indiana streets." Nailed it.

    Reminds me of the line, "Pants saggin' till I'm 40", somewhere on Piñata. Gibbs is committed to being hard and not artsy, which keeps his music less interesting than it could be. :(

    1. Such a simple line you quoted that says all that needs to be said. It's not necessarily a bad thing, as obviously Freddie Gibbs is trying more to impress street listeners than some random music critics, but still. Just less interesting for us.