Words: Doug Knickrehm

The smoking section introduced me to Freddie Gibbs December 1, 2009.  They promoted the mixtape Labels Trying to Kill Me, hosted by DJ Skee.  The tape was really a compilation of songs from four or five of Gangsta Gibbs’s previous mixtapes such as the Live from Gary Indiana series, Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik, and the Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs.  Immediately impressed by his impeccable flow, raw lyricism, and street sound, I quickly regarded Freddie as one of my favorite rappers.  I usually argue that debates over the “best” rapper or album are irrelevant because “best” is such a subjective term.  However, as 2012 gets underway and rappers-turned-mafiosos, wanna-be Curren$y rappers, and what Gibbs so artfully refers to as “butt-fuck rap” dominate the airwaves and blogosphere, Freddie is one of the last rappers with an identity backed by lyrical prowess.  This combination makes him the best rapper alive.

The G.I. General represents everything hip-hop used to be:  raw, unapologetic lyrics combined with technical skills that would make a poetry professor giddy.  Freddie first got play on my iPod because I appreciated his commitment to himself.  The current state of hip-hop seems to be more about ass kissing and cross promotion of bull shit than self expression and love for the music.  Listen to any Rick Ross tape, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  Tapes filled with nursery rhymes and Lex Luger beats, and former legends helping promote the trash because they are trying to eat off the cop’s plate.  On “Crushin Feelins” Fred made it clear he doesn’t need or want industry help to eat.  He’s been getting it how he lives, staying true to himself in the rap game since age nineteen.  Look at his tapes dating back to Full Metal Jackit, through Cold Day in Hell.  The only thing that’s changed about his raps is that they’ve gotten better.  The content remained the same with or without a deal.

He’s grown from a twenty year-old talking shit on wax to a ten year vet spitting with legendary dexterity.  Gibbs is a gangsta rapper in the purest form.  We can believe his raps the same way we believe the Clipse’ coke raps – that’s all he talks about and he does it so well.  But through his tales of robbing, killing, and selling drugs, the listener doesn’t see a Scarface-esque movie.  Instead, Fred takes us through the gutter, highlighting society’s ills through graphic description, not fantastic glorification.

What separates Fred from the rest of the rappers dominating the airwaves today is not just his persona – he is the most technically sound artist in the game.  He is a man of many flows, multiple rhyme schemes, masterful wordplay, and the rapid fire ability to sound off in a brilliant cadence. (The third verse on “Murda on my Mind” is one of my favorite examples.)  I once asked him at Rock the Bells, “What are you doing when you break into that flow?” and he responded that he just tries to ride the beat and make it sound as best he can.  I took this answer as truth for a while until I realized his secret: Gibbs is a master of alliteration.  Listen to how he starts “Rob Me a Nigga.”  “The liquor got me lurking and lookin’ for a lame nigga to set up for my next lick”.  Five L’s, son! And he breaks this out almost every song to which he’s contributed the past few years.  His verse on “Scottie Pippens”, the joint off Curren$y’s Covert Coup tape, certified Fred as my favorite rapper in April 2011.  I suggest you listen to it.  It’s filled with the alliteration that makes Fred’s words flow like water.  Also, look out for the Devil’s Palace tape with the Alchemist, hopefully coming soon.  He talked about this project back when this song came out, and we haven’t heard much since, but I still have hopes he will drop it this year.

Freddie Gibbs is the most complete rapper alive.  Everything we traditionally seek in artists (integrity, skill, creativity) he fulfills to the fullest.  If you pay attention to his rhymes you can tell he does this out of love and respect for the craft.  That is why he is the best.  Whether it’s the thugs in the streets looking to hear their story, the hip hop heads thirsting for technical greatness, or those who are just plain tired of every song sounding the same, Freddie Gibbs has what you seek.  I’ll let Gangsta Gibbs conclude this article with a quote from his Complex interview that sums up what the game is missing, and what he is helping to bring back.

“The problem I think with rap right now is too many niggas without an identity. They don’t know what they want to be. If there’s a certain trend that’s hot, they gone run with that. If everybody throw on nut-tight jeans, that’s what these niggas do. And that shit is lame to me, that’s all.”

*When I say “wanna-be Curren$y rappers” I am in no way disparaging Curren$y. I respect Curren$y and the Jet Life, Just Enjoy This Shit movement.  The problem I have is every new rapper, it seems, wants to come in the game with a laid back flow kicking raps about weed, other dude’s girls, and clothes.


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