Cheat Code Album Review: Freddie Gibbs' "Shadow Of A Doubt"

Gibbs latest project is worthy of his own show on HBO.
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Giving Freddie Gibbs a Cheat Code review almost doesn’t feel right. Shadow of a Doubt is a body of work that’s not supposed to be rushed through, so really I should just demand you listen to the entire album. But there are millions of Americans who are missing out of the glory of Gangsta Gibbs and if America likes anything it's a cheat code - so if this is the only way I can get you hooked enough to listen, then this is the way we'll do it.

For whatever reason, Gibbs’ more underground success hasn’t translated into something bigger. He’s been ready to reach a Yo Gotti level of success, a rapper who is heavily into street rhymes, has one hell of a fanbase, can sell a strong amount of albums, and makes the occasional splash into the mainstream. Gotti does that well. Gibbs, from a lyrical standpoint, has all the makings of someone who deserves that same level of success.  

Freddie has a distinct voice that is recognizable almost instantly, it's a mix of grainy, gritty and rough. His voice is part of what makes the lyrics impact. Eazy-E had one of the best vocals that fit into his sound. Gibbs sounds real. I hear his voice combined with his lyrics and believe he is indeed moving weight, that he does indeed have murder on his mind.

Are you sleeping? WAKE UP! Time to hear these motherf*ckin’ hits!

The Background:

There’s a huge amount of praise for Pusha T’s powder white raps and they're very deserving. As far as competition, Freddie Gibbs is the man for the job. He’s been delivering drug rhymes with the technical skill that Bret Hart possessed in the squared circle and the storytelling of Stephen King. When he spits, it’s like being dropped right in the middle of Gibbs’ life before making music. Gibbs carved out a lane for himself after being slept on or looked over countless times. First Interscope (and more notably Eminem), then Young Jeezy, and likely many more didn’t see the vision. They didn’t know that Freddie Kane was a legend in the making.

Shadow Of A Doubt is not a happy-go-lucky listen. This is not an album full of sunshine and rainbows. Gibbs makes music from a depressing place as he recounts his past life with A1 story-telling. Even if it might be depressing, his songs are like audio movies. Each verse is an act, each line furthers the environment with insane detail, and the production is often a substitute for lack of characters.

5 Songs You Need To Hear:

“Careless”

Freddie Gibbs could outsource for hooks, but instead he often sings them himself and “Careless” is the perfect example. I believe it’s more effective, too. If Johnny R&B was on the hook it would strip away the feeling that Gibbs has a lot of hoes (and he wants you to know that). He reminds me a lot of Wiz Khalifa in this way, as Gibbs will handle the crooning himself from time to time.

Favorite part: Singing along to the hook in the comfort of my own home.

“Fuckin’ Up The Count”

Remember when Lil Wayne took beats from everybody and made us forget they belonged to anybody else? Freddie Gibbs did that with OJ Da Juiceman’s “quarter brick, half brick, whole brick” line. It fits so much better under the watchful ear of Gibbs. The line sets the tone for the loose narrative full of whipping bricks, showing off a flashy lifestyle and taking huge risks.

Favorite line: “Drove a half a ton, dropped it off and I took a plane back / Gangsta shit in my DNA, I just can't explain that / Even if I die tell my enemies I remain that.”

“Extradite” (ft. Black Thought)

I remember when Black Thought publicly reached out to Gibbs for this collaboration to happen. GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY did they deliver. The production is insane. That Mikhail beat never stood a chance when it was placed into the hands of these two. When the beat drops it brings about a feeling of nostalgia, like someone dropped me back into the ‘90s in New York. Is it weird that I immediately thought Joey Bada$$ would kill this, too?

Favorite part: Just having two verses from each emcee was more than I expected.

“10 Times” (ft. Gucci Mane & E-40)

Gucci Mane’s output in the last year trumps many rapper’s entire careers in quantity. We’re not here to discuss whether the material has all been quality, but here’s a fact: this Gucci verse is the best I’ve heard since he was locked up. While some collaborations sounded forced, Gibbs, Gucci and E-40 come off as a natural grouping. Gucci’s verse seamlessly fits into the equation.

“Basketball Wives”

If there were drug-related events in the olympics, Freddie Gibbs would probably win. (You'd have to get creative, like the time Moe entered the Duff Beer tournament.) In a graphic nobody-wants-to-see-this move, Gibbs reveals that he can chop up a brick and have sex at the same damn time.

Favorite part: Gibbs showcasing his flow and ability to rap hard with a melody yet again.

In Closing:

Are you still reading? If so, thank you. If not, I hope it’s because you’re in the next window over clicking on Freddie Gibbs’ iTunes page to give him some money. Let me know when you’re back.

Transaction complete? Perfect.

Freddie Gibbs hasn’t disappointed musically. Anybody who is a fan of his work definitely wants to see him win and become a bigger success. His sound is unlike anybody else in the rap game. Nobody can put together a well articulated drug tale in quite the same fashion. Gibbs would be a great TV drama show writer. Let’s make that a thing. If we stand in front of HBO with some good quality speakers and Shadow Of A Doubt playing, we should be able to get their attention. Or get arrested. Either way, Freddie would be proud.

And as a fan, I’m proud to say Shadow Of A Doubt exceeded expectations. It might even end up as my favorite Gibbs album, but then again there's also Cold Day In Hell. Actually, the latter was a free mixtape, so SOD is indeed my favorite Freddie album.

Gibbs has shown the ability over time to grow and get better with every release and SOD feels more complete than any of his previous works thanks to its ice cold production and razor sharp lyricism.

Gangster Gibbs is still living on Gangster Island, come join him. 

[By Sermon, who is emailing HBO as we speak. Follow him on Twitter. Image via EMPIRE.]

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