Freddie Gibbs is a by-word for authenticity. The rapper’s decade-long hit streak has dominated the conversation surrounding Stateside hip-hop, with albums such as the Madlib-produced ‘Bandana’ and 2020’s Alchemist-aided ‘Alfredo’ receiving overwhelming critical praise. At times, though, he feels like a figure on the fringes, denied the success afforded to other – sometimes less talented – rappers.
His first major label record, ‘$oul $oul $eparately’ should go some way to correct this. A brilliant, ballsy move, it transplants his hood raps – the in-jokes, the lifestyle references – within a much broader format, essentially allowing Freddie to remain Freddie, but in a different landscape. Opening out his sound, the production moves from arena levels to something more intimate, a sonic palette that seeks out renewed nuance in his work.
Essentially structured around a visit to a glamorous hotel, the album becomes a gateway into Freddie Gibbs’ life. So, expected the punch of opener ‘Couldn’t Be Done’ with its Kanye-esque use of a vintage soul sample, or the rolling snares of ‘Pain & Strife’. The old school funk that underpins Anderson .Paak collab ‘Feel No Pain’ is irresistible – Freddie seemingly played part of the beat himself – while Pusha T link-up ‘Gold Rings’ is a truly emphatic statement from two of the best in the game. It’s a mark of the record’s bravura stance, but also its subtlety – check out the nimble harp sample for evidence of the project’s sonic detail.
Indeed, it’s this detail that elevates ‘$oul $old $eparately’ from its peers. There’s bravado, sure, but also emotion; ‘Dark Hearted’ could be Freddie Gibbs at his most open, a track fuelled by regret, trauma, and poignancy. James Blake assisted throughout, and the dichotomy between light and shade, rhythm and melody, makes this one of the project’s real fulcrums.
This empathetic streak of autobiography finds Freddie Gibbs pushing into new areas. ‘Grandma’s Stove’ for example digs into family history, switching it up once more before the album segues into the throwback production on CIA’.
One of rap’s most resolute figures, Freddie Gibbs has built his profile for two decades now. Peppering the underground with some of its most influential cuts, each new project has taken him closer to his goals – hell, he’s even nailed a Grammy nomination. ‘$oul $old $eperately’ works emphatically to bring these elements together and push them to a new level.
Words: Robin Murray