Freddie Gibbs has always been surrounded by this aura of potential. Sure, his work to date has included some deeply impressive stuff, but there’s always been a sense that he could – and would – do more.
‘Alfredo’ is where this all comes together. Released only a few days ago, it’s already being tipped as the year’s best rap album, an astounding career high that finds Freddie Gibbs cutting loose, presenting a mosaic of personas that move from painful introspection through to comic book braggadocio, somehow retaining a unique sense of self at the centre of it all.
It’s a record that pivots on the unique symbiosis between artist and producer, between the Gary, Indiana rapper and long-time associate The Alchemist. Freddie Gibbs has worked with the West Coast beat scientist for almost a decade now, with the pair joined by Curren$y on 2018’s ‘Fetti’ project. This new release amplifies the creative chemistry, however, it’s potent sonic soundscape suggesting a myriad of possibilities, yet at a mere 10 track absolutely nothing is wasted.
With its lighters-in-the-air guitar line ‘1985’ could easily be an intro skit, but it’s elevated by that starkly effective production and Gibbs’ intricate gun flow, so intense but also melodic, driven by an all-too-timely sense of purpose. ‘God Is Perfect’ softens into a Dilla-esque beat, caramel smooth yet with that haunting piano refrain just out of the ear’s reach, while the guest turn from Rick Ross on ‘Scottie Beam’ is shrouded in levels of sonic opulence that would charm Barry White’s Love Unlimited. Even here, though, there’s a search for meaning – the song uses a Gil Scott-Heron sample, the lines echo his immortal poetry.
‘Look At Me’ opens with a neat spoken word snippet, one that discusses the art of finding talent and putting it to work. In a way, it acts as a mini-manifesto for the project, one that revels both in freedom and an assured sense of purpose – everything on ‘Alfredo’ feels potent and precise, laid down for a reason. It’s a record where chance is embraced, but the processes are honed and finessed – just listen to the sheer control on ‘Skinny Suge’ or ‘Babyes & Fools’.
Benny The Butcher guests on ‘Frank Lucas’, the true-life central figure of American Gangster; it’s a song about anti-heroes, but it’s also a display of wealth-as-power and opulence-as-resistance. ‘Baby $hit’ feels precocious, vital, while Tyler the Creator’s slot on ‘Something To Rap About’ seems to tap into a pure love for the art, for the mic and its possibilities.
‘Alfredo’ excels on every front, a record that fuses a thirst for fresh innovation with a depth of love for hip-hop and rap music that is almost unparalleled. Pretty much an instant classic, it’s the sound of Freddie Gibbs finally bursting free, working with tour de force production to surge past expectations and claim his place at the absolute pinnacle.
Words: Robin Murray
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