Freddie Gibbs has proved himself a diverse, versatile, and imaginative artist in past years. First gaining reputable recognition after releasing a series of mixtapes in 2009, including The Miseducation Of Freddie Gibbs, Freddie’s first endeavour, and midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik.
A busy few years proceeded him, starting in 2011, when Freddie released a series of mixtapes, most notably Cold Day In Hell that featured Young Jeezy, Juicy J and some production input from Speakerbomb. Baby Face Killa was also released in this year, and featured in itself some prominent figures. Jay Rock, Dom Kennedy, and Kirko Bangz all had features on the record.
It was the following years, beginning really in 2013, that Freddie cranked it up. The release of his debut album, ESGN, solidified his prominence in the scene. The next year, he got together with Madlib himself, and together produced a heavy hitting album of their own, Piñata.
All tracks exclusively produced by Madlib, this album gained significant recognition, and is considered by some Freddie’s best work to date. The album itself had features of Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown, Scarface and BJ The Chicago Kid. After the success of Piñata, Freddie went on to create another album the next year.
Shadow Of A Doubt came out in 2015 with universal popularity and recognition. It held producers such as Kaytranada, Frank Dukes and Speakerbomb under its umbrella, the latter of whom had worked with Freddie before on his earlier mixtapes. This record was received very well, and garnered high praise.
It’s 2017, and after a series of complications involving Freddie’s incarceration, he is back with a new body of work. You Only Live 2wice was announced in March of this year, along with the release of the single, “Crushed Glass”.
It was met with critical acclaim, and serves as a solid addition to Freddie’s consistently acclaimed discography. This is well deserved, as the album really shows off Freddie’s abilities, and well as his aptitude to work with some of the most creative producers of the scene, many of whom have returned to produce numbers for this record.
“20 Karat Jesus” quickly brands the feel of the record right off. Utilizing Gibbs’ renowned versatility of flow throughout the whole of the tack, as well as a textured and layered beat, “20 Karat Jesus” is a very, very strong start to the record.
Set in two parts, the first consists of heavy, industrious drums, 808s and layers, sharp hi-hats, clean snares, and darkened vocal shots. Freddie’s flow remains as versatile as ever, shifting effortlessly at the nod of the head. Elements of sound design are implemented well, and provides a nice closing tie. The track takes an immediate turn at the three minute mark however, twisting from a midnight cruise, into a breezy summer of love unexpectedly.
Bright, wide gliding bass and processed gospel samples bounce against Freddie’s verses, once again shifting into a wide-eyed, fresh flow. As well built as the first half, Freddie demonstrates his proven versatility well. The track ends with a surprisingly inspirational message from Freddie himself.
The next track takes a draw from the darker half of the prior track, and cranks it up. “Alexys” takes a more serious tone, with Freddie’s opening lyrics stating, “I first tasted cocaine in the tenth grade, homie at the table chopping Rick James”.
With BADBADNOTGOOD and Kaytranada in charge of production for this track, it’s no surprise the solidity of the drums, chords and flow. The calmer arrangement of drums and synths and pads back him, with the line of hats embodying the rhythm of the track. The hard hitting pan shots give the track a real gritty feel, one that seems to really fit Gibbs’ well. A very well produced track that drips with cold emotion.
Vibrato laced violins and hollow, wide pads fill the next track, “Crushed Glass”. Speakerbomb’s flip of “Fear” by Sade acts as the foundations for the song, wherein Freddie flows over it. Taking a slower turn, Freddie switches up from the head bobbers to the swaying, dreamlike flow of simplistic drum patterns, perfectly executed timing and atmosphere.
Freddie changes up his flow slightly throughout the whole track, which adds another layer of already established substance to the song. In addition to the darker tones of Freddie’s lyrical content, the unyielding cries of the violin and pads really creates the harrowing foundations Freddie utilizes with masterful skill, completing the piece with a dark, industrious tone that fits the record incredibly well.
“Dear Maria” begins with a much lighter tine, with breathy vocal samples layered atop dreamy pads and drenching everything in reverb. Freddie then takes the lead, twisting the track into a hard hitting, solid amalgamation of gliding basslines, rock-like percussive hits and thumping kicks.
Freddie once again switches his flow into a hard, unstoppable drive, grinding with the beat. Perhaps appearing as a little messy to start, Freddie’s established flow eventually finds its way into the drums well, and complements the tail end of every other bar, where a faint vocal lies to bring the groove back in.
The track dies down then, flowing back into the beginning’s sounds for a break. It again picks back up, this time with the introduction of some stylistically implemented modulated vocals, that provide the track with another layer of texture that finishes the track as a whole, full piece.
The next track seems to have learnt from the impending dangers of too many textures and sounds, and goes for a more minimal approach, which I feel really pays off. My personal favourite on the record, “Amnesia”, practically drips with soul.
The track features clean basslines, fresh drum patterns, and a swaying flow that Freddie spearheads with humble ease. The biggest part of the track is the huge, warming processed vocal clips that shroud the whole track in a melancholic dream state. Sounding akin to a twisted, dark cello, it seems to cry out over Freddie’s verse, adding a real, deep loneliness to the song.
As the track progresses, a small piano loop carries over to the ends of the hook, that’s melodies resonate with a brilliant sense of harmony. Layering with Freddie’s head swaying flow, and the haunting cello-vocal, it completes the song, polishing the harrowing feel the track, until it swishes down at the end, abruptly bringing the listener back out of the dark, and into the next track.
“Andrea” carries the listener onto brighter ground, with light, shifting synths and hat centred beats that flood with an awesome swing. Freddie’s verses also comprise of lighter work, with a bouncy flow that dips between the oldschool beat playfully. Faint pads and light chords accent Freddie well, providing the track with a light-hearted groove that emits a welcoming sunlight to the record.
Freddie’s singing carries a faint modulation that carries the flow toward a light climax. That is, until the second half of the track, wherein the drums change drastically, losing their swing, taking a more upright form, and 808s establish the tone right away. The light bounce falls immediately as Freddie takes the lead, twisting the track into a colder territory that seems to be the record’s home.
One of the more powerfully produced tracks of the record, “Phone Lit”, is very much an instrumental-fronted song, with Freddie’s flow being numbed down slightly to allow for the full width of the heavy synths the track features. Well mixed, clear drums bounce around the light chords, the synths themselves retaining an air similar to the likes Wntr or Sam Gelliatry.
The track itself, in all it encompasses, demonstrates Freddie’s versatility and depth of imagination. He retains a similar flow to many artists who affiliate themselves with the creative processes of producers such as those mentioned above, albeit swinging his own take on it. Freddie changes his flow yet again in the latter half of the track. “Phone Lit” is a very well established track.
The last track on the record is “Homesick”. Definitely the chillest track on the record as a whole, “Homesick” is a very fitting last song. Very slow paced, the track consists of minimal production, simple drum arrangements, and some truly heartfelt lyrics from Freddie, touching on how he feels homesick due to being 10,000 miles away from his child and his friends, and almost breaking down when arriving at prison.
The instrumental itself takes a very calm approach, almost in reflection, and the track as a whole acts as a beautiful transition from the hard hitting head nodders at the beginning, to an open, clear path to one’s emotions.
You Only Live 2wice is a very well done piece of music, with a clear established sound, excellent production, and impressive performances from Freddie, in all manners. Retaining a collective feel throughout, the record is very consistent, and hardly ever falls out of its lane.
Harbouring dark, gritty tones that resonate through Freddie’s vocals, the clear styles of the tracks are sure to be something many people will take to, and one of the defining points of the record.
I feel this is one of Freddie’s best works, as it really demonstrates his affinity for building a sound, as well as showing his diversity and imagination. A very well done piece. Freddie Gibbs’ You Only Live 2wice can be heard on iTunes here.
Words By James Hailey