Gary, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs remains one of the most underrated rap artists in the game today. His collaborative project with legendary hip-hop producer Madlib Piñata is one of this decade’s greatest triumphs in the genre. Gibbs’ technical proficiency on the mic allows him to weave in and out of an instrumental in effortless fashion. This lyrical precision paired with sincere, straightforward penmanship make Freddie one of the few contemporary rappers who sound gritty and smooth at the same time. His last studio album Shadow of a Doubt was a dark, nocturnal LP that boasted a heightened level of melody discernment from Gibbs, resulting in yet another well-received work. Since the release of Shadow of a Doubt back in autumn of 2015, Freddie’s life took a turn for the worse while on tour in Europe early last summer.
On June 4th, 2016 Freddie Gibbs was detained by French police by means of an Austrian arrest warrant for allegedly raping two European women. On this new, ultra-concise project the Midwestern emcee relives those stressful times of being locked up in a foreign correctional facility for a crime he did not commit. It took over three months before Gibbs was acquitted from his sexual abuse charges. While doing time, he began reorganizing his priorities. He details his thought process most notably on the album’s closing track “Homesick”. Realizing how fleeting life can be, he raps about putting his daughter above his homies:
“Please yourself or please your homies, man, what’s harder to do? / Did some things in life I know I don’t want my daughter to do / Shit, I got a list of things I don’t want my daughter to do / On the blade, tryna get paid, choppin’ hard with the crew / Type of shit I did to make me feel a part of the crew / ‘Til I cut my niggas off, now I’m apart from the crew…”
That’s some deep stuff, man. Despite only containing eight songs, You Only Live 2wice has more to offer than just substantial storytelling. My personal favorite “Amnesia” breathes some life into the mostly sleepy atmosphere of the project. When Gibbs says “Feds snatched a nigga up, I caught amnesia,” it’s not hypocritical. Freddie was found innocent on the aforementioned rape charges and hearing how personal and thorough his accounts are across this project, that line has a double-edged relevance both in his own life and in street life in general. It’s a fun, wavy banger that helps round out this album’s versatility.
However, I must say that there are some qualities about this record that held it back from achieving greatness. Its 32-minute play time is condensed and doesn’t overstay its welcome, but, in my opinion, there aren’t enough memorable or punchy moments here to extend its longevity going forward. Producers Pops, Kaytranada, BADBADNOTGOOD, Speakerbomb and others do a sufficient job complementing Gibbs’ technical skill and experienced swagger. Yet in still, there are instances on You Only Live 2wice when the instrumentals slightly drown out Freddie’s voice. Gibbs is partially to blame, though. At times, his bars are jam-packed with a few too many syllables, making his words sound slurred and occasionally inaudible. Also, the hooks found here are considerably underwhelming. Hooks aren’t always necessary, but if they’re going to be on a track, I’d like there to be some novelty to them. Otherwise the song(s) can be easily forgotten. All in all, if you’re looking for something savvy or poignant to listen to, look no further than the more-bang-for-your-buck You Only Live 2wice.