Over the past 24-26 months or so, the Gary, IN-based emcee Freddie Gibbs has joined a lengthy list of JOVM mainstays as I’ve written quite a bit about him. With the release of his 2009 compilation of previously unreleased material and several mixtape singles, The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs, several other mixtapes released between 2011 and 2012 and his 2013 debut full-length ESGN (Evil Seeds Grow Naturally) Gibbs quickly received national attention as he has collaborated with an impressive list of artists and producers including Young Jeezy, Juicy J, Philadelphia Freeway, Dom Kennedy, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Big K.R.I.T., Cardo, DJ Burn One, Speakerbomb, Block Beattaz, Beatnick and K-Salaam, Chip tha Ripper, The Cool Kids‘ Chuck Inglish and Mikey Rocks, Krayzie Bone, SpaceGhostPurrp, Jadakiss, Kirko Bangz, Jay Rock, Curren$y and others. And during that time, Gibbs also established a reputation as one of hip-hop’s sadly unheralded and most talented lyricists and emcees. Gibbs’ work concerns itself with street life and unlike a great deal of contemporary mainstream emcees, who take on exaggerated superhuman personas and describe tales in which their heroes always win and nothing ever goes wrong, Gibbs’ incredibly narrative lyrics pull back the showbiz curtains to reveal that most gangsta rappers as up to immature and childish bullshit. And he he does so with an unvarnished and frank honesty; in fact, Gibbs’ characters inhabit a very real, fleshed out world of Darwinistic struggle, in which men and women do very evil things to survive — and they quickly discover that in some fashion they’re going to a hell of their own making. Their luck runs out and finally get busted or someone snitches on them. They wind up locked up for some time, and during their time away, their girl cheats on them or leaves them while they’re away. The ghosts of bad decisions, wasted lives and passing time linger and haunt these characters, and in some way you can sense a subtle tinge of regret throughout.
Last year Gibbs teemed up with one of hip-hop’s most inventive and prolific producers Madlib on his sophomore effort Piñata. The effort, which was released through renowned indie label Rappcats Records was a critical and commercial success as it landed at number 38 on the Billboard 200 and number seven on the US Top Rap Albums Charts. Sonically and thematically, Piñata bears an resemblance to Small Professor’s and Guilty Simpson’s impressive collaboration, Highway Robbery in the sense that both albums are the result of a shared artistic vision — and channel golden area hip-hop as both paired soulful and hard-hitting production with supremely talented emcees and storytellers spitting lyrics.
“Shame,” which was part of a trio of singles originally released on 12 inch has Gibbs’ narrator tells some sordid tales about hustling, doing drugs, and hooking up with loose and questionable women, including women who have families and writing music. The song’s narrator is a proud and honest cad — but at some point he meets a girl, who he admits his falls for. Interestingly (and I’m providing a bit of a spoiler here), this woman is presumably the same woman who later betrays him in “Deeper.” Sonically, the song is reminiscent of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx-era Raekwon as it pairs Gibbs’ raspy and husky baritone — by far one of the contemporary hip-hop’s most distinctive vocals — with dusty and atmospheric old school soul samples. It’s a song that balances an intimate, confessional feel with sweepingly cinematic feel.
Unsurprisingly, Rappcats received an enormous amount of requests to make the material off Piñata available for TV shows. As the story goes, the folks the renowned indie hip-hop label recruited producer and DJ Alex Goose to remix Piñata with samples from the Now-Again Records catalog. Goose’s remix of “Shame,” which appears on Goose’s Piñata (Alex Goose Remix), pairs Gibbs’ recognizable raspy baritone with a lush old school production that’s funkier, jazzier and more percussive than the original. In some way, it subtly lightens the overall feel of the song while retaining the eerie atmospherics and cinematic feel and spirit of the original. Interestingly, from what I understand the remix appears on the Starz TV series Survivor’s Remorse (which Lebron James is credited as an executive producer, along with Tom Werner and others).