Written by: The Bro
The Return Of The G
In late 2015, Freddie Gibbs seemed on the cusp of making that next leap from underdog rapper to perhaps something bigger. That previous year he had released Pinata, his long anticipated collaboration with Madlib, and it quickly proved to be his most successful project. The 2015 followup, Shadow Of A Doubt, spearheaded him embarking on a large tour that took him all around the country as well as to Europe. It was the type of tour an indie rapper dreams of. As a long time Gibbs fan, I was excited for him and perhaps even more excited for what I assumed would come next: a follow up to Pinata (tentatively titled Bandana) and even bigger things for the Midwestern gangsta rapper.
But the tour didn’t go as planned. Last June, Gibbs was arrested in France, on an arrest warrant from Austria for rape charges. He was later extradited to Austria and imprisoned. Details about the case or the conditions of his imprisonment were scant, and the summer passed with little new info on what was happening. In mid August, Gibbs was finally charged with a crime: sexual assault.
Gibbs would be acquitted of all charges a month later. Yet there was no celebratory release or flurry of statements and interviews, as happened when Gucci Mane and countless other rappers returned from prison. Instead Gibbs disappeared from public view. He spent the fall and winter counting his blessings and no doubt hugging his wife and young daughter, while fans wondered what was next.
What’s next turns out to be You Only Live 2wice, his latest EP. At only 8 tracks it is an appetizer for what’s to come, but shouldn’t be overlooked. The EP was initially teased with a preview of the artwork, which depicts the resurrection of Freddie Cane, complete with Mary Magdalene replaced with strippers. On the EP’s impressive intro, 20 Karat Jesus, Gibbs laments the pitfalls of his past, including “how in one summer one nigga could lose it all.” It’s an impressive return to form for Gibbs, and even throws in a beat switch that takes us to church with a choir over 808s.
Alexys comes alive with a Kaytranada beat that has shades of Thuggin’ from Pinata. Gibbs’ fast yet intricate flows takes center stage as he floats over the track with precision. Meanwhile the next track, Crushed Glass, includes the first of many comments on the case that almost cost Gibbs his freedom.
I just beat a rape case, groupie bitch I never fucked
Trying to give me ten for some pussy that I never touched
At a certain level, system tried to test a nigga’s nuts
Nigga hire like eleven lawyers, had to level up
Lamenting that he is no longer the man he once was, Gibbs paints a vivid portrait of his nightmare. Bidding the listener to “enter the mental of a nigga that wish he knew his fate” he walks us through life in hell. Locked up an extra 30 days, limited access to a bath or shower, his only glimpse of freedom coming in the form of family pictures stuck to his cell wall with toothpaste.
The EP closes with an emotional climax, Homesick. Here we get perhaps the most honest portrait of Gibbs, one not of super gangsta Freddie Gibbs but of a mortal man trying to fit in with his homies. Alluding to the “shit I did to make me feel a part of the crew,” Gibbs details the process of separating from those he was once close to. Crews fall apart when loyalty isn’t rewarded, and that seems to be the theme here as Gibbs details coming home and not feeling the love from those he stood tall for. “I just almost lost it all, for my niggas,” Gibbs says on the track’s outro. Is he implying someone in his entourage was guilty of the rape, and he ate the charge instead of telling? There’s often a thin line between fact and fiction in rap so perhaps we will never know. What we do know is that Gibbs would not have made it out without the support of his wife. True loyalty.
The track ends with a declaration. “I’m back, and I ain’t going nowhere this time. Amen.” While his flow and lyrical prowess areclearly in tact, the process of healing the soul – and making up for lost time – will likely take some time. And as a fan, I’m more than willing to wait. It’ll be worth it.