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FREDDIE GIBBS/THE ALCHEMIST Alfredo gets 8/10


Freddie Gibbs/The Alchemist

Alfredo
ESGN/ALC/Empire

8/10

After his brilliant collaboration with Madlib last year, Alfredo further cements Freddie Gibbs as this generation’s premier gangster rapper, this time accompanied by legendary producer The Alchemist.

Gibbs is a take-him-or-leave-him character who wears his black (or at least grey) heart on his sleeve, his raps unabashedly glorifying his life as a drug dealer, often in rather explicit terms. The moral ambiguity of Gibbs’ words is something to discuss for another day, but there is a cynical nihilism running through his music that is fascinatingly unnerving.

This whole album’s lush presentation and materialist bent is an obvious kiss-off to the Mafioso, yet the sample that closes the track Baby $hit is of Joe Bonnano (an Italian American character in the show Gangster of Harlem) espousing his hatred for the black victims of his drug dealing. On Skinny Suge, Gibbs gives just as little justification for the victims of his crimes, acknowledging “Man, my uncle died off a overdose/ And the fucked up part about that is, I know who supplied the nigga that sold it.” Gibbs makes no excuses, merely acknowledging the depravity of a game that must be played. Elsewhere, his braggadocio is more entertaining than sobering. His silk-smooth flow leaves most other rappers in the dust, and cuts like Something to Rap About have the kind of narrative flow that would make Biggie proud. Tyler the Creator guests in a magnificent turn waxing lyrical on his rise to fame. On 1985, his stop-start rapping is razor sharp, and on Look At Me he somehow manages to float his raps atop one of the most blissed-out hip hop samples ever and make it work.

Samples are relevant because, above all, this album’s production is superb. All bow for The Alchemist, a classic producer whose credits read like a laundry list of hip hop royalty. Here, Alchemist wraps Gibbs’ rhymes over opulent soundscapes, but there is a variety of moods amidst the glamour. Opener 1985 uses an epic classic rock guitar solo as its sample, whereas Frank Lucas rests upon a nervous violin string and clipped bass, a sound that will give you the creeps. Skinny Suge is built atop a beautiful jazz guitar figure, while closer All Glass is built atop Hammond organ swirls and foreboding snatches of guitar.

Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist effortlessly strike gold. Highly recommended for any fans of gangster rap.

MATIJA ZIVKOVIC

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