Freddie Gibbs is a menacing figure on the mic. He flows in the lowest register with a voice that’s dark and ruthless. “I proceed to make ends bleed/ Let it be grizzly,” he threatens on “Terrorist”. There’s a reason he’s been hailed as the last bastion of hardcore hip-hop in the Midwest. But is he really a gangsta or just a man with a pen and a husky flow? It would seem the latter. Lyrically, the worst crimes Gibbs commits on Shame involve marijuana, and the rest of the time he’s painting a bleak and tragic picture of life in Gary, IN. On Shame, Gibbs teams up with production mastermind Madlib for a strong two-song EP with some bland extras.
The title track focuses on the fleetingness of the male-female relationship in Gibbs’ world. He and his girl make love all night and all morning, amidst a haze of weed smoke. Then she goes to work, and Gibbs’ instability gets the better of him. When a drug deal with one of her friends leads to sex, he only seems half-surprised: “I let that ass convince me/ Like I stepped on a banana peel and fell in that pussy.” Madlib’s production crackles with retro flare, quirky R&B samples peeking out from behind Gibbs’ cavernous vocals, while the Chicago Kid lays down a better-than-average hook during the chorus.
“Terrorist” is a one-minute sprint that sees Gibbs in storyteller mode. “Ugh, tales of the terrorist,” he says before launching into a vignette about a girl who deals with an abusive relationship by using heroin and sending “muff pics” to her contact list. Suddenly, Gibbs changes subjects and gets personal: “Making music to make some mail, fuck the recognition.” Gibbs’ self-awareness is refreshing, especially considering that his fame doesn’t yet extend beyond the Internet. But he does have ambition: “Thought of dying broke with no legacy make my knees weak.” That’s a sentiment we can all relate to.
To call Shame an EP is misleading. It’s only two tracks— “Shame” and “Terrorist”— with instrumental and acapella versions, as well as some tacked on “bonus beats”. These songs are strong, however, and make the prospect of a proper debut album from Gibbs that much more exciting. If he wants a legacy, he needs to release a full-length.
Essential Tracks: “Shame”, “Terrorist”