While other rappers deal with long label delays, postponed release dates, and other long-term problems, Gary, IN’s Freddie Gibbs decided to opt for expedience. After the fanfare that surrounded last year’s Str8 Killa (which was lauded for its ability to combine modern production with classic gangsta rap style), the fight between major labels seemed to ensure a long wait for the next Gibbs release. Instead, Gibbs (relatively) quickly signed with Young Jeezy’s Corporate Thugz label and then sat down with Brooklyn producer/DJ Statik Selektah to record a new mixtape, Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away, in a single day.
All that said, this is as much a feature for Gibbs’ collaborators as it is for Gibbs himself. Over seven brief tracks, nine different featured rappers take their turns, and Statik Selektah’s first-rate production demands a lot of attention as well. Take, for example, the “Intro” that begins the EP: Boston’s Slaine gives a pretty boilerplate description of a rough neighborhood. (“There was a church on every block in my neighborhood, and there was a liquor store, too, and there was a dope spot.”) While that may seem a little too plain, Selektah’s sped-up, upper register choir sample and clapping percussion set a much more interesting introduction.
The dark ’70s instrumentation follows on the only Gibbs solo piece, the EP’s title track. ’70s vibrato organ low-end and retro, smacking drums background some traditional gangster game-repping. This probably won’t be the favorite of either the chaste or the feminists among us, as Gibbs is super-proud of his sexual exploits with “hos,” but listeners can object to that or not on their own. “That’s my m.o. in the m-o-t-e-l,” he glibly drops over more scrawling organ. He’s interested in getting paid, thug cred, and ladies, not necessarily in that order, which makes his material utterly familiar but at least given in fresh permutations. Gibbs is saying everything we’ve heard before, but in a just-new-enough way that it isn’t stale.
The smooth beats of “Rap Money” come next, featuring a verse by Daz Dilinger and more talk about how to get cash. “Let them labels know that a piece of change ain’t going to change shit,” Gibbs lolls, his flow effortless and constant, reminding the fans that no matter how much attention he gets he’ll be the same old gangster. “Another day, another dollar, I get rap money” is the oft-repeated chorus, reminding you exactly what they’re in the game for. Dillinger’s verse is full of long-life bravado, reminding of his tenure with Kurupt as Tha Dogg Pound. “Affiliated!” (which features NYC upstart REKS & PUSH! Montana) is a boom-bap track that finds Gibbs dipping into a rare double-time lick and plenty of aggressive rhyming.
“Wild Style” has some ultra-smooth, record-scratching production from Selektah and Gibbs insisting that he has “another trick up my sleeve,” though it’s never quite clear what that trick is. Gibbs’ flow is very well-regarded and deservedly so. He comes up with new ways to say the same old thing, without sounding as if he’s trying hard (or at all). That said, if Gibbs would cover a little more topical territory, the record would benefit greatly.