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The trials of Freddie Gibbs

| Monday, April 10, 2017

Freddie Gibbs_WEBLAUREN HEBIG | The Observer

Fredrick Tipton, aka Freddie Gibbs, a gangster-rapper from Gary, Indiana is the closest thing South Bend has to a local rap star. Gibbs slowly rose to prominence through his prolific mixtape releases in the late 2000s and cemented his status as a top-tier rapper after his collaboration with Madlib on the excellent 2014 album “Piñata.” His raps frequently document the dangerous, gritty life of a black man in a decaying Rust Belt town. His diverse, adroit flow and low, gravelly voice provide his verses with their distinctive hard-hitting flavor. Gibbs’ latest effort, “You Only Live 2wice” finds the rapper at the most compelling crossroads of his career, following a 2016 rape allegation.

“You Only Live 2wice” is Freddie Gibbs in prime form. His recent issues have certainly not stifled his rapping abilities; if anything, they’ve only stoked Gibbs’ fire. Opening track “20 Karat Jesus” is a two part track that is classic, A-1 Freddie Gibbs. The second half of “20 Karat Jesus” and the Kaytranada and BADBADNOTGOOD-produced “Alexys” are examples of the album’s extremely impressive production. Throughout the record, Gibbs switches up his immaculate flow and drops his gritty message over the sweet, haunting beats. The 30-minute-long album is only half as long as his two previous LPs. In the “More Life” playlist era of today, a short and cohesive LP is refreshing. The album’s biggest drawback is how familiar and consistent it feels for Gibbs.

Even if Gibbs is being unadventurous in his style, his lyrical content is certainly captivating due to his overseas legal trouble in 2016. In early June 2016, Freddie Gibbs was arrested in France on an Austrian warrant, after a woman alleged that Gibbs raped her in Austria in 2015. Gibbs was extradited and finally charged with sexually abusing two women on August 16, 2016. A month and a half later, Gibbs was acquitted of all charges and returned to his fiance and toddler daughter in the United States.

Listening to “You Only Live 2wice,” it becomes clear that the months Gibbs spent in foreign jails were painful and contemplative ones. Gibbs does not shy away from addressing the affairs of 2016. He is most explicit about the allegations on the album’s only single, “Crushed Glass,” openly denying any wrongdoing. He raps, “I just beat a rape case, groupie b–––– I never f––––– … ” Gibbs also released a video for the single in which he wanders through a desert in his dreams, only to awaken in his jail cell.

As the album’s title suggests, Gibbs has returned to rap music with a positive outlook and focuses on the themes of redemption and reform on “2wice.” On “20 Karat Jesus” Freddie pounds out bars glorifying his “resurrection,” as the album’s provocative cover suggests. Gibbs both thanks God for giving him a second chance and reflects on his biological father, telling him to forget about friends because he will “ … be solo in that coffin.” Gibbs may be relieved, overjoyed and grateful, but his dark, nihilistic past obviously haunts him still. On the closing track “Homesick,” Gibbs relates how he has to abandon some of his friends in order to prioritize his family. He both thanks his fiance for standing by him through his troubles and earnestly longs to be a new man for her and his daughter.

In today’s world, it is easy for avid hip-hop fans to shrug off or even completely disregard the mildly misogynistic aspects of hip-hop. However, this album should make listeners contemplate an ugly dimension of hip-hop which is too frequently overlooked. For instance, the song “Andrea” completely changes within the context of Freddie’s trial. Freddie raps about a woman he had sex with in the past and compares the relationship with her to Wi-Fi. In other circumstances, the lyric would be perceived as a clever, yet slightly problematic brag about his sexual prowess. However, after his ordeal last summer, the lyrics strike as a testimony to the harmful, misogynistic attitude prevalent in rap music.

Listening to this album, I find myself wondering if Freddie learned anything from his ordeals last year. I certainly hope he did – and some of his lyrics suggest my hopes are not unfounded. I hope that the allegations about Gibbs were not even remotely true. I cannot reconcile one of my favorite artists committing a crime as horrible as sexual assault. Regardless of what occurred, the media attention around Freddie Gibbs’ allegations of last year provides an important launching pad for discussion about sexual assault in the hip-hop community. Perhaps Gibbs may have learned something himself.


Artist: Freddie Gibbs

Album: You Only Live 2wice 

Label: Empire

Favorite Track: “20 Karat Jesus,” “Homesick,” “Alexys”

If you like: OutKast, 2Pac, WuTang

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

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