Freddie Gibbs – $oul $old $eparately

RiYL: Madlib, The Alchemist, Westside Gunn, Conway the Machine
Recommended tracks: "Couldn’t Be Done," "Feel No Pain," Grandma’s Stove"

It’s a tall task to top Gibbs’s last commercial project, Alfredo, with it becoming a cult classic amongst die-hard hip-hop fans and critics alike. Gibbs chooses to shake it up with a different list of producers, adding DJ Paul, Jake One, and KAYTRANADA to the mix over his go-tos like Madlib and the Alchemist. 

Gibbs starts off with an eloquent jazz beat mixed in with the production style that is more common in today’s rap. The first leg of the project, from “Couldn’t Be Done” to “Lobster Omelette,” sees Gibbs in his bag, flexing about his hoes, cash and manpower all in the same sentence. It’s the Gibbs we’re accustomed to hearing on award-winning projects like Alfredo and Piñata. Yet, Gibbs takes a design risk by using the weathered, ethereal beats of the second half to flesh out his very powerful and personal chronicles. Those chronicles entail his regrets, stemming from his early life where he got mixed in the drug game, to the traumas that burden and haunt Gibbs.

The promotional run of the album centered around the SSS Hotel, Resort & Casino. The tracklist was revealed as a tab one might pay on the expensive items purchased at a Resort. It’s a great landscape for Gibbs to paint his feelings and emotions, and it doesn’t disappoint in execution. The record’s smooth and relaxing jazz instrumentals help the listener fall into a trance with each track, and then get woken up to a silky smooth voicemail of a concierge clerk. The concierge receptionist at the end of most tracks provides some comedic relief from track to track, but fails to add any meaningful contribution. It’s evident on tracks like “Space Rabbit,” “Rabbit Vision,” and “Grandma’s Stove,” where the concierge’s voicemail is squished between Gibbs’s last verse and an outro from either Jeff Ross, Joe Rogan or his mother. Those outros are each a clever anecdote that add depth to each of the narratives Gibbs puts forward. 

Gibbs’s lyricism is at an all time high on tracks like these, where each track is a different confession. Gibbs artfully constructs each of these tracks with somber undertones and heavy instrumentals. His vivid rhyming and wordplay has gotten through to each of tracks with lyrics like “These n***** snitching, I pray that my premonition misses,” “I can’t write my raps because my tears might flood the page out,” and “Tryna chase my dream, but I hate the shit that I’m runnin after.” “Rabbit Vision” is a strong evocation of Gibbs’s past traumas, and with lines such as “A lot of shit, it broke my heart, but it fixed my vision,” Gibbs places the trauma of drug-dealing into focus, amongst other lines such as “Use yo’ mama pot to make them grams lock / We was dirty kids in the project alley, fuck a sandbox.” Gibbs name-drops Farrakhan, alluding to his Muslim faith, and juxtaposing other religious verses throughout “Rabbit Vision” and the rest of the album.

With features like Anderson .Paak, Pusha T, Rick Ross, Raekwon, Kelly Price, and one of Gibbs’s personal favorites in Scarface, the diversity of artists Gibbs is able to go toe-to-toe with is impressive. “Couldn’t Be Done” is a dominant intro track with its soul chops and Kelly Price’s angelic background vocals. He comes together with .Paak and Raewkon to make “Feel No Pain,” a heavy banger. Anderson .Paak’s inclusion provides some funk to the downcast instrumentals, as his inclusion adds some relief to the tension that Gibbs and Raekwon bring to the track. Pusha T, a domineering force in the coke-rap scene, distributes a surgical verse throughout the later half of “Gold Rings.” The arrangement of the harp flowing throughout the track is a classic Pusha T beat, and Freddie attacks it with the tenacity as he’s known for. An excerpt from Slink Johnson’s Black Jesus as the outro skillfully combine to make Gold Rings a standout track from the rest of the project. Musiq Soulchild’s lines about the rain push his own account about the standards he set for his life and the personal traumas that resulted from pursuing them.

Moneybagg Yo teams up with Gibbs on the promotional single “Too Much” to deliver a high-octane verse, excellently keeping up with the speed of the beat and Gibbs’ glossy verses. “Decoded” is a hard hitting banger in which Scarface delivers a commanding verse on a classic beat straight from his prime. The rest of the project has followed the theme that Gibbs isn’t bulletproof, that his past traumas have eaten him alive. Scarface and Gibbs use that to their advantage to provide commentary passing their lessons onto the next generation of artists, and eventually society at large.

After listening to $$$ front to back, it’s apparent why fans had to wait 3 years for his follow up. Gibbs is a masterclass storyteller, and $$$ is no different. With it’s punchy instrumentals and vivid imagery, $$$ makes it clear that Gibbs spent the last 3 years honing his craft, working tirelessly to develop a powerful narrative full of intricacies and nuance. $oul $old $eparately is an absolute home-run, and I’m sure that there’s much more to come.

Freddie Gibbs - $oul $old $eparately