“…brass knuckle lyricism.”
Freddie Gibbs could teach a masterclass on consistency in hip-hop. After spending the better part of the last decade dominating all kinds of production, from chipmunk soul to aggressive trap, the 37-year-old turned into one of the best technical rappers in the business.
Freddie’s newly released album, Alfredo, is produced entirely by The Alchemist, who also produced Fetti, his 2018 collaborative album with Curren$y. With features from Rick Ross, Benny The Butcher, Conway the Machine, and Tyler, The Creator, Alfredo is a welcome surprise.
If Freddie Gibbs continues his streak as one of hip-hop’s most consistent lyricists, Alfredo could be one of the most-talked-about albums of 2020.
In usual 1-Listen album review fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding, and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish.
Bernie Mac! It’s a good day to rewatch The Original Kings of Comedy. The production is majestic. These guitar riffs are dripping in gold. Here’s Gibbs. He is rapping with gusto. “I can smell the cane burning.” Does JAY-Z listen to Freddie Gibbs? I imagine he has a playlist with only songs from Freddie Gibbs and Clipse. “All my raps in the crack files.” Big drug dealer talk. Great intro.
2. “God Is Perfect”
Alchemist beats are patient. I love Gibbs’ cadence and delivery. His flow is so sharp. He jumps on beats and always finds a way to stomp on the pocket. The second verse is vicious. Such vivid lyricism. Does he write down his raps? He has a fluid style; it never sounds like he’s overthinking. His rapping sounds instinctive, but it’s also so detailed. “God Is Perfect” is a keeper. A last-second beat switch. No rapping, but a smooth close with another movie clip.
3. “Scottie Beam” feat. Rick Ross
Alchemist made a beat that sounds like a rainy day inside of a jazz bar. It’s so elegant. Freddie came to rap. More vivid lyricism. Clear illustration. I saw the line from Queen & Slim coming, but he still landed the dismount. “The revolution is the genocide, my execution might be televised.” He’s on fire. Using Judas/Jesus as an example of betrayal never gets old. “I really want me a Scottie Beam.” Rick Ross sounds like he just walked in the booth in a Versace robe with matching Versace slippers and du-rag. Ross is rapping. He’s back in that Rather You Than Me bag. My favorite kind of Ross. Luxury raps. Someone tell Alchemist to send Ross the pack. Need that. Keeper.
4. “Look At Me”
Alfredo has good pacing. Every song has moved seamlessly into the next. No skips. Each beat and every rap has been up to par. “Look At Me” has a rather slow build-up. I like it, though. Gibbs with the Wu-Tang nod. This record is good. It’s way looser than the previous records. The lucidness isn’t bad. Not my favorite, but a keeper.
5. “Frank Lucas” feat. Benny The Butcher
This one is dirty. You can hear the roaches scurrying. “Frank Lucas” sounds like super-villainy. Gibbs is rapping rapping. The George Jetson line took me out. He’s knocking this one out. “My name Cocaine, they not putting me on the nominees.” This record is big, big rap talk. Benny The Butcher. He raps like a man living up to his name. “It was either law school or dog food.” This verse is murder. The Butcher did what he needed to do. He’s still going. Keeper. Currently, the bar for the best.
6. “Something to Rap About” feat. Tyler, The Creator
I love these keys. “God made me sell crack, so I’d have something to rap about.” “Something to Rap About” is whimsical. Gibbs doesn’t take himself too seriously, but he won’t let you take him lightly. That sense of self makes him powerful. Every line is vivid. He would be great at writing screenplays. The Creator has arrived. He said this beat sounds like the boat he hasn’t bought yet. Tyler is spitting. These songs just keep getting better. “I used to be a Goblin under those bridges.” He’s on a rant. He held the flow, though. He’s getting it off his chest. “I’m grounded like the pavement, we ain’t linking like the bracelet.” One take. Tyler danced. That kid is a killer. Keeper.
7. “Baby $hit”
Second best song title on the album. A nice tempo. “Baby $hit” has some bounce. Rapid-fire Gibbs. “Got a pocket full of dead slave masters.” He’s on fire. A strong, strong verse. Man, Gibbs’ delivery is so pointed. Keeper. Another movie clip. I wonder if they had to clear all of these. [Editor’s Note: Movie clips must be cleared for commercial use.] Each clip makes the album feel even more cinematic. A moving picture.
8. “Babies & Fools” feat. Conway The Machine
Smooth! The sample escapes me, but this is a classic. Yep! He’s going for the trophies. Alchemist gave Gibbs the perfect pack. I wonder how many beats they went through. No skips yet. As far as albums go, Alfredo sounds like a complete body of work. They avoided all the superfluous touches that weigh albums down. Conway! He came to represent. “Call it crazy, but I always knew I would bounce back this hard.” Quotables all across this album. Every featured guest is rapping like it’s their song. “I rep my niggas every verse that I rap.” Keeper. Alchemist doesn’t miss.
9. “Skinny Suge”
Best song title on the album. Slow build-up. “Skinny Suge” is heavy. Gibbs sounds like the evolved form of Tupac. Hear me out. All I’m saying is his cadence and passion remind me of Pac. From my perspective, if Pac would’ve lived, his style would be similar to how Gibbs raps. “A skinny black nigga, rich off rap.” See. Pac would have said that, lol. Anyway, another keeper. Love the little touches at the end of every song. Alchemist gave us a soundscape.
10. “All Glass”
Last song. Can Gibbs go 10 for 10? Sounding like it. “All Glass” isn’t my favorite beat on Alfredo, but he’s rapping. Whew. Bar after bar. This record is a church. “Yeezy’s on, but I ain’t never seen a Sunday service.” The André 3000/Caroline line got me. He’s going for gold. That’s how you close it out. Ten keepers.
Final (First Listen) Thoughts on Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist’s Alfredo
Freddie Gibbs is brass knuckle lyricism. He strikes with a boxer’s tenacity without ever burning out—spitting line after line like a heavyweight who throws haymaker after haymaker as if they were jabs. But there’s also a storytelling bent to Freddie Gibbs, one that shapes his punchy songs into short cinema.
On Alfredo, Gibbs performs as a rap Olympian. From a writing perspective, the 10 songs all paint him as a top tier wordsmith. It’s a testament to his craft, but also to The Alchemist, who delivered the perfect set of beats, inspiring high-level rapping. Every rapper who appears on Alfredo does not slack. There isn’t a single moment dulling the ears.
Alfredo is well-rounded and sharp; an album with no skips served up by a rapper and producer who understand what it means to deliver a quality product.
Alfredo is quality rap at its finest.