The Return of Unfadeable Freddie Gibbs
Gibbs and Madlib’s ‘Bandana’ reminds me why Freddie Gibbs is my favorite rapper of all-time.
Only union some of me and my n*ggas got is the Western/ I’m they favorite rapper when n*ggas f*cked up and they stressin’/ Lot of n*ggas feel like I got my bucks up and I left ‘em/ Tell them p*ssy n*ggas come get the f*ck up on my level, yeah/ This how it feel to wake up and you don’t owe nobody shit/ Not an explanation, not no conversation, Drug Administration, suck a n*gga d — -”
“Situations” — Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
My head nod increased when Freddie Gibbs flipped his flow on “Situations”, one of eighteen tracks on Gibbs and producer Madlib’s new project, Bandana, the follow-up to their classic (it is classic, fight me) album Piñata. Already well-aware that Gibbs can rap circles around every-damn-body, I wasn’t surprised that I felt moved listening to Gibbs rap about being better than your average, the uber-confident Gibbs that I heard on The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs, released almost ten years ago.
Rather my heart and soul dropped when I heard the next track, “Practice”. The first verse tells a story of a man who almost lost his family because of an affair with an exotic dancer, going as far as making plans with his family around seeing his side piece. Wifey became fed up and put him in timeout which included time away from his daughter. It’s the type of storytelling that Freddie Gibbs hooked me with in 2009 and kept me latched on with ever since.
I was left floored after listening to Bandana. It’s a healthy mix of flood-the-streets-with-narcotics Gangsta Gibbs and I-almost-destroyed-my-family-because-of-this-s*it Freddie Kane. It’s that “It’s About to Be a Murder” and “World So Cold” Freddie Gibbs that I fell in love with almost ten years ago, menacing through the introspection, making him one of best rappers and storytellers in the game.
I first met Gibbs when I was 22 after dropping out of college because of crippling depression, trying to find an identity other than “failure”. He enraptured a girl who wanted so bad to be hard, to be more hoodrich than her suburban circumstances. I wasn’t quite sure why I gravitated toward an artist that I couldn’t relate to even in a tangential way but just like Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and Capone-n-Noreaga spoke to my older brother, it was the grim beats, exquisite wordplay and an escape from reality that caught me up in its wind.
While Big K.R.I.T, Gibbs’ lyrical and rap-blog-era counterpart, now echoes the saved, baptised and nothing-but-the-blood-of-Jesus Ciara, Freddie Gibbs always rallied for the sexually-liberated, fearless, bold, proud, intimidating, dominant girl-woman who wanted — and still dreams — not to be a victim of her circumstances, who wants to be seen as unf*ckwittable and unfadeable. Like Freddie Gibbs.
My favorite Freddie Gibbs song is called “P.S.A”, short for “p***y so amazing”. It’s this crass, overly-sexual ode to pimp culture. “I got a bunch of ’em on my team, I won’t treat you no better, h — .” I wasn’t out here yearning to be coached though. Rather I wanted to not be a sexual doormat, to stop faking orgasms so I wouldn’t hurt a dude’s feelings. This song is far from that but yet it spoke to me that way. To this day, I can’t tell you why I thought of that song to be liberating and aspirational. Now I believe it echoed how I felt: used and without the sexual assertiveness that I thought I displayed and deserved. But it’s still my favorite and I can rap the second verse straight off the brain as if my life depended on it.
But then Freddie Gibbs’ music and I broke up. It’s a series of events I’ve written about before but in summation, I found myself in my lowest times not looking toward at the rap I loved to bring me out of my funk. I gravitated toward happy, love, light — R&B music, to a degree. The drug and murder-kill-homicide rap that I championed from my early to mid 20s didn’t spark joy. He wasn’t the only artist of that ilk that I abandoned but he was one with whom I felt connected to the most. Gibbs was tied to my identity like the Philadelphia Eagles and Nike Dunks. All those things at one point became dead to me and I thought my love for Gibbs would never be resurrected. That s*it hurt me so hard because it was never supposed to be that way.
But this Bandana album reminds of the Gibbs that I met, knew and made passionate love to when I was trying to figure out myself and the world I was thrust into without warning. A moment in time when I thought I was big and bad and needed a soundtrack to reflect my machismo. Gibbs speaks to me when I need to feel as if the world f*cked with the wrong one but he also speaks to an in-desperate-need-of-God’s-grace-and-mercy Ciara when he dives into his world and laments about past decisions. Because now there are times when I feel big and bad but yet I’m left to lament about terrible decisions.
“I pray to God to get a n*gga’s soul right” is how Gibbs wraps up this masterpiece of an album. Me too, Gibbs. Me too.