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Freddie Gibbs – ‘ESGN’ Album Review

What Freddie Gibbs has managed to do very well on ESGN is showcase his signature sound. Tales of Gary, IN. street life are peppered in an album of hard-hitting trap beats, making it clear that he hasn’t compromised his aesthetic in order to sell albums. While these speak on his strength and growth as an artist, what he hasn’t been able to do thus far is establish his character. The album works as the next chapter in his long career of street-hustle rap, but fails to serve as an effective introduction on what technically qualifies as his debut album.

Gibbs resists the urge to turn his gangster rap image into an over-the-top shtick, an impressive feat in the age of Chief Keef and Waka Flock Flame. However, he also shies away from introspection on the harrowing lifestyle his raps document (and often glorify). In doing so, he ends up not quite hitting either mark; he constructs a façade of bleak, emotional disconnect that’s difficult for the listener to penetrate. Absent are emotionally charged confessional cuts like “National Anthem (Fuck the World)” and “Shame.” Instead, while tracks like “One Eighty Seven” retain his street-hardened edge, they sometimes seem to lack a beating heart.

Some may argue that this is intentional, purporting to showcase the battle between the positive aspects of his lifestyle (money, cars, girls) with the negative (murders, lost friends and family). However, the album never explores that theme in any substantial way. Rather, it leaves the listener to connect the dots themselves, as though he gave out the ingredients to a meal without the recipe.

Fortunately, several songs manage to break the mold. On “Freddie Soprano,” the former CTE member frets the omnipresence of drug addiction in hip-hop, while “The Real G Money” finds him reminiscing on selling cocaine as an 8th-grader. “Hustlin’, jackin’, murder and mackin’ been such a part of me/ Such an evil seed wonder what will my son or daughter be?” he worries. It’s moments like these—where he abandons the album’s pervasive sense of numbness—that work most effectively. Other bright spots include the bass-bumping single “Eastside Moonwalker” and the jazzy instrumentals of “Dope in My Styrofoam.”

None of this criticism is to say that ESGN is a bad album. Freddie is a talented rapper with great flow and a wise selection of collaborators, and many songs are individually effective. Rather, it is simply an album that lacks a clear perspective on the many heavy topics it tackles. A first time listener may walk away feeling very familiar with Freddie Gibbs’ sound, but still unsure of who exactly he is.—Chris Mench

  • Loc

    This album deserve a XXL and more. It’s better than any of the other people claiming that they’re a Gangsta or hustla. Chief Keef suck now that he’s on lean. Gucci suck cause he’s full of himself. Waka is just the next step from Lil Jon & Flavor Flav. Freddie Gibbs really did what he said he has done, like Outkast, UGK, 8ball & MJG, & also Scarface. Freddie Gibbs is an OG unlike Rick Ross & Jeezy. Those 2 base they’re lives off of others for Jeezy it’s Big Meech & for Rick Ross well his name tells it all. Besides Gangsta Gibbs Alley Boy is that dude too. Freddie G is going to make footprint in the Hall of Gangsta’s and OG’s like Pac & Big L. Unless he become a wack a** dude like Lil Wayne.

    • jrow

      hard …..well said .still feels like hes getting black balled for being real

  • manganime

    Think this probably shoulda got an XL, although I do think some of this older work is better.

  • Guessmegoo

    I’m a gangsta gibbs fan. But I think this rating was fair. ESGN didn’t live up to it’s expectations.

  • Kizman

    BIG fan of Gibbs, but this was only on par with Str8 Killa and BFK. Listen to Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik and The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs. Those are CERTIFIED classics.

    i give ESGN a 7.5/10

    • Emerson

      I couldn’t have said it better myself fam. Maybe adding Big Biz 3.

  • Inquiring2mind

    From reading this review and a of myriad other reviews by XXL Magazine, I’m really starting to HATE HIP HOP. Because of this magazine and the endless number of solid and sometimes beyond solid albums that have been slighted not to mention deplorably reviewed: IM DISGUSTED WITH THE DIRECTION THAT OUR CULTURE IS GOING TOWARDS. The most honarable thing XXL magazine can do is stop reviewing albums because they’re have been too close to giving XXL’s to muthfuckas that can’t even rap.
    Call me a hater if you want but if anybody that is affiliated with Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne is the standard of what’s Dope then I can’t fuck with this genre of music anymore. I need to know what qualifies any of these inept dumb asses to review any hip hop album period.

  • Ramon Rojo

    I like Gibbs and he has potential but him Jay Rock Joe Budden and a lot of dope MCs have the same problem and that’s picking the right production

    • cmack510

      i agree…

  • TXrepresenta

    i think is a xl
    beats: xxl lyrics:xl originality:l

  • SS87

    Pretty fair rating. Lyrically Gibbs is on point and what you expect, the production is really good (not as good as BFK though), and it’s not original I guess. Oh well, still a good album

  • James Green

    still gonna support and bang when i gets money.

  • Lefty 2 Gunz

    Not Gibbs best Project but dope None the less… He went too “Trap” i think he sounds best on Smooth shit tho like babyface killa he played to his stregths on shit like BoxFrame and MCH and the diet… and He should included some HIp hop shit like straight Kill no filla.. but with that said .. This shit was Nice as fuck and something a nigga can put in work too. XL all day long .. he is one of the most slept on

  • HipHopHead999

    Definitely an XL>