Freddie Gibbs Experiences a Rap Resurrection on ‘You Only Live 2wice’
For many hip-hop classicists living in a world filled with mumble rap and colorful dreadlocks, Freddie Gibbs has steadily become their guardian angel. The 34-year-old Gary, Ind. native has risen to a tremendously high level of underground acclaim because of his continuous efforts in delivering projects with robust beats, compelling lyrics and that distinctly evocative snarl; basically everything that is reminiscent of the golden era.
His three previously released albums haven’t necessarily topped the Billboard charts but have more than solidified his spot as the purist people’s champ. That’s why when his forthcoming project got put on hold due to legal issues, fans were up in arms. Luckily, Gibbs was acquitted of all charges and quickly and officially announced the release of his fourth effort, You Only Live 2wice. Based on the album artwork alone, this short, eight-song album is much more than another notch in Gibbs’ belt of beloved rap projects; it's an ode to personal resurrection.
Gibbs’ dealings with the law this past summer clearly affected him deeply - and how could they not? Being arrested for rape charges, held overseas and then acquitted of it all obviously takes a toll on anyone, even someone as mentally strong as Gibbs. These woes as well as his conclusive triumph translate seamlessly into You Only Live 2wice. Drawing parallels between his past drug dealings and his most recent run-in with the law, Gibbs lets listeners in on what it feels like being hit with such a heavy hand on “20 Karat Jesus.”
“I be kickin' shit like Solange in the elevator/The goal when you try to kick that dope, stuck on the respirator/Got symptoms of withdrawal from the fall when I used to ball/I show you how in one summer one nigga could lose it all,” he rhymes on “20 Karat Jesus.” That line, among others, hits so hard because they’re smart but easy to digest. He explicitly details the series of unfortunate events on “Crushed Glass.” “I just beat a rape case, groupie bitch I never fucked/Tried to give me ten for some pussy that I never touched/At a certain level, system tried to test a nigga's nuts/Nigga hire like 11 lawyers, had to level up,” Gibbs delivers.
A big reason why Gibbs is held in such high regard is because he never overcomplicates his lyrics for the sake of looking smarter. He takes a conversationalist approach, opting to use less, more potent words rather than a bundle of abysmal acrobatic metaphors and similes that ultimately clog his desired message. He’s been perfecting this skill since his debut, ESGN, but it’s more noticeable than ever throughout these eight songs. It’s a technical expertise that proves to be even more effective on a project where the goal is clear, concise and unfiltered redemption.
The chorus on “Crushed Glass” soulfully sings out, “Living this life, just me myself and I/If I gotta be by myself, I'ma be alright,” which is a very telling look into Gibbs' psyche, who finds himself at odds with others in the rap world. “Amnesia” taps further into his difference deciphering between himself and other rappers, claiming “quarter mill' worth of jewels, these niggas leasin,” whereas he put 24 karats in his Jesus piece. It’s a fairly typical material comparison but one that still remains a testament to a rapper’s authenticity in hip-hop.
But it isn’t all Gibbs vs. the world for the entirety for the project. “Phone Lit” features very spacey production from Lambo, Speakerbomb and Superville and a more drugged-out delivery from Gibbs. Don’t get it twisted, he isn’t rapping like he drank an entire bottle of codeine, but the instruments and background vocals seem to put Gibbs’ abrasiveness at ease—even it's only for four brief minutes—as he switches up the beat selection. "Phone Lit" is a track that has the potential to make its way onto any rap fan's favorite new music playlist.
The last and most important piece of Freddie Gibbs’ detailed resurrection puzzle is “Homesick.” On the outro portion of the song, the MC solemnly admits, “I just almost lost it all, for my niggas/Just sat in the cell, 10,000 miles away from my child, for my niggas/It's when I realized I gotta start livin' for my child, and not my niggas, know what I'm sayin.” It’s essentially the moral of the story and the reason why Gibbs made You Only Live 2wice in the first place.
The fact that Freddie Gibbs created You Only Live 2wice as a concise, to-the-point body of work without fillers and ultimately for a greater purpose than just simply rapping makes it one of, if not the, strongest installment in his catalog thus far.
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