Freddie Gibbs new LP, Shadow of a Doubt is a follow up to last years Pinata, a collaborative effort between the rapper and renowned producer Madlib. However, the new album is no Pinata 2, and Gibbs has commented in interviews how work on this album was far less intense than the construction of Pinata. This should come as no surprise considering the absence of Madlib, a producer famous for his unique and complex beats.
Fortunately, Gibbs remains capable of fitting his technically incredibly flow to almost any beat. Listening to a Freddie Gibbs album front to back can leave one wondering why anyone would ever bother speaking instead of rapping. There is never a moment on this album where he sounds out of place on the track; a feat especially impressive given the diversity of producers and beats on the album. The content is fairly standard for Gibbs, meditations and screeds on betrayal, loss, and an unstoppable desire to succeed. Hes still great at talking about this stuff, and so long as the message is delivered impeccably it seems absurd to argue he should change too much about his style.
There are tracks on the album that hint at an evolving Freddie Gibbs. ‘Basketball Wives’ finds Gibbs trying out the hedonistic auto-tuned rap-singing popularized by Future. The song is by no means bad. Gibbs would probably have to start rapping in another language in order to sound awkward, but the song also isnt particularly compelling. Auto-tuning as a means of indicating emotional death or isolation doesnt have the same impact here as it does in Futures recent output, probably because Gibbs public persona isnt predicated on an addiction to opiates.
The same sort of criticism holds for the album as a whole. Rarely do the tracks transcend their technical excellence, and at times one if left wishing that Gibbs would fail at something new instead of proving again and again how good he is at straight-up rapping. There are moments of brilliance where Gibbs is able to utilize his skills to portray a reality in which demands an unflinching strength and wariness of others, such as on single Fuckin Up the Count or on Tory Lanez collaboration Mexico. The album is another undoubtedly solid offering from Freddie Gibbs, but there are few songs here that would convince a Gibbs sceptic to reconsider their position.