Freddie Gibbs is a masterful lyricist the likes of which have never existed in large numbers – and the likes of which should be seen by anyone who considers themselves a fan of hip-hop music.
Evan Dale // Dec 7, 2019
With a bottle of Hennessey in his clutch and a pair of Carhart overalls hanging off of his 6-4 frame, Freddie Gibbs started rapping before any of his signature look was even in view. From some place backstage, riding the energy that Conway the Machine and Cousin Stizz – a poetic rap hero and an up-and-coming generational leader of the hip-hop anthem, respectively – Gibbs knew exactly what to bring to turn it up even further. The crowd was there for him. They were there for rap. And Freddie Gibbs, with a decade of tours and a dozen projects under his belt, is quite arguably the most lyrically intensive veteran that any fan of hip-hop should be seeing in 2019.
Many artists get comfortable and complacent not only in their sound, but in their live routine as they burn their way through annual album releases and countless venues in countless cities across state and national lines. But Freddie Gibbs has only become more inventive as he enters the legend years of his hip-hop run. Bandana – Gibbs’ 2019 project for which his Album of the Year Tour was named – is in many ways a deviation from what’s expected of him. A Madlib-produced, funk-oriented masterpiece of hip-hop transcendentalism, Bandana gains everything in experimental success without sacrificing anything about Gibbs’ established lane as one of, if not the most, lyrically endowed rappers cut from the modern cloth.
Naturally, with a decade of experience putting forth his most potent flow and poetry throughout the dimly lit, smoky, high-energy, and rap-educated halls around the world, Freddie Gibbs was seamless and innovative in his ability to bring something new alongside something expected. Eyes half-closed, overalls half-strapped, his disheveled everyman look masked the brilliance of a mind that effortlessly dissected a decade’s worth of flow-heavy hits.
There’s a difference between being able to rap in a studio and bring able to do it on stage, but Gibbs has made a multi-faceted career of mastering both. Tracks taken from Piñata flowed cleanly into tracks from Bandana. A Capella bouts of lyrical intensity and unforgiving cadence enthralled the attention and creativity of an audience with thought-provoking depth. Moments following overflowed with hip-hop explosiveness, causing mayhem and short-lived mosh pits to form in small jets around the theater’s greater whirlpool. But, through all of it, the show’s consistent underline – rap – prevailed.
There were points of comic relief. Freddie Gibbs went on rants about his DJ’s inability to keep up and his DJ ranted back. Gibbs blamed Stizz for his inebriated state and Stizz hilariously chuckled behind him on stage, rolling and smoking blunt after blunt… after blunt. But through it all, Freddie Gibbs found his way back to his bread and butter. Matching the cadence in his recorded work and building upon its already firm standing as impossibly genuine, unique, and conscious, Gibbs rapped easily, especially in consideration of just how complex his raps are, and the depth and span of a canon he effortlessly pulls each from.
The concert – per its audience – was simply hip-hop. There were no frills, only a few humanizing antics and moments of emotionality from each of the acts that night. There was an absolute barrage of lyricism, effortlessly executed and craftily curated. And most memorably, there was a legend performing at an intimate venue – in a way he’s done for a decade, and yet in a way he’s never quite attempted.
It’s amazing to see such a staunch type-A lyricist; such a traditionalist when it comes to the purity and sanctity of rap, infuse a decade’s worth of music and performance with the funk nuances founded in Bandana. And what’s even more incredible about the entire infusion is seeing just how wide-ranging Freddie Gibbs is not only as a musician, but equally in terms of pulling a strict rap crowd onto his side, delivering a proper hip-hop show, and still making it stand out from any of his shows or any hip-hop show before him.
Freddie Gibbs is a masterful lyricist the likes of which have never existed in large numbers – and the likes of which – as a classicist and a transcendentalist capable of an incredibly wide stylistic range – should be seen by anyone who considers themselves a true fan of hip-hop music's foundational pillars and boundless future.