At the pinnacle of his career, Freddie Gibbs tries looking inward and welcomes a refreshing soundscape on his latest album $oul $old $eperately. Fans of the Big Boss Rabbit have become accustomed to hearing his technical lyricism woven intricately into the prolific production of The Alchemist or Madlib. While this has been the case for his last three albums – Fetti (2018), Bandana (2019) and the Grammy-nominated/snubbed Alfredo (2020) – $$$ portrays the Gary, Indiana-born rapper still in his prime, experimenting with a range of in-demand producers and offering another polished, more emotionally nuanced body of work. 

Since his last full-length effort, the 40-year-old artist has: risen to unprecedented mainstream appeal, signed to Warner Records, launched his acting career, been removed from Instagram multiple times, and beefed with various figures within the scene. A tumultuous few years culminate across 15 songs in Freddie Kane’s major label debut, titled after the closing line of his 2019-track ‘Education’ – “Drugs for the free, soul sold separately.” 

The album’s concept finds Gibbs staying at the Triple-S Hotel Resort and Casino, constantly ignoring calls from famous friends like Jeff Ross and Joe Rogan in order to complete the record. Although it’s a loose framework that ultimately doesn’t have much sway on the overall project, it hints at its solitary and therapeutic nature. 

Helping Freddie expand his sound is one of the year’s best line-ups of producers, including the aforementioned Alchemist and Madlib, as well as, Jake One, Boi-1da, KAYTRANADA, James Blake, J.U.S.T.I.C.E League and more. Stacked with the most guest artists since his infamous Piñata (2014), $$$ features previous collaborators – Anderson .Paak, Raekwon, Scarface, Rick Ross and Pusha T – while introducing new names to the Rabbit-verse including Kelly Price, Offset, Moneybagg Yo, DJ Paul and Musiq Soulchild

Gangsta Gibbs maintains the allure of his braggadocious persona and the coke rap thematics particularly on ‘Lobster Omelette’, ‘Gold Rings’ and ‘Decoded’. This is usually the appeal behind his works, although it’s the darker and introspective tones of $$$ that take precedence, depicting the flip side of the street lifestyle and the inherent and underlying pain that comes with it. Though it’s sometimes only alluded to, often masked in his dexterous raps and dismissed in the same breath, Freddie reveals a refreshing level of vulnerability like never before.

“I’m takin’ chances with my life, I’d rather bleed than be broke. And that’s a f****d up mentality, but it stay with me.”

– Freddie Gibbs on ‘Rabbit Vision’.

He treats the album as his form of therapy, manoeuvring through personal problems of paranoia, trauma and substance abuse. This offers the album’s poignant moments including  ‘Rabbit Vision’, ‘Grandma’s Stove’ and ‘Feel No Pain’ featuring the “monster clique” of .Paak and Raekwon (now that’s a trio we need to hear more of). In doing so, the self-analysis adds commentary on larger issues linked to the Black experience evident on ‘Blackest In The Room’, ‘Dark Hearted’ and ‘CIA’. 

The features across $$$ enhance the overall impact, further assisting Freddie in widening his sound and adding to the occasional victory lap feel – notably Kelly Price on the album’s opener ‘Couldn’t Be Done’. Musiq Soulchild is another incredible vocalist who shouldn’t go unmentioned, his closing verse on ‘Grandma’s Stove’ is also a highlight. Despite the heavy presence of other artists, Gibbs still remains the focus throughout and the solo tracks present the album’s standout moments  – evidence of the calibre and professionalism from someone well over a decade deep in their craft. 

The evolved soundscape makes it Freddie’s most accessible piece yet, sometimes at its own detriment particularly on the lacklustre, mainstream trap-influenced tracks like ‘Pain & Strife’ and ‘Too Much’. However, on the other hand, his experimentation into R&B and Afrofusion allows him to implement more melodies into his thrilling flows and songwriting prowess.

It’s no secret Freddie Gibbs is one of the most consistent emcees in today’s landscape, who’s responsible for some of the best projects in the 2010s. With him at the director’s seat once more, $oul $old $eperately is easily his most cohesive album, and one that strengthens his artistry while catering to fans of both new and old.

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