Freddie Gibbs is Jesus Christ, or so he claims on his newest album, You Only Live 2wice.
Released March 31, the album received little fanfare as Kodak Black’s first full-length EP, Painting Pictures, dropped only minutes later. Nevertheless, Gibbs’ eight-track album is an incredible resurrection for an artist best known for his 2014 album Pinata.
“20 Karat Jesus,” the album’s intro, is typical gangsta rap. Rife with boasts, toasts and coke, the rapper details his hustles: rapping and dealing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the first verse when he cleverly claims, “No sleep, bags under my eyes is designer.” The song soon moves into the metaphysical, though, with Gibbs urging his listeners to pursue their dreams, whether it’s selling dope or cheffing “up that boysenberry creme brulee, man.” Admittedly, this is an odd note with which to end a song advocating for street authenticity, but Gibbs is almost always unpredictable.
The one time Gibbs succumbs to the genre’s norms is “Amnesia.” For all its tight verses and fresh slant rhymes, the track doesn’t say much. Gibbs brags about his women, cars and jewelry: the hoes are on leashes and the cars never leased, but he has so many gems that you’d think they were free. What else would you expect from a genre in which every rapper, regardless of their status, feels the need to assert themselves and their riches, proving their investment accounts or at least the duffel bags in the rafters are bigger than those of their competition.
“Crushed Glass” requires a bit more of an explanation. Following a July 2015 performance in Vienna, Gibbs was accused of sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl by drugging her drink. The single “Crushed Glass,” released March 8, marked the first time the rapper spoke openly about the case, and he did it on the record. After being acquitted of all charges, Gibbs rapped about the incident: “I just beat a rape case, groupie bitch I never fucked / tryna give me 10 for some pussy that I never touched.” While the lyrics are explicit, his unapologetic message is clear. And so are the instrumentals behind this track — violins, guitars and synth beats smooth out the rapper’s gravelly voice.
The slow grooves and heavy basslines that roll through this release are all Gibbs. His emotion, cleverly masked in previous projects, takes center stage on this album, as he ruminates over his daughter’s birth and his relationships to God, his mother and the corner. With the exception of “Crushed Glass’” anthem-like chorus, none of these eight songs will make you want to sing along. But that’s alright — they are thought-provoking selections from a rapper whose influences, from Master P to The Notorious B.I.G., always draw directly from the hip-hop canon.
With this album, Freddie Gibbs hopes to continue adding his voice to that same body of work. Though he’s not yet the rap god he claims to be, the rapper is steadily progressing towards canonization. This featureless project, his latest step on this journey, promotes Gibbs’ upcoming collaboration with Currency, Fetti, You Only Live 2wice. And if these eight tracks are any indication, you’ll want to keep listening.