Less than a month after announcing its existence, Gary, Indiana native Freddie Gibbs brings us Shadow of a Doubt, his follow-up to 2014’s 10th hottest hip hop project Cocaine Pinata. While Shadow doesn’t feature production exclusively done by Madlib like Pinata, it is still a worthy successor. Seeing Gibbs shed light on his gangsta persona and display his talent as an MC in full is a spectacle to experience. Inspired by a near-fatal shooting back in November of 2014, Gibbs uses this album to reflect on the hustle that he was a part of for so long. Now, at the age of 33, The Indiana rapper is starting to question what his lifestyle once was.
Gangsta Gibbs’ lyrical supremacy is apparent from the get go with “Rear View” which sees Gibbs exploring events from his past and how they’ve influenced his life today. The somber tone of the song finds itself peppered throughout the project as well, but being the personal album that this is makes it welcome, much like the way Kendrick Lamar approached the themes on To Pimp A Butterfly. Furthermore, while his voice has always fit his style well this album sees him grow into more of a complete artist as he sings his own hooks on songs like “Careless” and “Lately.” Even his use of autotune on “Basketball Wives” is fitting.
Autotune? Singing? Gibbs?!? No, it can’t be. What is he doing? This is a travesty. Fear not, listeners, as that doesn’t mean that Gibbs bangers have been excluded from this album. Rather, songs like “Narcos” and “Mexico” will get you going, the latter providing a Travi$ Scott inspired hook delivered by crooner Tory Lanez. “Fuckin Up The Count” remains as the highlight of the project. The single and video that Freddie dropped back in October to announce the album is filled with combing and infectious piano riffs, and high hats with stories of his shady past as a drug lord. Furthermore, “Extradite,” the second single off the album featuring rap luminary Black Thought, sounds like Ray Manzerak (keyboardist for The Doors) had some input into the productions as the hook, which I might add is one of Freddie’s strongest hooks on the album, features a sound much like The Door’s infectious electric organ.
The production as a whole is on point, and while it may be hard to follow up on an album produced entirely by Madlib, Gibbs has done just that with the help of names like Drake hitmaker Boi-1da, blog star Kaytranada, and the one and only Mike Dean. Tracks like “Narcos” and “Careless” contain the ever-popular sound that can only be described as “Drake-esque,” which actually loans itself quite nicely to Freddie’s harder, deeper vocals. “Extradite” is probably the standout production-wise thanks to The Doors sound that was described earlier. One aspect where the production falls short, however, is the heavy trap influence found on tracks like “Packages.” It almost comes off as a forced move, trying to help keep Shadows relevant in the trap-dominated industry that we’re experiencing today.
On “Narcos” Freddie raps,
Dope game hard, rap game, rape game easy than a motherfucker.
After listening to the album, it’s hard not to agree that this new, introspective Gangsta Gibbs uses Shadows as a perfect medium to bring the listener into the life of a gangbanger in Gary, Indiana, which for a time was the most violent city in America. Excellent production only helps to strengthen that conduit into his life as well, and it’s clear now that Gibbs doesn’t need Madlib to make some hits. Hopefully this isn’t the last we see of Freddie, and if the progression on this album is any indicator let’s pray so. Let us know what you thought of Shadow of a Doubt below in the comments and check out the album here on Spotify. Don’t have time to read the full review? Check out out initial thoughts here.