Album Review: Freddie Gibbs’ ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ Mixtape

Anisa Jibrell – News Writer

With the release of Piñata last year, a collaborative LP with West Coast producer Madlib, the Gary, Indiana rapper Freddie Gibbs showed a big improvement through the inclusion soulful twists that casted a new light on his hard-hitting lyrics.

While his newest project is not the Pinata 2.0 his fans were hoping for, that’s okay. In what is arguably Gibbs’ most personal project to date—Shadow of a Doubt—he blends melodies and compactly written verses to deliver a despairingly nihilistic mixtape. It’s a debilitating tale of self-awareness, where Gibbs’ is spiraling out of control in the obligatory haze of sex, guns, and euphoria. Gibbs is mentally preoccupied by his painful past and unforeseeable future.

On first listen, the mixtape starts off strong with the four compelling opening tracks. ‘Rear View’ is a stellar intro track, narrating his California lifestyle with spooky production and grim lyrics.

Then the mixtape starts to lose steam after the distorted beats on ‘Mexico’ with Tory Lanez. A number of the tracks grow on you, one of them being, Packages, where Gibbs raps over a buggy trap beat that feels incredibly awkward at first but only because we’re not used to hearing Gibbs in this context. So what’s the verdict?

After giving the track time to register, I can honestly say that Gibbs on trap beats is enjoyable. What was once an unbearable track went from sounding like an annoying UPS version of “Flicka the Wrist,” to something catchy and substantial.

Gibb’s shows off his strong suits–storytelling and sampled beats, but eventually goes turtle to rabbit. The mixtape ends on a weak note with the one-dimensional lyrics and defective trap beats on “Cold A** N***a,” but shows that Gibbs is willing to compromise his gangsta’ rap style.

The project could’ve retained a sense of completion if two tracks got the ax.  The first—Cold A** N***a—that featured overpowering beats. Although his flow had an interesting similarity to T.I. in his Urban Legend/King years—it was severely lacking in cohesion.

The second is ‘Basketball Wives,’ a Max B-esque track that is literally drowning in auto tune, to the point where someone needs to save it. It’s almost as if Gibbs had been rushing to put out a piece of work before perfecting it. Fortunately, the mixtape has two bonus tracks that kind of make up for it, and the bass on ‘The Boy’ is a force to be reckoned with.

Lines from “Forever And A Day’ travel deep into the souls of kids who were kicked out of their homes, and looked to the streets for belonging. In ‘Careless’ Gibbs talks about his financial missteps in California and explores his vocals on a George Michael sample.

It’s the perfect song to accompany you on a grocery store trip, and even better if you’re wearing a bubble vest. Though Gibbs compromises a bit he doesn’t completely stray away, and he makes that crystal-clear. The mixtape packs a lyrical punch as he gasps for air between densely written verses on what should’ve been the last track–Freddie Gordy.

Even though a handful of tracks must grow on you, the project taps into various styles and changes production with ease. Overall this is one of his most progressive projects yet. He’s experimenting with new sounds from the current rap scene, but his heart still remains with treasured nineties rap icons.

Gibbs doesn’t embellish, but rather self-examines and questions uncertainties and his growth with this compelling narrative.

Photo Credit: Kmeron


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