Freddie Gibbs - Shadow Of A Doubt

by Marcus Powis

After the phenomenal critical and commercial success of his collaborative album Piñata, on which he rapped over Madlib’s legendary production, along with a number of notable features including Raekwon and Earl Sweatshirt, Freddie Gibbs is back just over a year later with his newest album, Shadow Of A Doubt. Indiana’s finest gangster rapper must have a busy schedule as of late, juggling the recording of the 17 track album with raising his baby daughter, and growing his budding marijuana business.

Despite the album being produced by a multitude of people, the production rarely fails to impress. Rearview is a great opening track, and starts with references to Tupac’s All Eyez On Me in the hook. The song sums Freddie up completely, the beat is calm but powerful, pairs well with his confident and menacing vocals, and the dark production sets the standard for the rest of the album. The confidence flows into the next track, Narcos, in which Freddie brags about how rapping is easier than his previous profession, which was dealing copious amounts of cocaine. Unfortunately, it’s like a pretty mediocre song, sounding quite similar to Rearview but without the punchy hook and lyrics.

Surprisingly, George Michael’s Amazing is sampled on the next song, Careless, and what’s even more surprising is that it works really well. The familiar tune helps to plant the song in your head, and the song is a definite highlight from the album. The production is great here, the lyrics are easy to pick up, and it’s a hard song to dislike.

Fuckin’ Up The Count, the first single from the album, is bookended by samples from The Wire. Samples are used in this way throughout the album, but it’s most effective on this track: the samples fit perfectly with the high tempo and heavy lyrical themes of dealing drugs and counting cash. Following on from this is Extradite, the second single, which brings back some of the darkness and spreads it around an upbeat hook. Freddie and Black Thought each deliver two great verses on the track, although Black Thought’s lyrics and flow are a lot more impressive and memorable; his line “My memoirs are like the Anarchists’ Cookbook / Meets the Tom Ford spring-summer lookbook” is my favourite line on the entire album. The song is powerful, the lyrics are clever, and it has great production. It ticks every box in my mind.

The lyrics on most of the tracks are delivered excellently and most of the album sticks to the holy hip-hop trinity of money, sex, and drugs: there’s plenty reflecting on Freddie’s former life as a drug dealer and addict, comparing it to his life now as a rapper, father, and businessman, and there are references to racial and social issues too. It’s a shame that E-40 and Gucci Mane’s features were used on 10 Times, where they talk about the girls they’re into, with the line, “Ten times out of ten she’s a ten and I wanna fuck her friends” summing up the track. The lyrics aren’t great, the beat is really barebones and the song is just a waste of a potential. McDuck is a much better collaboration, featuring the stellar vocals of Dana Williams, which really complement the production. In terms of style, a stark contrast to this is Packages, another great song that sounds it wouldn’t be out of place on an A$AP Ferg album: very repetitive chorus with an energetic, trap-inspired beat that should be played at high volumes, preferably in a residential area.

There are plenty of different styles on the album, each producer bringing something different to the table, and Freddie adapts well to every track - he even makes a good effort with singing on tracks like Basketball Wives. Everything on the album is delivered to a high standard, and while the album isn’t quite as good as Piñata, it’s close. If you’re into rap, then I’d recommend this, without a shadow of a doubt. Sorry, that line was begging to be written.