Freddie Gibbs new A Cold Day in Hell mixtape is a very important step in his development. Everyone who is new gets a lot of “savior” buzz, and Gibbs has been no exception. He was supposed to be the savior of gangsta rap, but on previous outings like Str8 Killa, his speedbag cadence and monotone voice lay relatively flat on second rate, predictable production. Let’s face it: so much of Gangsta Rap is predictable now. So what happens when Gibbs gets top production? The answers bring more questions.
The bulk of the production is handled by Cardo and the J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League (with important help from BIG K.R.I.T. as well as Beatnick & K-Salaam) two production entities most likely to contend for Producer of The Year. Cardo created that smooth, bubbling Mac Miller/Wiz Khalifa sound that has been so heavily replicated. It’s no mind to Cardo, who can tailor beats to any mood and he can easily provide the soundtrack to slick talking jokesters like Sir Michael Rocks, and the somber Mr.Gibbs.
All of what made Freddie Gibbs buzz is illustrated within the tape. He’s not a rapper that sounds easily like another rapper. “Heaven Can Wait” is a flossing song, but feels more like a showcase of dazzling imagery. “Anything to Survive” pops and bounces in service of its author’s unapologetic hunger to succeed. Being your own MC is a remarkable feat when you think of all the great rappers who sound like others (Pac-Scarface, Biggie-Kane). You could make a Bone Thugs comparison, but it’s a stretch, Gibbs isn’t harmonizing. He also isn’t moving at Twista speed, he’s alternating his pace masterfully, blindingly on each track. His flow seems versatile enough for any beat.
The guests are at times head scratching. Since signing to Young Jeezy and CTE, his southern features make less sense. Juicy J and Alley Boy don’t do poorly but, they don’t seem to fit. The two collaborations between Jeezy and Fred (“Sittin’Low”, “Twos and Fews”) don’t really define chemistry either. Fred seems more natural as a feature on someone else’s track where he can steal the spotlight, or riding solo on his own. This is not true of Dom Kennedy who makes perfect sense over “Menace II Society” with help from Cardo who makes the beat as West Coast as he can. Dom is in typical form, mocking himself for working at the mall, and macking as hard as he can while Fred is dead serious. The juxtaposition works well. Freeway and Sly Polaroid sound great on “Anything to Survive”, but it is a fantastic beat and epic chorus, not to mention a pitch perfect Fred first verse setup. It’s hard to mess that one up.
Repeated listening seems to widen the cracks in Cold Day in Hell’s armor. “Neighborhood Hoez” is horrible, “My Dawgz” is unnecessary, and a lot of the fun tracks are quite similar. “187 Proof” is about him being invincible, “B.A.N.ned” is about him being a “made” man and…invincible. On “Let ‘em Burn” Gibbs states emphatically, “A menace to my city/I forever live in infamy” I am completely comfortable with Freddie Gibbs living in infamy as the biggest and toughest gangster in the history of Gary, Indiana – But it just doesn’t pay off as a total listening experience. Gibbs has two major subjects on Cold Day in Hell: being the coldest Gangster you know, and having sex with women while feeling nothing. These two selves meet only once to create true conflict; “My Homeboy’s Girlfriend” combines his pension for bending women to his charm and being tough as nails. He is supposed to live by the street code (lets be honest its most people’s code) and not have sex with his friend’s girl, but he does and kicks off real turmoil. Lines like “Cause of this lust in my mind I carry this guilt in my heart,” put Gibbs in a position to feel bad. He has made a mistake, and it carries a lot of weight. If this seems like a mild step, you have to put it in context, the only other time he loves anyone is on “Natural High”. “You are more than my life, my love, my heart, my soul the only one I relate too.” This is the tried and true love song to marijuana and, next to all the cold, tough talk and heartless sex, it becomes more important than it should. Weed is the only thing you relate too? The most important thing about Gibbs is still under the surface, he locks his feelings up in street ethic chambers never to release on record but someday he will. It feels like it is coming. I’ll be there to hear it.
You can download A Cold Day In Hell at the link below.
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