Gary, Indiana’s Freddie Gibbs has had a tough year. After being featured as one of XXL’s 2010 Freshmen, he quickly landed a deal with Young Jeezy’s CTE imprint, which would be followed by the release of his critically acclaimed mixtape, Baby Face Killa. While the project was not technically an album, it featured all original material, and made it’s way to iTunes as a retail release. This featured Fred in his prime, still feeling the buzz from his XXL and CTE endorsements, with a well produced, lyrically sharp release. And then, his deal with CTE ended abruptly.
From an outsider’s perspective, it’s hard to tell what happened with CTE, whether Freddie left due to impatience, or if the label dropped him due to internal conflict or creative differences. Either way, while it may seem like a blemish to his career, the other side of that coin is that Jeezy’s imprint has yet to release a hit record from anyone but Jeezy.
Whatever the case may be, these or perhaps other events seem to have effected Gibbs’ creative output. His debut album, ESGN, is the first to be released to retail outside of the mixtape circuit, but unfortunately sounds like a overloaded rush job.
It’s noted that only one of the producers from Baby Face Killa is present here, SKMA on “Have You Seen Her”. But even without looking at the production credits, there is a difference in quality between this and his previous release. Clocking in at 20 tracks, this massive LP moves at a lethargic pace, starting with the dreary “The Real G Money”, and then following with similar tracks “Came Up” and “Hundred Thousand”. Things pick up as the album progresses, but the generic production mirrors ideas and sounds we’ve heard many times before, like the Scarface-themed “Lay It Down”, or the Lex Lugar-esque “D.O.A.”, the latter which features a painful, inaudible verse from Big Kill.
Fred’s singsongy flow begins to wear thin on the listener on tracks like “Have U Seen Her”, which on it’s own might be fine, but just becomes redundant after the album’s sluggish first half. The second half of the album does have it’s better moments, such as exquisitely produced “Eastside Moonwalker”, the 90′s 2Pac homage “F.A.M.E.” (feat. Daz & Spice 1), “Certified Live” (feat. Jay Rock) and the incredibly dope “Paper”. “Dope In My Styrofoam” is another nice throwback, utilizing the Tyrone Davis “In The Mood” sample.
Freddie Gibbs isn’t wack by any means, his Baby Face Killa project proved that. But it’s unfortunate that ESGN was weighed down so heavily in it’s first half, scaring off much of the crowd early, before he gets to prime time. There’s no explanation as to why many of the producers from Baby Face Killa aren’t present here, unless they collectively hold some kind of strange, political loyalty to the CTE camp. Still, Freddie Gibbs has another card to play, with his upcoming collaborative project with Madlib, which should put even Baby Face Killa to shame, if it’s singles are any indication. ESGN is a disappointment, and for Freddie, can be taken as a lesson learned in quality control.
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