A few of Hip-Hop’s most vaunted projects have come from the most batshit-crazy pairings: The Bomb Squad and Ice Cube; The Dust Brothers and The Beastie Boys; John Brion and Kanye West. Gary, Indiana’s own, Freddie Gibbs, has dabbled in his own odd pairings throughout the past few years, jumping on tracks by everyone from Maja 7th to Josh the Goon to Blended Babies. Keeping with this pattern, Gangsta Gibbs tries out a new musical hat, dropping the Thuggin’ EP with Stones Throw artist Madlib only weeks after he released Cold Day In Hell.
The project is more or less a Madlib EP with Gibbs guest appearances; however, it’s still an “extended play,” and should warrant attention – even if Gibbs’ vocals only appear on two tracks (although the two will release a full-scale LP in the first quarter of 2012). Its greater importance comes in the “clear” direction Fred has taken his career, which there really is no “clear” sound that you could pigeonhole his music to. This seems like an oxymoron. Take almost any popular rapper and you can pin him to a “signature” sound–Kanye and “chipmunk soul”; Rick Ross and schizo 808s; Nas and East Coast boom-bap.
Gibbs? He’s incorporated all of those production blueprints in past tracks, if not entire mixtapes and albums. He’s a clear outlier in rap’s current paradigm. Although he frequently shows obvious recalcitrance towards doing anything he doesn’t want, he’s still the only one in the industry who molds his technical ability to any given song instead of completely changing himself for it. It’s hard to say the same about former “golden boys” Wiz Khalifa and Lupe Fiasco.
The Thuggin’ EP and its Gibbs-assisted tracks, “Thuggin'” and “Deep,” provide further evidence that Gibbs isn’t just special, but he’s also doing something right. Rap isn’t some sequestered genre built upon scratches and soul samples like it once was. It’s constantly evolving, blurring its already muddled gray area with each passing artist leak. Gibbs understands how to evolve with the times, even if his rhymes and rhyme patterns sound vaguely similar. Plus, as Hip-Hop critic Tom Breihan once said about Gibbs’ rapping, “he just doesn’t fuck up, ever.”
Fred knows what he’s doing. Embrace batshit-crazy. It’s the new normal.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – “Thuggin'”