“I Earn My Stripes Out On The Devil’s Playground…”

10.09.12 5 years ago 25 Comments

A few weeks ago, during a G-Chat conversation with Maurice Garland, the topic of Freddie Gibbs’ Baby Face Killa arose. And as I relayed then, witnessing Fred eclipse the personal modern-day classic Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik seemed damn near unfathomable. Not because Gary’s most popular thug was regressing lyrically; he wasn’t. Not because the following projects sucked; they didn’t. Str8 Killa , Thuggin’ and The Label’s Tryin To Kill Me rarely left rotation while Cold Day In Hell had more than its fair share of replay-worthy tracks. That said, the feeling of buddy still not pushing his creative talents to the full test was always left lingering.

Enter B.F.K.

The verdict’s still in deliberation where Killa falls in Freddie’s career discography to this point. Yet it wouldn’t constitute as a surprise if by the end of the year the project stands at the mountaintop of Fred’s audio accomplishments. Found directly in the middle, “Stay Down” is the most introspective and revealing moment on a listen touting more than its fair share. Commissary deposits, cooking dope in his fiend’d out uncle’s kitchen and a brief conversation with God – this is all in the first verse! – draws the sketch of a MC painting a mental tug of war from a street corner aspect not often seen in rap much these days.

We hear of the violence casting a proverbial black cloud of lawlessness over the Midwest. But beyond the senseless violence which seems to define it, there’s a mindstate of – excuse the term – “do or die.” Gibbs’ no-turning-back lyrics may not do much to remedy the situation, but they do provide an unfiltered glimpse into the thought process of those who see drug money as the only way out of the hood. They also provide the rare vantage point of someone who actually did. And someone who learned despite the grass being greener on the other side, a snake’s ability to hide is commonality in any walk of life.

“Plus I’m slanging just to maintain ducking
Every year niggas only fear is the fed cases
Living in this industry ghetto enemies come with smiley faces
But I feel like fuck all these rappers they don’t want no altercation
Baby face gangster I earn my stripes out on the devil’s playground
Peace to all my real niggas that stay down…”

In a much better position probably financially and definitely career-wise he was some three or four years ago, “Stay Down” has a throwback feel to the Midwest… days when Gibbs was still under essentially everyone’s radar. The more things change though, the more they stay the same. The block is replaced by the boardroom. Street rivals are still present, albeit on an increased platform. And the ability to keep one’s sanity becomes more and more difficult with each paycheck. Staying down isn’t merely a gift. It’s a necessity. You don’t have to be from the hood to understand that.

Freddie Gibbs – “Stay Down”

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