Published Nov 18, 2015Between becoming a father and launching his own strain of cannabis, life couldn't be much better for Freddie Gibbs right now. And if good things really do come in threes, the arrival of Shadow of a Doubt completes the trio. It's the positivity from these aforementioned emotional events that has led the Gary, Indiana native to explore new musical territory on his second solo album, apparent in more ways than one.
An increased attention to melody is demonstrated when Gibbs takes the mic to sing the flighty hooks of "Careless," "Lately" and the AutoTune-laden "Basketball Wives," which treads dangerously close to R&B. "Insecurities" is where Gibbs opens himself up the most; it's prefaced by a phone call recording in which he details buying a ring for his fiancé before detailing the resolution to his anxiety and confidence issues: "When the lord gave me my daughter, helped me paint the picture / Man all the shit I did I'm blessed the streets ain't take a n***a."
This doesn't mean Gibbs has lost his edge by any means. The cold-blooded tales of street life, murder and drug-running he's told before are still prevalent, served over production from the likes of Mike Dean and Toronto's Mikhail, Boi-1da and Frank Dukes. The Canadian contingent created two of the record's highlights: the latter directs a gritty tale of drug-running greed with the unsettling "Fuckin' Up the Count," while the former flips Bob James' sampling staple, "Nautilus," in unique fashion for "Extradite," on which Gibbs goes bar for bar with Black Thought of the Roots, each emcee sounding as sharp as ever.
Not often known to be an overtly expressive rapper, Gibbs has also displayed growth in his own delivery, changing his tone of voice in ways previously unseen. The 808 Mafia-produced "Packages" sees the man strain for his higher range on the track's bludgeoning hook before roaring through a razor-sharp verse in manic fashion, while the white-knuckled, serpentine bars of closing track "Cold Ass N***a" go hand in hand with the cold, strobing electronic production.
Speaking with Exclaim!, Gibbs called Shadow of a Doubt a project of growth on which he took a number of "musical risks." While some may miss the soul and jazz chops of last year's collaborative Piñata, it's safe to say his solo risks have largely paid off. (ESGN)