Alfredo, the latest collaboration between rapper Freddie Gibbs and legendary producer The Alchemist, is an absolutely ferocious album. Although the duo don’t have an extensive history of working together, there’s a cohesion of sound and vision here, the two artists’ styles both vibing and clashing in a fashion that makes for a wholly complex rap album. Across Alfredo’s runtime, Gibbs puts on display the steady, technically-impressive flow that has made him a foundational MC of the present. Even given the spattering of enviable features that decorate the album, including Rick Ross, Benny the Butcher, Tyler, the Creator, and Conway the Machine, it’s Gibbs’ voice that retains star billing here. Freddie unfurls his tales of success and strife eloquently, and while the strength of his vision and voice are largely enough, it’s telling that he makes time to play nice with his fellow rappers, the best examples found in tracks like “Scottie Beams” (with Ross) and “Something to Rap About” (with Tyler).
Gibbs’ gravelly voice and his penchant for lyrical provocation provide the perfect juxtaposition to The Alchemist’s production: the rapper modulates expertly, whether it’s on the record’s adrenaline-heavy boom beats — the best example of which is the bone-shaking “Frank Lucas” — or when spitting atop some smooth jazz samples. The Alchemist returns the favor, building a sense of levity into the music, a strategy that helps to lighten the bleak language and vocal heft of Gibbs’ verses; it’s a marriage of sensibilities that helps to smooth out the rough edges and punctuate the album’s narrative instincts. And while there are tracks on Alfredo that will surely be among the year’s best cuts, it’s almost more impressive how much weight even the lesser tracks bear: the jazzy, relatively low-key “Skinny Suge,” for instance, finds Gibbs waxing introspective about his own sense of survivor’s guilt. Other tracks revel in a sort-of confessional intimacy, with Gibbs reflecting on his past drug use and its gyring effect on those around him. None of this is to say that Alfredo is without flaw, but rather that those quibbles are minor in the face of such an impressive collaboration, one in which two distinct artistic identities work in such beautiful service to each other.
Published as part of What Would Meek Do? | Q2 2020 Issue – Part 2.