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Freddie Gibbs

You Only Live 2wice 12"

There's sounding like you've triumphed, there's sounding like you've struggled, and then there's sounding like you've just survived. The well-worn voice of Freddie Gibbs has typically resided in the space between the first and second category like an audio imprint on whatever path he rolls through. But as Gibbs approaches his mid-30s, he's still reeling from the after-effects of two life-changing events: the 2014 shooting in Brooklyn that wounded two members of his entourage, and the sexual assault charge that hung over him for much of 2016. The gunmen missed and the court acquitted, but for an artist who's never had Tupac far from his mind, Gibbs has to have used him to reflect on what could have gone wrong otherwise, and just how he managed to survive.
 
*You Only Live 2wice *doesn't put Gibbs on a Makaveli cross, but does paint him as a Christ-like figure, resurrected and floating on the album cover's modern-Renaissance depiction of him. Whose sins he's ready to die for, he's not saying; he calls himself "20 Karat Jesus" on the crystal chandelier of a leadoff cut but focuses more on the actions ("Fresh up off the highway with that higher power how you want it") and the consequences ("Don't sleep, bags under my eyes is designer") than the casualties. Throughout the album, he's haunted by both the things that have and haven't happened to him, what he has and hasn't done, ruminating over a tight 32 minutes across eight tracks that feel haunted even at their hardest.
 
So is he interrogating his first life, or planning for his second? Early single "Crushed Glass" finds Gibbs pushing towards the latter. He's in reflection mode, continuously comparing himself to days (or weeks, or years) gone past only to open each verse with the proclamation that "the future started yesterday." It's less an examination of what he's done than what's been done to him, and its hook ("If I gotta be by myself, I'm'a be all right") hints at the only-trust-yourself defiance of a man burned too many times. He's still got that thematic focus on frustration, toughness, and regret that keeps things on edge, feeling like he's outgrowing all his friends on "Alexys" and pledging to abandon his crew for the sake of his infant daughter on "Homesick." Even on "Phone Lit" and "Amnesia"—the closest he gets to true brag tracks—his blackout flow sounds like an agitated reaction to being overwhelmed by demands.
 
But Gibbs never brings a low-energy pity party. There's still the sense that he can lay claim to a rap-over-anything flow that centers his voice as all the authority a track really needs. The rest of the beat can do whatever—a quality that makes him one of those ultra-rare Madlib/Gangsta Grillz crossover artists who can never make weak shit. His vocal command is still stunning, that rough-hewn flexibility in his voice putting across intensity and vulnerability at the same time. And when the beat goes melodramatic (or dramatically mellow)—the aching violin-laced Speakerbomb-produced flip of Sade's "Fear" on "Crushed Glass," molasses-creeping to billowy new age keyboards on "Homesick," satiny vocal-harmony R&B on "Andrea"—each syllable feels like a knuckle busting your eyebrow open. You could look at *You Only Live 2wice *as a transitional record—and many could see it that way dismissively, given its brief borderline-EP runtime—but whatever turning point this might be in Gibbs' career, it stands to reason that he'll still be making diamonds out of pressure.
 
-- Pitchfork
item # 42478
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