The Gary, Indiana native explores lone wolf mentality from the comfort of his lounge chair, Gucci robe on and wine glass in hand.
Freddie Gibbs ascended from the underground. It’s easy to forget his origins considering how far he’s come, but it took years of foundation to get there. The rapper’s been on the grind since the mid-2000s, dishing out mixtapes such as Baby Face Killa and albums in ESGN that embellished in trap rap. Everything changed in 2014 with his collaborative classic with Madlib, Piñata, converting to daring hip hop bravado while keeping one hand in the trap pot. Now a Grammy-nominated artist, Gibbs embarks on extending his solo catalogue.
Soul Sold Separately channels classy Gangsta Gibbs who is sounding like a veteran at this stage of his lengthy career, offering another consistent album without any serious blemishes.
From the jump, you can immediately picture Gibbs at a lavish holiday resort (titled the Triple $$$ Hotel) sat in a lounge chair; shades on; wine glass in hand; shirtless in an expensive Gucci robe. That image is maintained during track transitions, inserting skits of concierge chat and voicemails of other Triple $$$ guests (Jeff Ross, Joe Rogen, Kevin Durant, and, *checks notes*, Jesus). There’s snazzy lobby music amongst these moments, and expensive production to represent the theme in songs as a whole (“Blackest in the Room”, “Lobster Omelette”, “Gold Rings”). Rick Ross plainly states he’s “On a beach in a mansion” on his guest verse for “Lobster Omelette”, one of a few moments where the guests work in sync with Gibbs and the vibe of the album.
Around the concept, you’re met with a casual listen where Gibbs is adamant on showing his versatility. He enters his trap bag on “Too Much” with Moneybagg Yo, a track that’s fabulously rapped by both artists, forging the album’s best example of chemistry. The pockets associated with albums like Alfredo and Bandana arrive in the standout opener, “Couldn’t Be Done”, and in “Blackest in the Room”. His hypnotic cadence shimmies across “Zipper Bagz”, locking in a memorable hook that aren’t to be found on most of the songs. The Memphis sound consumes “PYS” with Three 6 Mafia’s DJ Paul, more than proving Freddie has chameleon skin when it comes to rapping on any type of beat.
At the same time, that means there is a lot going on. The range in sound is predictable from a glance of the production credits; Boi-1da, Jake One, The Alchemist, J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Madlib, DJ Dahi, Kaytranada, James Blake and a dozen other names handle the fifteen templates. It’s ambition that was announced by Freddie a couple years ago, calling it his best-produced album, a bold statement from a rapper who’s bagged two full-lengths with Madlib. The production in play is more than enjoyable, but there is a bark to it rather than a bite. It inevitably impacts Gibbs who isn’t creating classic moments or a self-proclaimed Album of the Year, but a sensible album that lingers in a purgatory of goodness.
The conversation turns to Gibbs’ solo work versus his producer albums. Over the years, he’s released competent projects in You Only Love 2wice, Shadow of a Doubt and Freddie. But it is collaborations like Piñata, Bandana and Alfredo that have earned the most plaudits. With Soul Sold Separately, the test was whether the album would challenge or top the competence found when locking in with a single genius. Ultimately, that is yet to be achieved. Instead, it opts to extend Freddie’s consistency; ten years on and he’s still not dropped an average offering. That’s something we can live with.
Soul Sold Separately may not be a classic extravaganza, but it feels content with not being one. Gibbs has checked enough boxes on the rap bucket list to sit in that lounge chair as long as he likes.
7.5 / 10
Best tracks: “Couldn’t Be Done”, “Zipper Bagz”, “PYS”, “CIA”