Alfredo takes a lot of risks; do they pay off?
Reviewed by Thomas Herron
Gangsta Gibbs’ discography pre-Alfredo is almost impeccable, especially in recent years due to the development of his professional relationship with MadLib, producing the no-miss masterpieces that are Piñata and Bandana. Gibbs’ recent work, whether it be either of these projects or dominant features on West Side Gunn, 03 Greedo or Boldy James projects, has propelled him to elite circles. The 37-year-old Gary, IN rapper is now appearing in top 5 conversations more than ever as his ability to spit fiery bars is becoming more the rarity in hip hop.
The most obvious risk Gibbs takes on Alfredo is his decision to produce a project, after all of the success he had alongside MadLib, with a different producer. The Alchemist is no slouch by any definition but his core sound is very different from what we’ve seen MadLib produce alongside Gibbs, a possible driver behind his decision to duet an entire project with another producer.
Gibbs’ decisions to work in such close proximity to a singular producer on a project is a testament to his craftsmanship, being conscious in working on perfecting the chemistry between producer and vocalist rather than picking 15 beats from 100 different producers like everybody else.
On top of the opposing style of MadLib’s boom bap to Alfredo’s simplistic and not-typical-for-hip-hop style of production, the album itself represents Gibbs’ subgenre of cocaine rap in the essence of Pusha T, elevated from Kingpin style to mob-inspired.
Alchemist samples a number of mob movies for the project and the more simplistic production compliments the dominant on-track presence that has grown to be Gibbs’ trademark. Despite the inherent racism of mobsters, especially in Hollywood productions, Gibbs uses the mob as a different comparison to his own lifestyle while using the opportunity to address some of the inherent racism of the mob, in flipping the mafia inspired sound to send his message on the glorification of the mob contrasted to his own experience as a black man in America, pointedly on the Rick Ross assisted “Scottie Beam,” telling of an experience being pulled over and fearing “My execution might be televised.”
While the concept of the album is clear, the production is elite and the bars are crafted to a tee, somehow something is missing. Gibbs’ decision to do a mob-inspired album, using odd samples from old movies alongside calmer-sounding production and minus the boom-bap of his past projects, was a huge risk in itself.
Simply put, the album is clearly hip hop, evident from the never-ending bars of the self-proclaimed Skinny Suge, but the more even tempo throughout the project fails to allow Gibbs’ bars to hit where he intended, to the extent they usually do. The even-tempo of the production pulls pockets away from Gibbs that would have usually given the listener a split-second of acapella to exaggerate his punchlines.
Gibbs’ wanted to try something new here and that’s driven deeper by the constant subtle but obvious experimentation of different flows, as well as the decision to “class-up” the sound of his album, as pointed out by Tyler the Creator on his unexpected but thorough “Something To Rap About” verse.
The craftsmanship of the bars, the flows and the production are all elite, but though Gibbs’ decision to try something different is understandable and refreshing, it makes it near impossible to live up to the energy and passion behind Bandana, partly written from a French jail cell and seemingly giving Gibbs’ content more depth. It’s also important to note that being a risky concept album and with little parallels in the game at the moment, this album could age like fine wine, which could very well be what Skinny Suge intended.