Freddie Gibbs, Str8 Killa Album Review

Integrity is paramount to Freddie Gibbs.

Boasting a polished midwestern style that effortlessly shifts from rapid fire to slow flow throughout, the Gary, Indiana native laces his Decon Records debut EP -- Str8 Killa -- with unabashedly gangster tales depicting the consequences and repercussions of hustling for survival, never glamorizing the street life’s unsavory nature. “My homie’s 16 and won’t see daylight till he’s 64 / That’s how we’re living though / With limited opportunity / Twisted off reefer / Parents and teachers could not get through to me,” he raps over the Block Beattaz' stadium-sized production on album opener “Str8 Killa No Filla." The Jay Rock-assisted “Rep 2 Tha Fullest” reinforces Gangsta Gibbs’s intent on showing both halves of the dark side while quickly separating himself from other rappers publicly pimping a life they’ve never lived. “Rap is for dick suckers and divas / I don’t recall these / type of niggas living and breathing where I reside little niggas go to school get right / The shit I’m doing, nigga, you could do life / Before I picked up a mic I earned my stripes.”

Str8 Killa’s highpoint comes on the appropriately entitled, LA Riot produced, “National Anthem (Fuck The World),” where Gibbs details the dilapidated conditions of his hometown, his eventual dismissal from Interscope Records, and the struggle to make music for “the midwest streets that need [his] voice” -- over a righteously anthemic beat designed to rattle trunks rolling down any highway in America. “Personal OG” provides the obligatory salute to the sticky green, while “The Coldest” and it’s radio-ready hook (courtesy of BJ The Chicago Kid) and sublime Kno production adds just as much depth and perspective as any other offering on the EP, proving Gangsta Gibbs can play in the commercial sandbox and still come out clean -- never sacrificing his message for the masses.

And there lies Str8 Killa’s lasting legacy: Freddie’s ability to delve deeper into the psychology behind the gangster life. He attacks each track with enough angst and honesty to force you to relate to his “struggle” without ever experiencing it personally. The visceral nature of his music is what makes him an artist, not just a rapper. Gibbs largely accomplishes this feat throughout Str8 Killa, but never more potently than on the Bun B-assisted, Beatnik & K-Salaam produced, “Rock Bottom...


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