I don’t know much about Gary, Indiana, but listening to Freddie Gibbs rap on ESGN I’ve come to the conclusion that it must be one of the most gangsta places on the planet. Over the 20 tracks on the album Mr. Gibbs basks in all the shiny trappings of the traditional gangsta lifestyle: blunts, cars, guns, money and most disappointly, bitches. It’s a limited lyrical repertoire with narrow subject matter and maybe I was naïve for believing the genre had begun to move past these old clichés. I don’t want to criticize an entire culture, these places and things are real, but really, this is every cliché that turns so many people off of hip-hop and may be, in fact, holding the genre from moving forward.

This is not Kendrick Lamar looking inward and analyzing himself in relation to his gangsta life. This is not J. Cole disrespecting women and immediately regretting his decision. This is not Boots Riley growing up in the realm of the gangsta and speaking the language to get his message of community across. This is Freddie Gibbs. And evidently he doesn’t give a fuck about the world around him and seemingly within himself.

As a brotha who listens to a lot of hip-hop I have become fairly desensitized to the word ‘nigger’ in songs (And let’s forget that nigger/nigga nonsense. We know what the word is). But my ears couldn’t help but take notice when I first broke open Evil Seeds Grow Naturally. In the intro track, which clocks in at 1:52, Freddie Gibbs drops ‘nigger’ a staggering 29 times. It’s basically a comma.

Throughout the rest of ESGN Gibbs essentially sounds the same on every track, rarely changing up his flow or trying to find new words to throw in there. Women are a constant target of his lack of lyrical creativity, basically being referred to as nothing but “bitch.” Though men who cross Gibbs don’t fair any better, usually getting shot. These few lines from “One Eighty Seven” really sum up what I’m talking about here:

Won’t take your chick out to dinner but I eat that bitch for breakfast
Hit her with that dick in the morning, leave all my bitches stressin’
Fuck all these actin’ ass bitches – ratchet ass bitches
Sign my name in bloody murder, bitch I autograph bitches

There’s really not a lot going on here. And it’s a really disappointing thing because Gibbs has shown so much promise on everything he’s appeared on or released up until ESGN, his big-time debut. But here he sounds…the same, on every track.

The world of Gibbs is a bleak one. Nothing moves too quickly and everything is menacing. The lack of change in the grueling nature of his surrounding environment no doubt plays a part here, but there’s got to be more going on in the mind and soul of Mr. Gibbs. I’d like to hear about his reactions to and thoughts about these things rather than a rehashing of the same gangsta details I’ve been attempting to avoid for most of my listening life.

The production doesn’t bring much to the table either. These are pretty much all variations on the same mid-tempo banger beats, with no one producer bringing much of anything unique to any of the tracks. “Eastside Moonwalker” might be lone exception here with it’s slightly space-y atmospheric flourishes. (Props to GMF, whoever that is, on that one.) The fact that it took 15 different producers to put this record together is, frankly, astonishing.

This all sounds like I’m really down on Freddie Gibbs but I’m not. I’m just down on ESGN. Gibbs is clearly a passionate rapper with a ton of charisma; it’s just buried here behind ridiculous amounts of gangsta-itis. With some different producers providing him some more interesting beats to rap over and a little willingness to step outside of the prescribed box, Gibbs could deliver some real thrilling stuff. Unfortunately ESGN does little to live up to the hype.

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