Few things feel better than watching people who are damn good at what they do be damn good at what they do.
Freddie Gibbs is damn good at rapping. The Alchemist is damn good at making beats. And they sound damn good together.
On Alfredo the Los Angeles producer lays down a perfectly dusty soundscape for Gibbs to dance across. Since coming onto the scene years ago out of Gary, Indiana, Freddie Gibbs has proven himself as a rapper’s rapper—the kind that can find the tightest pockets on anything he touches, be it boom bap, trap, or the spacy, sample heavy beats of Madlib and The Alchemist. This album is no different.
From the opening Bernie Mac stand up sample on “1985,” the stage is set for the classy, coke-boss lyricism Gibbs is known for, and he comes with it. Guitars ring out, and Gibbs riffs with some of his signature ad-libs before diving into topical, dense rhymes, even referencing the popular Netflix show Tiger King: “Joe Pesci, push your product / You n***s is sweeter than Joe Exotic.” This song is immediately followed by the dizzying flows of “God Is Perfect” and frankly track after track of astonishing wordplay. Gibbs’ vivid imagery and storytelling are strong as ever—like the flex-laden hook on “Baby $hit,” but the flows he’s able to tap into on top of The Alchemist’s phenomenal sample work elevates his rapping to another level.
Gibbs stays deep in his lyrical bag, but the album’s features manage to keep up. Everyone puts on their classiest gangsta vibes, like they’ve entered the holy palace of cocaine trafficking. Rick Ross gives one of his best verses in years, sounding like the mob king he would have to be to get up to the absurdly smooth criminal activity he raps about. Both Benny The Butcher and Conway the Machine sound in their element, rapping on some of the album’s dirtier beats reminiscent of their Griselda street raps. And Tyler, The Creator, coming off his recent feature and production credit on Westside Gunn’s album Pray for Paris, gets a long verse on “Something to Rap About” that manages to preach down on his detractors while never overstepping The Alchemist’s jazzy guitar chop.
But that’s just the rapping. Every beat from The Alchemist feels both thematically consistent and perfectly tailored to Freddie Gibbs’ subject matter. The beats feel old, almost wise—like they’ve seen the underbelly of street life alongside Gibbs. The samples are distinct but delicate, building across each song while allowing the source material ample room to breathe. Take “Babies & Fools,” where the sample singing “All I need” cuts into Freddie’s and Benny’s verses at the perfect moments, never feeling forced, but like The Alchemist knew the rappers would get there. Every song flows smoothly into the next, often sandwiched by old movie clips, adding to the movie mobster aesthetic of the album.
And as if this distinct world of the album weren’t enough, Alfredo was released at the same time as an original comic book written by Freddie Gibbs and illustrated by Marvel artist Deadly Mike. The comic book hammers home the duo’s clear artistic vision, an underrated skill in modern hip hop, one largely responsible for the project’s impressive thematic and sonic cohesion.
As great as Alfredo is, it doesn’t exactly tread new ground. But truthfully it doesn’t have to; Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist define themselves by their consistency. While each have their highlights and lowlights, they manage to deliver one rock-solid project after another, so it’s no wonder every song on Alfredo is airtight. Needless to say, this album is as good as it should be, damn good.
Listen to Alfredo on Spotify.