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Album review: Freddie Gibbs, "Str8 Killa"

freddie gibbsFreddie Gibbs lives up to the hype.

By Allison Stewart

Rust Belt MC Freddie Gibbs is a rapper's rapper - a deathly serious street-hop sage with little interest in freestyling or hanging out with Weezy. He comes with an impressive pedigree that includes years spent hustling and scraping on the streets of Gary, Ind., even robbing trains (freight trains, not the Amtrak kind), and a major label deal that went south.

Thanks to two stellar mix-tape releases, Gibbs has become an underground sensation beloved by hip-hop fans and indie rockers alike. Even more impressive, he's done so during a time when gangsta rap has mostly fallen out of favor.

Gibbs has yet to deliver an official full-length disc, but after years of false starts he's finally delivered a knockout one-two punch, releasing a 21-track, mind-bogglingly good mix tape, "Str8 Killa No Filla," and an official debut EP, "Str8 Killa," containing most of the mix tape's best tracks.

In any form, "Killa" justifies the hype. Gibbs is an agile rapper, fluent in double-time, rapid-fire wordplay, and a not-half-bad singer besides.

His longing for the days of early '90s hip-hop is palpable throughout, especially on "Rock Bottom," a wrenching, New Depression-era collaboration with Bun B. At his worst, which still isn't that bad, Gibbs seems less interested in being the savior of 2010 hip-hop than in being the second coming of 2Pac, a comparison that "Killa" encourages stylistically and narratively.

Even the tracks that feel tossed off (like the clackety "Oil Money," an EP-only track featuring Dan Auerbach) are memorable, often great, meaning Gibbs is the rare underground/blog sensation who lives up to his advance billing, and "No Filla" the rare mix tape that almost lives up to its title.

Recommended tracks: "Oil Money," "Rock Bottom," "The Ghetto"

By Allison Stewart  |  August 3, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  Quick spins  | Tags: Freddie Gibbs  
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