Shadow of a Doubt

Freddie Gibbs
‘s rap career has been, to put it lightly, chaotic. In 2007 Interscope inked a deal with the MC from Gary, Indiana, who packed up and moved to LA only to be dropped by the label in October, about six months after he was signed. Gibbs stayed in LA and focused on work, strengthening his remarkable rapping technique, which draws from multiple regional gangsta-rap scenes.

In 2009 he dropped two mixtapes, The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs and Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik, that thrust him into the critical spotlight. The following year Gibbs made his first appearance on Billboard‘s charts (two of them, to be exact) with his Str8 Killa EP, which shares material with his Str8 Killa No Filla mixtape and came out on Decon. Gibbs went on to ink a deal with Jeezy’s CTE in 2011, only to leave the label by the end of 2012. He’d go on to launch his own label, ESGN, through which he eventually released his studio debut, 2013’s ESGN. And he made yet another appearance in the last year with Pinata, a full-length collaboration with heavyweight producer Madlib that garnered plenty of acclaim and a pretty position in the upper-quarter of the Billboard 200.

Throughout it all Gibbs has remained focused on making whatever music pleases him, regardless of whether or not it’s in fashion. That much has stayed the same throughout the many left turns his career has taken, which Miles Raymer thoughtfully chronicled in two Reader features on the MC. And now Gibbs’s path has brought him to a new solo full-length, Shadow of a Doubt, on which he augments his fiery gangsta raps with a whole lot more singing than on any of his previous releases.

Gibbs’s shift into crooning feels natural given his well-established skills. He’s not only adept at rapping in double-time, infusing each syllable with a concrete force as it flies past, but he also can fill his lines with plenty of melody and swing so they hit harder and resonate longer. What I love about one of the early cuts on Shadow of a Doubt called “Careless,” which is today’s 12 O’Clock Track, is that Gibbs lets his syllables slosh together more than usual when he hits the hook. He gives just enough dimension to the phrase “got a lot,” but the more he repeats it the more words bleed together. With “Careless” Gibbs displays more of the versatility that’s made him a force on the microphone as well as the ingenuity that will keep people listening beyond Shadow of a Doubt.