Fetti. Bandana. Alfredo. The only rappers in the past 20 years with equal three-album runs are Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, and Pusha T (if you wanted me to say Drake, close the page now). Freddie Gibbs is in elite company.
The Gary, Indiana native has risen from promising Gangsta rapper and Jeezy signee to a force to be reckoned with at the top of the rap game — a position the Snowman himself never reached at his peak.
Freddie Kane has ascended to hip-hop’s throne through a mix of his chameleon-like flow that adapts to any beat you throw under it, a discerning ear for said beats, and an extremely talented cohort of collaborators and features. What other rapper can make three albums with Madlib and The Alchemist in less than two years?
You could say that his connections to these uber-talented producers are a crutch — but the beats they supply aren’t your run-of-the-mill, 4/4 time, commercially appealing dittys. Quas and Alc aren’t exactly Mustard or JetsonMade. We’re talking complex beat switches, awkward time signatures, and at times clashing sounds. Yet Gibbs floats seemingly effortlessly over them, painting vivid pictures of drug deals, armed robberies, and fornicating his pastor’s daughter along the way.
Gibbs’ flow is without a doubt his strength, and anyone who’s seen him live can attest to his impeccable breath control and annunciative abilities. But he’s not one to hog the mic. In addition to working with some of the best producers in rap, his feature list is elite, working with talents like Curren$y, Anderson .Paak, Black Thought, Yasiin Bey, Conway the Machine, Benny the Butcher, and Pusha T in his last three albums alone. If game recognize game, Gibbs certainly has the respect of his peers.
But despite all of this, he doesn’t seem to get the same respect from the “industry.” While some of his projects have charted, they’re usually around the middle of the pack (save for Alfredo, which debuted at No. 4 this week). You could say he’s something like the anti-J. Cole — he won’t go platinum, and he won’t do it without features.
He’s also somehow absent of any Grammy nominees. Piñata, his debut collaborative album with Madlib, would've been eligible at the 2015 awards, which had a particularly weak rap category. The Marshall Mathers LP 2 somehow garnered a win over pristine works of art like Iggy Azalea’s The New Classic and Childish Gambino’s Because the Internet. This year’s Grammys were a bit of a different story — Tyler, The Creator deserved to win for Igor, but for Bandana to not even be nominated was criminal.
But if time has proven anything, it’s that the Grammys are illegitimate and worthless. Never forget Macklemore won for whatever album he came out with in 2011 over Kendrick’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City.
It’s become cliche to say, but at this point Freddie is most likely your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. Against all odds and through plenty of adversity, he’s broken through into the mainstream at the helm of a burgeoning Gangsta rap scene alongside Pusha T and Griselda Records. Kane season is in full swing.