RATE STR8 KILLA
I remember in English classes throughout high school we would read books in which the protagonist had a tragic flaw. This was always a major part of their personality, and would always lead to their inevitable downfall. If Freddie Gibbs were ever supplanted into a Greek or Shakespearean tragedy, his tragic flaw would be his stubbornness. He refuses to make anything less than great, raw gangsta rap, and for that reason was dropped from a major recording contract and will probably never reach mainstream popularity. However, it is also why he is a consistently fantastic rapper and Str8 Killa is one of the best hip-hop releases of the year.
From start to finish the EP is best described as furious. The first line Gibbs raps literally begins with “5 shots to the face,” and that’s what it feels like. Every beat gets straight to the point, pounding bass and harsh snare lines characterize most of them, and Gibbs stay in control throughout all of it. He has a way with words and rhythm that makes him sound both supremely in control of his flow, while at the same time expressing a level of confidence and anger reminiscent of 2Pac. It helps that he was blessed with a deep, raspy voice that helps him literally power his way through tracks.
Standout track “National Anthem," is a prime example of my favorite kind of hip-hop beat. It builds itself, constantly adding another element to the song until you have a built up track of complex parts that make sense together. Clearly Gibbs has the same preference, as he uses his flow to accentuate the changes, literally switching up rhythms and rhyme schemes every time the beat shifts with such precision it has to be unconscious. It’s also classic Gibbs, undoubtedly one of the best songs in his catalog. It does not stray from his general themes of ambition, hustling and the darker side of life in his hometown of Gary, Indiana. He doesn’t rap about anything new to hip-hop, Gibbs could never be called innovative. Instead, he is a refreshing return to basics, from someone who has clearly mastered the fundamentals.
At only eight tracks long, Str8 Killa is clearly only meant as a taste of Gibbs, an entry point for those not in the know. And with that purpose, it works extremely well. Anyone listening get an immediate impression of what Freddie Gibbs sounds like, although it end up being less fleshed-out than his acclaimed mixtapes The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs and Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik. He makes unapologetic and undeniable gangsta rap. He can’t teach you how to Dougie, but he can teach you about that thuggin’ (his words not mine).
77 — [Rating Scale]