After calling out rapper Logic for stealing his album’s thematics Freddie Gibbs returns with his third studio album. Gibbs’ drug-laced raps are back, albeit featuring less of the paranoia seen in 2015’s Shadow of a Doubt. The tonal shift may be influenced by the European rape allegations, of which he was acquitted in September 2016. The Gary, Indiana native has long bared his injured soul to listeners, though the consecrated motifs of You Only Live 2wice somewhat replace the “hustler’s motivation” of his past records.
Spanning just 31 minutes, You Only Live 2wice sees Gibbs don a reflective outlook; on “20 Karat Jesus” he raps about his “ambitions as a rider,” harkening back to Tupac, only to later touch on his mother’s words of caution. Gibbs continues to repent for his sins, the consequences for “living in the moment,” which leads into a gospel inspired beat about halfway through the intro track. Gibbs then juxtaposes the mournful air of the first half with the praying words of family, friends and preachers hoping he can escape his visceral lifestyle. Eventually, the track moves onto Gibbs encountering an urbanized, modernized interpretation of Jesus, who has descended to Gibbs advising him that his past life choices can be changed at a moment’s notice.
Thus the tone is set for YOL2, one that’s presented akin to an inner monologue rather than an outward reflection on days past. This concept is best explored on the hook of “Crushed Glass,” on which Brittney B sings, “Living this life just me, myself and I, and if I gotta be by myself I’ma be alright.” Gibbs manages both scathing and empassioned lyrics without sacrificing his tough-guy persona, as on “Maria,” when Gibbs raps about a love interest that assisted him in his darkest moments, not unlike his dependence on dealing drugs for a modicum of financial stability.
Production is well tailored to Gibbs usual stylings, with spots by Kaytranada and BadBadNotGood, as well as Superville, Pops and Speakerbomb. The elevated beat on the second half of the intro cut fits against Gibbs’ usually powerful vocals, while “Amnesia” features trap inspired snares, hi-hats and a shorter verse structure. “Andrea” stands out as one of Gibbs’ more vocally unique tracks, as he comes as close to singing as he can without straining his normal vocal reaches.
Across a featureless 8 tracks, You Only Live 2wice is largely a cohesive project from Freddie Gibbs, though “Phone Lit” does tip-toe near the line nearing a hook driven earworm as opposed to the brooding mood of the rest of the project. And while the sanctified theme begins to slow around the album’s halfway mark, “Homesick” has Gibbs reconvene to his more contemplative musings, responding to the advice from the intro, reaching a peaceful end, sonically and lyrically.
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