The third track on Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist’s Alfredo falls flat in the face of a self-centered verse by Rick Ross.
It’s been a week since the first protests filled Minnesotan streets objecting to the George Floyd’s death while in police custody. Over the span of seven days, the United States has seen some thirty cities vaulted into national news headlines out of solidarity against police brutality and institutionalized racism.
Amid the riots, looting, and willful ignorance on the part of National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien arrived rapper Freddie Gibbs and producer The Alchemist’s collaborative album, Alfredo. A 10-track tape, Alfredo plays its most poignant cut on “Scottie Beam”, a graceful anthem that sees Gibbs interweave his personal narrative while denouncing racial profiling by law enforcement.
“The revolution is the genocide/ your execution will be televised,” Gibbs raps in the first verse, an unfortunate and timely claim in the face of the nation’s outcry. 50 years after Gil Scott-Heron made a call to action on “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Gibbs is narrating the bleak future Scott-Heron couldn’t foresee. Assault’s are being broadcasted on Instagram next to live streams of rappers, like Lil Wayne and Fat Joe, debating whether protesters should reframe the hysteria.
“I think when we see these situations, I think we also have to understand that we have to get very specific. … And what I mean by that is we have to stop viewing it with such a broad view, meaning we have to stop placing the blame on the whole force and the whole everybody or a certain race or everybody with a badge,” said Lil Wayne during an IG live stream with Fat Joe.
His rhetoric is alarming and divisive. Wayne, who has a history of legal run-ins, most recently in 2010 when he received a year-long prison sentence on a weapons possessions charge, effectively denounces the protests, calling on demonstrators to “actually get into who that person [on the police force] is.”
Plenty of black actors have called for a peaceful approach to protesting. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms pleaded with protesters not to destroy their own city, while Congresswoman Joyce Betty was pepper sprayed by police during her visit to appeal to activists in Columbus, Ohio. Unlike these acts, Wayne’s words reek of the disaffection that happens when personal success outweighs the plight of a people (see Kanye West’s MAGA Hat for another example).
Wayne’s words give cause for pause, but so does the second verse on “Scottie Beam.” Delivered by rapper Rick Ross, the Miami artist takes a hard left from Gibbs’ insight, favoring bars filled with self-centered lyrics that are a world away from Minneapolis.
What’s shocking isn’t that Ross’ verse is so misaligned with Gibbs, (at one point he raps, “Bitches lookin’ at me, shawty wanna see my soul/
All my jewelry on, she only see my gold”). Rather, it’s that despite his “Scottie Beam” bars Ross is fully capable of delivering a gripping an demonstrative verse that identifies with the struggles of being black in America.
On “Foreclosures”, the intro track to Ross’ 2015 mixtape Black Dollar, Ross spits some of his most perceptive bars to date, penning the song as a tale of caution to people infatuated with the monetary fruits of success. “Learn to walk a tightrope/Ever seen a rich nigga go broke?/They putting liens on a nigga’s things/Publicize your demise, and by all means,” Ross raps to introduce the song.
Here, Ross recognizes the fleeting nature of success, amplified by skin color. The song stands in contrast to the bulk of Ross’ discography, through which he creates his indefatigable “Boss” persona.
“Scottie Beam,” then, falls flat, with Gibbs’ consciousness sticking out against Ross’ self-centeredness. It parallels the protests. Some folks are marching for justice. Others are marching for views.