Nearly two years in the making, the Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs collaborative album which fans have been waiting on could not have come at a better time. Curren$y, never one to slack on musical output – an ironic contrast to the stoner persona evoked in his music – has a discography now pushing well over 50 projects, easily making him one of the most prolific rappers of his era. Though his artistic identity has never been one of experimentation, his consistency in delivering cool, low-rider weed raps has solidified him as a bit of a cult hero in 2010s hip-hop. To Curren$y fans, there’s never a bad time for a new album from Spitta.
On the other hand, Freddie Gibbs has been putting his best foot forward to resurge his career after he had to place music on hold in 2016 during an extended stay in Austrian jail for an alleged sexual assault (charges were later dropped). Prior to his absence, Gibbs was coming off his two best releases to date: the highly heralded, Madlib-produced Piñata (2014) and 2015’s outstanding Shadow of A Doubt. Now back on his independent hustle, Gibbs’ creative vision seems more in tact than ever, releasing his latest record Freddie earlier this year to warm critical reception.
So here we are with two of the more dependable MCs in modern rap teaming up to tag team a new record. To soundtrack the project, Gibbs and Curren$y recruited none other than The Alchemist, whose track record in producing grimy, West Coast-mafioso beats is about as steady as Alabama football. Individually, each of these guys have immense artistic potential and as a trio, they fall nothing short of delivering one of the best gangsta rap albums of the year.
Fetti is a classy exercise of rap showmanship and street knowledge. “About to take a trip, I got coke and dope on my grocery list,” Gibbs raps on “The Blow.” : The references which he and Curren$y embellish each track in are hyperbolic and overstated, but their rapping skill and Alchemist’s gauzy mobster instrumentals are consistently sharp and extremely well-performed. There will always be a place in hip-hop for artistic displays of pimp talk and boss bars and Gibbs and Curren$y make you feel as if drowning in foreign women, fast cars, and drug kingpin connects is truly the way to live a lavish life.
They take their time and rhyme in style; “New Thangs” embodies the jet-setter state of mind over a breezy guitar sample fit for Cadillac rides in Venice Beach during the summer. “Saturday Night Special” is a late-night cruisin’ anthem that shifts the mood from sunshine strolls down the block to after-dark hits on enemy territory. Even when the narratives are loose, every song fits the saga of a mobster movie plot. “Now & Later Gators,” a strange interlude that features awful retro-soul singing from Gibbs, plays like the apex of a delusional, misty-eyed cocaine binge.
Both Curren$y and Gibbs sound at the top of their game for the majority of the record. With his slick New Orleans drawl, Curren$y’s delivery has always been his most trademark quality, but he clearly elevated his wordplay to stay on par with Gibbs’ technically sound street confessionals. “White ‘n’ yellow Air Max as I step out my Lac, plus I smell like a pack, little cologne mixed with that,” he brags on “New Thangs.”
Simultaneously, Gibbs brings abundant energy and diverse flows to each of his verses, seemingly able to fit infinite syllables into compact lines. He busts out his best Big L impression, whom he always does justice to, on “Tapatio” – “it was stomach aches, heartbreaks, warrants off the missed court dates, eviction notice ‘bout to call the county, said the rent about a million months late.” Gibbs’ last few records have been heavily reliant on murky trap production, so it’s a welcome change of pace to hear his dynamic rapping cleanly laid out over spacious beats. His punchlines are both incredibly hilarious and compelling. How many rappers can pull off big-boss analogies to Le’Veon Bell and Novak Djokavic within the same record?
As impressive as the rapping is on Fetti, The Alchemist deserves equal praise for coming through with a set of beautiful, mean-mugged instrumentals. This is not his weirdest batch of beats, nor is it his grimiest, but it is solid from top to bottom and reflects his continued greatness over twenty years into his career. Whether it’s the eerie keyboard arpeggios on “Willie Lloyd” or the glossy comatose of “Buddy & Sincere,” his soundscapes are the perfect smokey aura to accompany Spitta and Gangsta Gibbs’ tales of crime.
When three artists of this caliber come together, projects can often times become more of an event than a collaboration, but Fetti proves to be a satisfying joint effort on all fronts. It’s short run-time enables each member to go all out and come through with numerous top notch performances. This is high quality gangsta rap, a well-done excerpt of hip-hop unlikely to stand out when we look back on music in 2018, but certain to make a worthwhile impression on its intended audience in this immediate moment.