Back in 2011, Fredward Gibbs was sitting pretty as a blogger favorite in our chosen genre, as his mixtape game had taken off and his career was (finally) taking off after a false start at Interscope. Not one to rest on his laurels, however, he did what any artist should do: he attempted to expand his horizons. To that end, he made a temporary side trip to New York to work with producer-slash-deejay Statik Selektah, a dude who is very vocal about trying to extend the shelf life of boom bap for the younger generation.
The end result is Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away, a collaborative EP that was banged out in the course of a single day (and whose recording sessions were broadcast live over Ustream). Just like the similar-in-theory Saigon / Statik album All In A Day's Work, Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away is basically a quickie, released to the masses with minimal edits, but still maintaining a polished sound regardless. Unlike Saigon's effort, though, Fredward made this project an EP release, featuring only seven songs (well, six and an intro), and he fills the roster with numerous guest appearances to pad the running time.
Although this project was in no way what any of you two actually wanted to read about, Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away is still notable today for being a prime example of what happens when an artist steps outside of his comfort zone, putting his trust in a single producer who, hopefully, doesn't fuck things up. Hip hop heads who like Gibbs and his crime tales, but have always wanted to hear him rock over East Coast-ish instrumentals, need look no further. Hip hop heads who prefer their Freddie Gibbs the way that he is can look to his millions of other projects.
Me, I just like the fact that he's willing to experiment a bit with his sound.
1. INTRO (FEAT. SLAINE)
2. LORD GIVETH, LORD TAKETH AWAY
I can appreciate how Fredward and Statik tried to make this title track sound like an actual song, as it follows the standard verse / chorus / verse structure, but the hook isn't remotely necessary, as I would have dug this anyway. The beat is engaging as fuck, as Statik has his drum machine set to “catchy”, and Gibbs backs up all of the blogger talk by turning in two stellar verses overflowing with imagery and confidence. His flow seems to be much quicker than I remember him being on Str8 Killa, but that could just be due to the beat, although artists are allowed to grow and evolve, you know. This was a fantastic way to start things off.
3. RAP MONEY (FEAT. DAZ DILLINGER)
Unfortunately, the title track is follows by this misfire. Statik's instrumental isn't exactly bad, but it doesn't hit as hard as it should: it came across as a weak imitation of what he thinks G-Funk sounds like. To that end, he even throws Tha Dogg Pound's Daz Dillinger on here, who bogs the whole shit down with his verse, an over-explanation of how he rose to his place within our chosen genre, as he runs through how he contributed to the biggest releases that Death Row Records ever offered, as though anyone who actually gives a shit about Daz wouldn't have already known about them. However, Gibbs himself sounded pretty decent. If only this track featured a more game guest star. Someone like, oh, let's just say Kurupt?
4. AFFILIATED (FEAT. REKS & PUSH! MONTANA)
The beat adopts the tone of a dramatic posse cut: a bit too serious for its own good, but easily looped into something a multitude of artists could contribute a throwaway verse to. Our host and guest star Reks (another blogger favorite who has yet to appear on HHID – you readers should really get on that) both acquit themselves nicely, especially Gibbs and his overly-calm crime tales, spoken like an armchair quarterback who knows his shit because he's been a part of the action, probably. The only weak spot on “affiliated” comes from the awkwardly-named PUSH! Montana (really? You think he's jealous of Frenchie at this point?), whose simple Freeway-esque flow sends the entire song down a shame spiral from which it can never recover. Also, his rap name is fucking awful.
5. WILD STYLE (FEAT. TERMANOLOGY & FRED DA GODSON)
Statik builds a melody around what sounds like drums lifted from Mobb Deep's “Shook Ones Part II”, but “Wild Style” is no way as dark as that Infamous classic: instead, Term, Fred, and our host all seem to be enjoying themselves and appear amused at their own shit-talking. Da Godson's performance doesn't measure up to either one of his collaborators, a fact that should be funny because he uses his very first bar to proclaim his greatness and it would make for an easy attack for lazy bloggers, but honestly, he sounded so bland that I just kind of tuned out. Gibbs and Term fare much better, especially our host, whose flow nails the missing link between the late Tupac Shakur and the entire South, which is no small feat.
6. ALREADY (FEAT. TRAE THA TRUTH)
Gary, Indiana makes its connecting flight to Houston, Texas, resulting in “Already”, a smoother-than-expected Statik Selektah production that inadvertently defines how far Freddie Gibbs has come while also showcasing just how far guest star Trae the Truth has to still go. Both verses, one from each participant, sound serviceable, but Gibbs manages to be more universal (his commentary against Capitol Hill helps in this regard), while Trae's verse seems to have been performed by the internal voice that he hears in his own head. Overall, this wasn't bad, but it could have been much better.
7. KEEP IT WARM FOR YA (FEAT. SMOKE DZA & CHACE INFINITE)
The final proper song of the evening is the
love sex rap “Keep It
Warm For Ya”, which, due to its poor, rushed design (I'm guessing),
sounds like three separate songs smashed together that all happen to
share the same beat (a faux-soulful creation). Gibbs starts rhyming
almost immediately, taking a break from drugs and crime to bone, but
once he's done, there's a long-ass break before Smoke DZA picks up
the microphone. Same thing happens before Chace Infinite (of Self Scientific) starts rhyming. Add to
this the fact that nobody acknowledges any of the other players, and
one is left with a disjointed way to end the project. Groan.
The following two bonus tracks were made available when you purchased Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away directly from Statik Selektah's Showoff Records website. The offer no longer stands, but it's not as though the following songs are impossible to find or anything.
8. FALLIN' (FEAT. 1982)
Promotes both our host and 1982, a duo made up of Statik and Termanology, over a pretty good beat built around Nas vocal samples (taken from “It Ain't Hard To Tell”). Fredward and Term both get one verse apiece to get their respective points across, and neither man disappoints: although the track does evaporate from your consciousness very quickly upon completion, it is at least entertaining while it still exists in this dojo.
9. CRUSHIN' FEELINGS
The other bonus track is labeled as a freestyle on some websites, merely because Gibbs rhymes for about two and a half minutes straight, without a bullshit hook to help the audience breathe. Statik's instrumental is simple and doesn't intrude, allowing our host to go off with a seamless, seemingly stream-of-consciousness performance that exemplifies his shit-talking at its finest. Fans of straight spitting will gravitate toward this track, as well they should. And with that, we're done.
THE LAST WORD: Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away ultimately ends up a decent project overall, with Gibbs impressing the most with his bars and delivery, both traits of his that might have been overshadowed on his other myriad albums and mixtapes. Statik Selektah's beats fit him just as well as any of the others he's been graciously offered. My main gripe with Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away is that it shuffles the spotlight far too often for an EP release: with only six real songs to showcase our host on, I'm not sure why either man thought it would be a good idea to throw a shit-ton of guest stars on here. But if you're a fan of lyrics, and you're a fan of Fredward, I don't know why you haven't bought this already. Yeah, I realize this paragraph is short, and it just took you longer to read this post than it does for the EP to play in full, so it's best that I stop while I'm ahead.