Gibbs and expectations

If you know me, you know I'm down with Freddie Gibbs. This past Saturday he put on one of Memorial Union Terrace's most memorable shows, if only because he so defiantly paraded the very things the 5 Elements of Hip Hop diversity festival and MU Terrace were set out to destroy—drugs, sex, "f@#$ the police" chants.

It was kind of liberating in some ways, but one thing at the show that did bother me was his very vocal homophobia. He repeatedly mentioned the strict enforcement on "No gay shit in the Freddie Gibbs show," among other "no homo" taunts.

We've taken to crowning him the next gangster-rap icon, the most likely to write the next "Changes," or whatever 2Pac mantle you want someone to take—and many of Gibbs' insights into the streets makes him seem worthy of this title. He has the chops to attract ears and the wisdom to open eyes. We want people to listen to Gibbs because—when it comes to poverty, gang activity, what have you—he has some genuinely productive things to say. But what happens when we appoint someone as a spokesperson and they don't say what we want them to? You can't hate a tiger for wanting to fight, and I suppose nor can you hate a hood rapper for having some less-than-ideal values.

I suppose it's partially our own fault. We excuse his criminal activity because we can sympathize, and maybe some of us feel semi responsible. He steals money because The System has put him at a greater disadvantage and he needs to get his income some way or another. He smokes weed because it provides him the catharsis from his oppressive lifestyle that we've reinforced in such a closed capitalist system. He fornicates with copious ladies because, well, he's Freddie Gibbs and there's nobody who's going to tell him no. But he doesn't approve of gay people? We had no hand in that.

After writing through that, though, I guess there's still a further paradox that even that thought process yields the hypocrisy of deciding when a subject is black-and-white and when it's got a lot of gray matter. Either way, we're trying to project our own values onto someone who we're asking to shoulder more responsibility than ourselves. Maybe he isn't as enlightened as we set him up to be, and maybe that's enough to turn some people off.

And from where I'm sitting, this is just one of two fronts he's yet to prove himself on—Gibbs lacks a truly signature style other than amorphous. He can spit any flow and fit any beat. He's the five-tool emcee who can do anything and everything, but what happens more often than not is he flexes too much without lifting any weight, if you follow the metaphor. He can change his flow, he can wrap it any which way, but he eludes any identifiable trait other than the trait of elasticity. He doesn't belong to any established geographic field of rap, which makes it even harder. In all likelihood, he needs to recreate midwestern backpack rap (is that even what you call College Dropout?) to fit his modes.

That said, Gibbs' amorphousness has a ways to go before reaching ambiguity, and he still sounds fresh as ever over this new slow, southern joint:

Final verdict: I don't care if he's our spokesperson or not—he just needs to make up his mind and keep rapping.

Camera pop

Matt & Kim need to coordinate this stuff better. Their previous record, Grand, came out in January; they got naked in the winter; and now they drop this decidedly summer romp just when everyone's gearing up for autumn (link to The Fader's stream). But it's, like, whatever.

The brass-infused hook is pretty hot, and this is easily the most involved Matt & Kim beat we've heard yet. I tend to lose interest in the lazy chorus (since when do Matt & Kim let things swell up like that and abandon so much latent energy?), but I can appreciate the sentiment. Life is short, don't get stuck in the moment so long that it becomes the past—inspirational, right? That's how I know they don't blame me for turning it off in favor of this new No Age leak all the time.

After last year's Losing Feeling EP, we got a sense the two-some might abandon their signature ethereal noise-punk for a more deliberate, pop-minded approach—but this new record is a lot more even-handed than Losing Feeling. They take their hand at capturing the same atmospheric nut-flexing without all the esoteric prodding; and they end up with a whole bunch of sweet pop songs in spite of it all. Of course, sweet pop songs don't always translate too well, and Everything In Between tends to lose traction. At times it almost sounds cute, and it's almost like a regression to '90s pop-punk predecessors. It's got the crunch we need from No Age, but not the stadiums of piercing hooks that Nouns delivered in bushels.

Their dilemma seems contagious, though. Nobunny's new joint, First Blood, is a strong statement and stark transition from the gutter-pop leather on Love Visions. It's more rockabilly, maybe, and invokes more twangy punk a la Spider Bags than the direct Ramones allusions he'd done earlier. It's a more open palette, and in the long run it may be for the best. But right now it just doesn't sound like as much fun—and that's all Nobunny is supposed to be about.