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© 2017 MERRY JANE. All Rights Reserved.

Kaytranada and BadBadNotGood Lace Freddie Gibbs with Pure Heat on “Alexys”

“You Only Live 2wice” releases Friday, and the second single, “Alexys,” indicates we are in for a hell of an album.

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Freddie Gibbs’ career has never followed a predictable path-- his breakout releases had titles referencing Lauryn Hill and Outkast albums, he was once signed to Jeezy’s CTE label, and his last album was his most versatile yet-- but even for him, 2014’s Piñata was quite a left turn. The album was entirely produced by smoked-out legend Madlib, whose eccentric style usually lends itself to collaborations with more underground rappers like MF DOOM, Blu, or Guilty Simpson. But on Piñata, Gibbs showed that he was more than capable of annihilating hazy, jazz-inflected soundscapes, which is also what he’s up against on his latest track, “Alexys.”

The glitchy, chiming beat was co-produced by Montreal wunderkind Kaytranada and adventurous Toronto jazz quartet BadBadNotGood, who worked together on the tracks

Weight Off” and “Lavender” last year, the latter of which just got remixed by Snoop Dogg. Gibbs holds no punches despite the beat’s tranquil sound, flowing with a momentum that doesn’t even let up for the hook.

In contrast with “Crushed Glass,” the first track we heard from Gibbs’ upcoming album, “Alexys” doesn’t address his recent acquittal on sexual abuse charges, instead focusing on his rough beginnings in the streets. Whether it’s robbery (“Fuck it, I’ma bust a fuckin’ jugg, I’m a juggernaut”), dealing (“Feds lookin’ out cuz I peddle paint to these poor folks”), or murder (“Pussy n****s can't play they part, we dearly departed them”) Gibbs depicts past crimes with gritty realism that vividly illustrates without glorifying.

Gibbs has always played the reluctant gangster, and his respect for those who managed to avoid that path has never come across clearer as it does here: “The realest n****s that I know ain’t never sold dope/The hardest n****s that I know ain’t never served time.” As Gibbs gets older, his music has become less of a documentary-style exploration of hustling and more of a cautionary tale about it.

You Only Live 2wice, his fourth album, will release this Friday, March 31st. It’s only got eight tracks, but if they’re all as strong as “Crushed Glass” and “Alexys,” we’re going to be listening to quite the potent product.