While many contemporary rappers seem more interested in branding and endorsements than actual songwriting, Indiana veteran Freddie Gibbs has been busy raising the hip-hop bar with taut, determined rhymes and crisp storytelling. He follows last year’s creative breakthrough with Madlib, “Pinata,” with this strikingly dark and insistent mixtape. Gibbs has emerged as an MC’s MC, with an astute sense of the architecture of a verse and love for the sound and shape of language. Every song here features cascades of syllables, careful integration of repetition, and narrative momentum. His obvious stylistic debt to Tupac (intricate, clipped flow, shift to upper register vocal) is most notable on the plaintive “Careless” and melodic “McDuck.” A stable of diverse producers, including Boi-1da and Murda Beatz, delivers both accessible and ominous beats; the rattling bass and recurring piano on “Packages” is sinister enough to disturb dreams. Gibbs and Black Thought burn white hot — a flash of the titans — on the tour de force “Extradite,” the highlight on one of this year’s finer hip-hop releases.
ESSENTIAL “Extradite”Ken Capobianco can be reached at email@example.com.