It is on rare occasions that an artist is truly worthy of the hype surrounding them. In hip hop, there is a lot of hype surrounding artists especially if you are affiliated with big name rappers. With that said, Freddie Gibbs is an anomaly of sorts. An artist who has no huge affiliations (read: Roc-A-Fella, Yung Money) and exceeds any expectations of the hype surrounding him. With a headlining spot at Metro this past Friday, Gibbs' set was a combination of homecoming party, an opportunity to further build upon his heavily mentioned name and a chance to witness one impressive performance.
It would take an hour before Gibbs came on stage but when he did, he delivered an hour-plus set that felt more like a homecoming celebration for the Gary, Indiana native. With no less than 20 people on stage, including a couple of guest rappers (MC G and Mickey Halstead), several hypemen, a couple of cameramen documenting the show, a DJ and a gathering of people standing at the back of the stage, Gibbs led the audience through a selection of material from his mixtapes and the Str8 Killa EP. With each number, the audience would cheer the emcee on as well as sing along to the hooks of such numbers as "National Anthem" and The Whispers sampling "Slangin' Rocks." With each of these numbers, Gibbs fed off of the audience's enthusiasm and injected it into his own energetic performance which was reminiscent of a younger, hungrier DMX in the sense that he moved about the stage controlling not just his activities but continuously getting the crowd hyped for the next number.
Gibbs' set was divided into two sets, The first set was opening set from fellow Gary rapper, MC G. Like, Gibbs, MC G stayed on point with his slow, thick beats. With each rhyme, he sold the audience on himself and on the main attraction heading toward the stage. He, also like Gibbs and a few other rappers, are helping revise the late 80/early 90's West Coast gangsta rap sound but with a unique Midwestern appeal to it. To most, the thought of a thugged out Common would come to mind but its more like if Geto Boys were from the Midwest and grew up in the age of Dr. Dre.
Gibbs, himself, entered the stage comfortably and with confidence. The confidence came through in his delivery as he balanced between a sharp, steady drawl and a rapid fire, quick tongued pattern without missing a beat. His abilities and confidence add to more to his overall sound as he is comfortable as both a entertainer and a storyteller. Also, as a entertainer, the women seemed to enjoy his brief shirtless appearance. One went as far as providing a little compensation by throwing money on the stage to which Gibbs joked about between numbers. Speaking of which, for the ladies reading...
Openers Rita J and Shad fared well in their respective spots. The diminutive, local artist Rita J came out with a DJ and a flautist.The addition of a flautist worked perfectly with her smooth, old school influenced vocals. Despite a somewhat laidback style, the emcee's set was very energetic. She bounced around the stage, working her rhymes on each end to the crowd's applause, stood next to the bigger male guest rappers and held her ground and even threw some Skullcandy freebies into the audience. Her opening was the opposite of the night closing act but proved that hip hop, like all genres, has many sides and faces and each region is capable of producing different, interesting sounds.
Shad, making his second visit since October, improved upon his last performance. This time, the set flowed smoother as there were no malfunctions, just Shad and DJ T-Lo delivering a comfortable and confident set that was similar to his last appearance. Opening with DJ T-Lo performing a mix of various samples including a speech from Dr Martin Luther King Jr. and fellow Canadian rapper k-os' single, "I Wish I Knew Natalie Portman" was a good way to open a set that featured "Rose Garden" and "A Good Name" from Shad's current LP, TSOL. Despite being a charismatic enough to get the crowd to clap out a beat for his closing number, there were still a few people behind choosing to converse during his set instead paying attention to a rising star.
Friday night was one of many shows throughout the city for Tomorrow Never Knows 2011 and showcased three distinctly different rappers with distinctly different backgrounds and skills but none of that matter as overall, people came together to celebrate hip hop. More than that, they filled the Metro to celebrate the Midwestern return of Freddie Gibbs just as Gibbs filled the stage to celebrate his return.With a return and performance like that, one wonders what other cards and tricks Gibbs has yet to reveal.
MC G/FREDDIE GIBBS