Freddie Gibbs performed to a sold out crowd at Toronto’s Velvet Underground
About a quarter way through Freddie Gibbs’ set Monday night at Velvet Underground, the between song banter stopped—aside from the few calls for the crowd to say “fuck the police,” and “fuck you Ralph” (Gibbs was quick to point out that his tour DJ’s, DJ Cali, real name is Ralph )—and the lights went down per the act’s request. This left Gibbs illuminated by nothing but people’s cell phone lights and the dim overhead lamps that line the side of Velvet Underground. He then proceeded to rap his ass off through hits from his new record Freddie like standouts “Weight,” the 03 Greedo (free Greedo) accompanied “Deathrow,” and “Automatic,” as well as earlier bangers like “20 Karat Jesus,” from 2017’s You Only Live 2wice and “Fucking Up The Count” from 2015’s Shadow of a Doubt. In fact, with the lights lowered, Gibbs appeared in person as he appears on the cover of Shadow of a Doubt. It made for an ominous scene—heavy beats and rapid-fire raps coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.
Gibbs has had himself a year. He dropped the aforementioned Freddie in the summer, and on Halloween dropped Fetti, a collaboration with New Orleans rapper Curren$y and The Alchemist. Both are classics and distinct from one another, sharing only one quality: Gibb’s menacing and gruff baritone voice. The production duties on Freddie fell to another man having himself a hell of a year, Kenny Beats, while Alchemist held down Fetti: proving that Gibbs is just as comfortable rapping over huge, lush trap beats as he is over dusty, ’70s soul samples. There is something to be said for a rapper who is able to flow over any beat without losing the sound that makes them so unique. Gibbs is such a rapper.
Baton Rouge’s Caleb Brown opened up the night with his sinister sound, playing many of the songs off his latest EP: BROWN. The beats made by Atlanta mainstay Sonny Digital. Brown was followed by Brampton’s own Derin Falana, who is hoping to put Brampton on the map and to end the snobbery with which Torontonians often look upon his hometown. The crowd seemed receptive and even cheered as Falana played a new track, one he’d never performed before, back to back.
At times it seemed as if Ralph, sorry I mean DJ Cali, was unable to keep up with Gibbs’ breakneck speed. Rushing him from hit to hit, be it “BFK” from Baby Face Killa or “Harold’s” from the Madlib collab Pinata, Gibbs often began the song before Cali had even dropped the beat occasionally choosing to rap the first verse a cappella before letting the beat rock the crowd. A true master, he had the crowd in the palm of his hand as he attempted to play as many of his hits as he could.