I interviewed Freddie Gibbs for SB.TV recently and my, what a character he is. I struggled to hold back laughter as his uncensored approach to interviews tends to leave your eyebrows raised. I originally had no intention to bring up Jae Millz, but when I did, Freddie’s response included casual insults mixed with the occasional “Fuck Jae Millz.” Gibbs genuinely does not give a fuck about how you view him, which is beautiful in a world of media trained artists.
The information he gave in the interview was so interesting and varied, I struggled to cut it down, so here is an extended interview with Gibbs. Head to the SB.TV blog to read an entirely different, slightly more scandalous interview in which Freddie talks about the break down of his Interscope deal and his super group with Bun B, Chuck Inglish and Chip Tha Ripper…
LM. Can we expect your album with Alchemist, The Devil’s Palace in 2011?
FG. I hope so; we just did some new stuff. I’m working on three different projects, the mixtape, Cold Day In Hell will probably be the first to drop, then the album, Baby Faced Killa, which is kind of like a two-parter. I’m putting on gangsta rap and Midwestern rap as a whole so I’m just gonna keep on. I’ve got momentum right now; I don’t think anyone else is doing what I’m doing musically.
LM. Why do you think Midwestern rap is dominating the up and coming scene?
FG. I think it’s untapped; we haven’t solidified ourselves in the game like the West coast and the East coast or South have. You’ve got guys that came from the Midwest and did their thing like Kanye or Eminem, but we’ve got to have more artists in the game and put it on for the region.
LM. Can we expect production from Ski Beatz on the album?
FG. That’s a slam-dunk. I did a track with Ski Beatz a couple months ago, hopefully it’s gonna be on A Cold Day In Hell. He’s definitely one of the pioneers I respect in this game, someone I’ve always wanted to work with.
FG. That’s also a slam-dunk. I need to catch up with him and get him for the project. These guys are just a phone call away.
LM. Statik Selektah? Serve Or Get Served should have been five times longer.
FG. We gon’ do Serve or Get Served part 2 for A Cold Day In Hell, that’s gon’ be a monster. Static Selektah is like my brother now. I always respect his work and I love what he does as a DJ and a producer. He’s one of my closest homies in the game now so every project I do, you’re gonna see Statik Selektah involved.
LM. Could we ever expect a collaboration album with Bun B?
FG. That would be great, Bun’s an icon in this game. We’re supposed to be doing a group record, but if Bun down with it, I’m down with it. He’s one of my homeboys in the game as well. I respect his opinion on everything. I make records and ask Bun, is this aight? We got a brand new song about to come out that’s dope as fuck.
LM. You tweeted about the contrasts in Hip Hop with Kool Herc and Rick Ross as examples.
FG. There were some cornball motherfuckers saying, ‘Do you think Diddy and Rick Ross owe Kool Herc?’ I’m not saying that they owe Herc, I was drawing a diagram about the economics of Hip Hop. You got pioneers that 30 years later have health problems, meanwhile you got guys that can blow a million dollars at a strip club. I’m not saying that he’s wrong for spending his money, that’s his money. I just think it’s sad that one of the pioneers of the game we’re all getting money off gotta struggle to pay his doctor’s bills when there’s so much money in hip hop.
LM. You were the first rapper on the cover of LA Weekly since N.W.A, was that a proud moment?
FG. Yeah, I made a lot of LA rappers mad about that. It was a total honour because I definitely didn’t think that was gonna happen. Shout out to Jeff Weiss and LA Weekly for them to recognise what I was doing and herald it like that. It was such a blessing and to be up there and be spoken in the same breath as Tupac and N.W.A is crazy. I’m gonna get a plaque of my cover and their cover and put them in my crib just to show people that I’m making my way through this game. If I never get to the big level in this mainstream shit I can say I’ve personally accomplished some shit.
LM. What do you consider success?
FG. With me it ain’t the fame, it’s really the money. When I can get to a point when I can do what I want to do and my family is secure for life then I can be at that success point. I don’t rap to be in the in-crowd of rap, I don’t give a fuck if Diddy come to my house or if he invites me to his white party. I make music to enlighten people and I do it cus its fun and I don’t wanna do a 9 to 5 job. Success to me is having the people around me happy, and right now they happy. A lot of my friends have gone places that we never would have gone chilling on our block in Gary. This rap shit has opened up doors for me and shown me things that I never would have seen so I’m grateful to be in the position that I’m in and to know that I can do better than what I’m doing drives me every day.
LM. Do you feel it’s important to promote intelligence?
FG. I make some ignorant ass music too but I gotta set an example for young black kids out there. Just because you see a n**** doing gangsta rap, doesn’t mean I can’t be articulate and be intelligent. In order to survive we gotta educate ourselves on certain things. Whether you’re getting it out of a schoolbook or learning it on your own in the streets, you gotta be articulate in this world to move on. If young black boys that like gangsta rap can look at me and see that I’m not just another ignorant individual off the block then they can strive to be something more than what they’re seeing everyday.
LM. Do you think your role has been empty since rappers like Tupac?
FG. I keep hearing the Tupac comparisons and I love it. I definitely didn’t set out to be a Tupac clone, that’s not what I do but I am a product of what Tupac did and the foundation he lay for music and street n****s. He set a precedent and guys like Scarface, Bun B and Pimp C. They laid the groundwork so I’m trying to continue the street music that people love.
LM. What influenced your tattoo?
FG. Huey P. Newton was a special individual to me. When I was little, my father would tell me stories about him and his organisation. He was a symbol of black liberation and what better way to honor him? I get a lot of flack though, I’m tired of people coming to me saying ‘he died because he was on drugs’. He changed the lives of so many people; I don’t think that you can hold too much against him. I always honour guys like him, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Without them I wouldn’t be able to use the same bathroom as a white person so I’m totally indebted to them for the things they did for black people in this country, even though we’re still behind.
LM. Are you eager to build awareness about the history of black civil rights?
FG. I’m conscious of my race and heritage and I think that’s something we lost as black people. We were cut off from all of our religion and languages, so being aware of our history is key. You got all kinds of settlers in America that know their whole background and a lot of black people in this country lost that. It got stripped from us during that middle passage so I try to connect with it as much as I can. Not every school teaches black history so if I throw two cents into my music, that might inspire someone to go and read a book about a black person of interest or get into their genealogy to try to find out where they come from in Africa.
LM. Your hometown is a great inspiration to you. What’s it like for those unfamiliar with it?
FG. Gary’s fucked up, that’s the only way to describe it. There’s a horrible political and economic system, no jobs, a lack of businesses. They’re trying to fix up education, which is working out, but for the most part it needs some life pumping into it with more jobs in the city. It’s predominantly black and I think we need to take control of our finances in the black community. We need to be buying from the black butcher, baker and candlestick maker instead of giving our money away to someone that comes to our neighbourhood, gets our money and then goes back to his mansion in the suburbs. We need to support each other and come together as a community financially, that’s the only way Gary’s gonna progress. Or its gonna be gentrification because Gary is a profitable location, it’s minutes from Chicago and right on Lake Michigan.
LM. What was it like growing up there?
FG. Tough but I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up any other place. There’s violence, gang activity and drug activity. You can’t really escape that, you either look the other way when you walk in school or go along with it. If you’re strong enough to look the other way and make it out, then that’s great. But if you fall a victim to those pitfalls, it’s hard to get out. Gary is lacking a lot of opportunities for the youth. It’s like we’re not getting the skills to teach us to make our city better, you either stay and be miserable or try your best to leave.
LM. Was rapping something you’d just do for fun?
FG. That’s what it started out as. We’d be in a dope house smoking weed or bagging up and just rap. Then I was working some bullshit dead-end job and my homeboy was rapping and selling CDs. I was like, ‘Damn, you made your own CD, how you do that?’ After that he took me to my homeboy Finger Roll and I just started rapping up there. Finger Roll’s the most well known producer in our city and he had a whole studio with Pro Tools, recording booth, equipment, everything. Once I got in good with him, he taught me how to construct songs. I was off and running on my own after that.
LM. You’ve said Gary isn’t a good place to make it as a rapper, but does it have a rap scene?
FG. Yeah, you got a lot of street n****s in Gary talking about their experiences. There’s definitely an underground rap scene in Gary and I’m a product of that. I’m not the first rapper from Gary, I saw a lot of guys doing their thing before me and it inspired me. Now I’m blazing a trail for my city.
LM. Gangsta rap is known for its misogynistic lyrics. What do you say to women that are offended?
FG. I just put all women in different groupings. You got women that are hoes and sluts and good women that do their thing. You gotta place them in those groups and that’s what I do in my music. I’m definitely not disrespecting all women. I love women. I need a woman next to me at night so I’m definitely not a woman hater.
Photo by Sylvia Krzysztofek.