Freddie Gibbs Interview
|Next Project:||Str8 Killa No Filla|
|Twitter:||Freddie Gibbs on Twitter|
|Website:||Freddie Gibbs's Website|
In a game crowded with “studio gangsters” and hip-pop trend-hoppers, it’s easy to forget what “real” even means. Here to offer a (sometimes) friendly reminder is Freddie Gibbs, a Gary, Indiana-bred, L.A.-based emcee whose stories of urban hardship are as true-to-life as they are compelling. A true street survivor among wannabes, Gibbs incorporates his life struggles into his work with a level of honesty that sets him apart from the pack – from his coming-of-age in one of the most dangerous, economically depressed cities in America, to the loss of a child, to the career setbacks that nearly sent him back to the criminal life for good.
Though the Midwest representative (and exclusive freestyle series participant!) remains unsigned following his departure from Interscope, ‘09 mixtape releases The Mideducation of Freddie Gibbs and midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik have stoked his buzz to a fever pitch, earning him acclaim from The New Yorker, MTV, and just about everyone in between. Now, Gibbs is preparing to make 2010 his biggest year yet with the mid-to-late summer arrival of his hotly-anticipated, Alchemist-produced The Devil’s Palace EP, as well as a new street album entitled Str8 Killa No Filla.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Freddie Gibbs steps into the Booth to discuss his reasons for putting so much of his personal life into his music, why he considers most of today’s hip-hop to be absolute “bullsh*t,” and just how far he and Z go back.
Listen to the Interview
Freddie Gibbs Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a native of Gary, Indiana who used to call into my WZND radio show at ISU seven years ago. One of the realest artists I’ve ever had the good fortune to know in this industry, please welcome Freddie “Gangsta” Gibbs – how are you, my brother?
Freddie Gibbs: Thank you, man. Z, what it do? Man, we go back – we got history!
DJ Booth: All I remember from our interviews on my Saturday night program was this: most of the interviews I taped, because they wanted us to do them on delay in case someone swore, but I always let our interviews go live, you actually called in during the program, so you got special treatment.
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah, definitely, man. I knew how to guard my mouth without cursing back then! [laughs] That’s when I was first starting out – that was the first year of me rappin’, actually. Like I said, from there to here, right now, it’s definitely a blessing.
DJ Booth: I know back then when we talked about it, you had never really considered pursuing a full rap career; it was something that you had toyed with. Now, all these years later, how glad are you that you’ve stayed persistent with it, despite all the troubles in your life?
Freddie Gibbs: I’m extremely glad. Like you said, I done been through a lot of turmoil personally, but this rap thing has been my savior. Other than God, this rap thing definitely took me to places that I would’ve never went, sellin’ crack on the corner in my neighborhood. So it’s definitely a gift, that I’m just glad I was able to sharpen up, and turn it into something bigger than me.
DJ Booth: I think it’s incredible, because you’ve really managed to work through a lot in a decade, really, that most people don’t have to worry about experiencing in a lifetime: you had a child lost to a miscarriage, your grandmother passed away, you had a record deal and then you got dropped from that record deal… So, considering that you’ve lost so much, what do you take from it all? How have you gained?
Freddie Gibbs: It was definitely an experience, and experience is always the best teacher. The last five years have been real rough for me, but it was just me getting’ used to my adult life, and just growin’ up as a man. I needed to go through all of that. My grandma wasn’t gonna be there forever. The baby situation, it wasn’t the right time for that to happen, and I wasn’t with the right female. So everything is just a lesson in life. All the legal sh*t is just teachin’ me to be a better man, and helpin’ me grow. I don’t regret none of those experiences. I don’t regret getting dropped from Interscope, cause when I was there, I did what I was supposed to do – I know in my heart that I did what I was supposed to do, and I made the right music I was supposed to make, ‘cause people are ravin’ over it now. Everything is a life experience and a lesson, so I don’t take nothing for granted and I don’t regret nothing.
DJ Booth: Freddie, some artists need to be interviewed in order to tell your story, but you do so through your music.
Freddie Gibbs: Definitely.
DJ Booth: Do you find that sharing your story, of everything you’ve experienced in your life, is cathartic?
Freddie Gibbs: Definitely, man. Me bein’ able to share with people my life – it’s tough, ‘cause your whole life is an open book, but you’ve gotta know this is what you’re getting into when you start rhymin’ and doin’ that. I just feel like I don’t wanna hold nothing back from my listener. If I’m gonna be rhymin’ about sh*t, I gotta give ‘em everything – I’ve gotta give ‘em my strengths as well as my vulnerabilities, just to let motherf*ckers know I’m human. And me tellin’ my story, tellin’ my whole, complete, true story is what sets me apart from most of these rappers in the game today.
DJ Booth: Exactly; it gives a sense of relatability to the listener. I couldn’t agree more. Having grown up in Gary, which you’ve described as a land of despair, and anyone who’s ever traveled through Gary knows that, but now residing full-time in L.A., do you ever think about what your life would be like, had you grown up out West instead of in the Midwest?
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah, man, I think about that a lot. Me and my homies be talkin’ about that, ‘cause I’ve got a lot of homies out here in the streets, in South Central, Watts, Compton. I ain’t some dude that just moved to L.A. and be chillin’ in the Valley; I’m out here, I’m on probation in L.A. for a gun charge, so I know real thugged-out dudes, and regular dudes, too. But we talk about that a lot. Like I said, L.A. is my second home – I love it here, I get a lot of work done here, I’ve got good friends out here, and it’s cool. When I’m not out in Gary, I’m here.
DJ Booth: And you don’t have to worry about crappy weather and snow.
Freddie Gibbs: Ha ha ha, definitely not, man. That’s the upside to it. But when I ‘m here for a while, I start missin’ that griminess of the G, so I’ve gotta go back and see my fam, and just get that Gary stank back on me for a little bit, and then come back here and get back to work.
DJ Booth: [laughs] I hear you. On your DJBooth.net freestyle, “Thug Psalms,” which was #91 in our series, you spit a line I wanna talk to you about. You said, “Some incidents, I wrote them off as insignificant, I swear some nights I write my own death certificate.” Are the days when you felt unsure about your future gone, or is there still a part of you, to this day, that questions where your future really is headed?
Freddie Gibbs: I’d say about two months ago, I probably wasn’t all the way sure. You’ve gotta think about it: [for] a motherf*cker with one foot in the streets and one foot in the rap game, it’s gonna be a struggle, ‘cause you’ve gotta deal with sh*t in the streets that you ain’t gotta deal with rappin’, and that’s gonna affect you mentally or however – you could go to jail, or you could die. There’s so many other elements that could take me away from rap. I had to realize that. So the last couple months, I’ve just been, like I said, not takin’ nothing for granted, and definitely trying to lean more toward makin’ music and tryin’ to get all the way out of the streets. I can’t say I’m fully removed from it, but I’m definitely taking steps to better myself, and better my family situation. And that’s gonna come from rhymin’, you know what I mean?
DJ Booth: You know, there’s so few artists that actually are truthful about whatever insecurities they might have, and put that into their music. Do you feel like that’s, again, something that helps you relate better with your listeners, or do you ever question whether or not you should be doing that?
Freddie Gibbs: Nah, I don’t ever question it, man. ‘Cause, like I said, my life has to be an open book, for me to set myself apart from most other rappers. I say some things I probably wouldn’t want nobody to know about, or things that’s touchy. Like, the whole “World So Cold” thing, I wasn’t gonna put it out there about the baby bein’ lost and all that, ‘cause at first I felt that was unfair to the mother, but that had such an impact on my life that I had to talk about it. Like I said, it’s therapeutic; if I didn’t have rap, I’d go crazy! It’d be so many feelings and emotions bottled up inside. This is my outlet, and I’m just thankful that I can make a living doing that.
DJ Booth: I often discuss with artists the “quality vs. quantity debate:” is it better to release a lot of material, in hopes that everything that you drop attracts a new listener, or is it better to release less material, in hopes that listeners come to know what they really should expect from you, which is the best? But, amazingly, you don’t fall into either of these categories, ‘cause you’ve released a bunch of material that has all been very good!
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah. I’m like you, Z: I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity, any day. I don’t like when people flood the market with a lot of B.S. But, with me, I just dropped The Labels Tryin’ to Kill Me, 81 tracks on a mixtape. Some people ridiculed me for that – they were like “Damn, I’m intimidated, I can’t get through this!” But, really, it was mostly snippets and verses of my best sh*t. I had to get people caught up, ‘cause a lot of people didn’t know who I was while I was on Interscope or before that. Now people are warmin’ up to me, so me droppin’ an onslaught of material every week is not necessary. But for me to stay relevant, I’ve definitely gotta keep my face out there, whether it’s through features on other cats’ songs or droppin’ my own records. Just doin’ cool sh*t within the game, to set me apart. Like the project I’m doin’ with Alchemist – the way I’m gonna do that, ain’t no other rapper gonna do it like I’m gonna do it.
DJ Booth: Well, you mentioned it, so we have to talk about it. You have an EP coming out with Alchemist entitled Devil’s Palace.
Freddie Gibbs: Devil’s Palace, man. That’s coming mid-to-late summer. We’re getting all the specifics worked out, but pretty much, me and Al, we’re in the lab. We’re about to do that thing and, like I said, it’s gonna be something real special. There ain’t enough projects like that in rap no more.
DJ Booth: There are none.
Freddie Gibbs: I mean, you’ve got 9th Wonder, who does collaborative albums with cats, and Statik Selektah. Between Alchemist and 9th Wonder and Statik Selektah, them dudes all make quality music. I had to do a project, definitely, with Al – he’s one of my favorite producers. Like DJ Burn One, Str8 Killa No Filla is pretty much all him. So I’m just tryin’ to do things musically that nobody else is doin’, to [support] the Midwest, to solidify our area in the rap game.
DJ Booth: For someone who cannot wait until mid-to-late summer for this EP to drop, give ‘em an idea of what The Devil’s Palace will sound like, ‘cause the title alone brings up lots of questions.
Freddie Gibbs: The Devil’s Palace, it’s gonna be the palace of temptation, the palace of horror. Everything bad you can think of, it’s gonna be in The Devil’s Palace. It’s definitely gonna be an informative piece of work, it’s gonna have a lot of social content. Don’t buy this Devil’s Palace sh*t expecting to be tryin’ to pop dance sh*t – this is gonna be straight gutter, straight street sh*t.
DJ Booth: [laughs] I think everybody who’s ever heard any of your records knows that they should not come to expect any of that poppy sh*t.
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah… don’t come to me expecting no pop sh*t. I’ve got some songs you can dance to – I ain’t sayin’ you can’t dance to none of my records, but I see a lot of dudes in the game go into the lab with a mentality that “Oh, I’ve gotta make a radio record.” I never do that. I just do Gibbs. I go into the lab with an ounce of weed, and I go to what I gotta do. I’m not thinkin’ about who’s gonna like this sh*t, what bigwig at a label’s gonna like it, what bigwig at a radio station’s gonna like it. I don’t really give a f*ck; I do me.
DJ Booth: It’s like meeting a girl, but she only likes you in certain contexts, but if you change, you’re not who you are anymore, you’re who she wants you to be.
Freddie Gibbs: Exactly.
DJ Booth: Same thing with an artist – you don’t wanna change, ‘cause then you’re gonna get mad at yourself.
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah, you’ve gotta do yourself. So, all you rappers, quit letting your label’s change you, and all you dudes, quit letting your girlfriends change you. [laughs]
DJ Booth: They’re one and the same people: the people who are sittin’ on the back burner at the labels, they’re havin’ girl problems, I guarantee it.
Freddie Gibbs: [laughs] Definitely! I’ve never had those problems.
DJ Booth: And that’s good. Now we’re gonna transition into some member questions from our site. The first comes from Dan of New Hampshire, and Dan wrote, “Freddie, you’ve been in the game for a while, but you didn’t really build up your online buzz till you dropped The Miseducaiton of Freddie Gibbs. What do you think changed for you on that release?”
Freddie Gibbs: Miseducation was just, I think that was my best work at that point. I had never really rhymed in my life, so I ain’t started rapping till my adult life. Those years, I was just getting into the swing of things and learnin’ the game, and now I feel like I’ve sharpened my sword up sharper than anybody right now.
DJ Booth: Great answer. Second question comes from Dezondre of Milwaukee, one of our fellow Midwest natives, and he wrote, “In December, you released The Labels Tryin’ to Kill Me mixtape. Do you really believe that, or was that simply something that you did to intrigue your listeners?”
Freddie Gibbs: Really, with The Labels Tryin’ to Kill Me, I was tryin’ to get people caught up with me, show ‘em what I’ve been doin’ since I started my rap career, and let people see the growth in my flow. So that’s really all that was for.
DJ Booth: Third question comes from LilMama89 of Missisippi, and she wrote-
Freddie Gibbs: Oh yeah, Mississippi, my grandma’s from Mississippi – shouts out to Missisippi!
DJ Booth: [laughs] She wrote, “I know your music has been inspired by artists such as UGK, the Geto Boys and 2Pac, but what current recording artist can you name as an inspiration to the future of your recording career?”
Freddie Gibbs: I don’t listen to too many dudes. I don’t like rap right now – it’s bullsh*t. But if I do listen to stuff that’s recent or current, I’m listening to either Young Jeezy, Yo Gotti… If I’m listening to rap, like she said, UGK, the Geto Boys, Scarface, T. Hood, Mr. Mike – I’m listening to that type of sh*t. The new sh*t don’t really move me. Some of it is cool, but it just doesn’t give me the same feeling that music gave me in the ‘90s, when I wanted to get up and go buy a record from the store.
DJ Booth: We all know that you have a lot of projects that you’re working on, but what is your plan over the next 10 months? So, lay it out for us – what is your 2010?
Freddie Gibbs: Str8 Killa No Filla and Devil’s Palace. In 2010, that’s what I’m all about: Str8 Killa No Filla and Devil’s Palace. Mainly Devil’s Palace – I’m really pushin’ to make that a real big thing. Like I said, Alchemist is really one of my favorite producers of all time, and it’s gonna be a beautiful marriage. Devil’s Palace, like I said, I think it’s gonna be something that’s gonna be different, that ain’t too many people doing. Strong Arm Steady did the project with Madlib, I think that was great. Good music, I think, is comin’ back to the forefront, and in 2010 that’s what I’m tryin’ to push: I’m tryin’ to be like LeBron with this sh*t.
DJ Booth: I know that you have the opportunity to do that, and the ability. All it takes is the hard work that you’ve invested, and you should have absolutely no problem. Next time you wanna grab your winter coat out of the closet and come back to the Midwest, drinks are on me, OK?
Freddie Gibbs: [laughs] Definitely, I’m with that!
DJ Booth: Freddie, give everybody a website, a Twitter account, something so they can find out more about you and everything you have goin’ on.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Freddie, thank you as always for takin’ the time to join me inside the Booth for an interview, and nothing but the best of luck.
Freddie Gibbs: Definitely, man. Appreciate you, Z. You know it’s all love – anything you need from me, holler at me.
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