Freddie's dead...if the labels had it their way.
The 27 year-old Gary, Indiana native spent a third of the last decade at Interscope, where he crafted a dust-collecting album that would become two of 2009's biggest mixtapes: The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs and midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik. The Internet and Interscope may not have been on the same page, but few did as much to restore Gangsta Rap's presence in the online space last year than Freddie.
Speaking with HipHopDX, the emcee, who is only seven years deep in the game, asserts his qualities that will make him a contrast to a lot of the new era Rap ethos. Gibbs explains how one door closing forced him to break in through the window, and how a collaborative album with Asylum's latest signing Pill is a definite. From the boxframe to your inbox to your boombox, Freddie Gibbs is giving the game nightmares.
HipHopDX: Of the whole mid-‘80s movement, what’s your favorite box frame?
Freddie Gibbs: Aw man! Probably like a [Oldsmobile] Cutlass or like an ’83 [Cadillac] Coupe De Ville. I love Cutlasses. I had a ’77 Cutlass, an ’81 Cutlass. I’m workin’ on gettin’ this Coupe De Ville from my nigga; he don’t wanna sell it to me though. [Laughs] I’m an ‘80s baby, so I’m definitely into the cars from that era. Them’s the cars that I was sittin’ in, as a little boy, wishin’ I could drive. I definitely have an infatuation with cars – not just cars from the ‘80s, but ‘70s, ‘60s; I’m definitely an old school head when it comes to cars. I rather sit in something that’s older than me.
DX: You’ve had a career year. All the “no’s” you witnessed three and four years ago have seemingly turned to “yes’s” in the last year. After 2009, where is your head at?
Freddie Gibbs: Right now, man, I’m just trying to build up all kinds of steam for 2010. I think 2010 is going to be a real big year for me. I feel like I’m on the trading block, like LeBron James. [Laughs] I got a lot of decisions to make [as far as] what [record] company I’m gonna sign with, or if I’m just gonna keep doing what I’m doing. Really, what I always say, the main thing is always just being in that lab, making sure I got the best product. If I’ve got the best product, then I’m givin’ y’all the best reflection of me. Nobody can do what I can do as far the rest of these cats in this game. I’m gonna keep working in that booth and the dominoes are gonna line up on [their] own.
DX: This is one of the first times in Rap history that one of the biggest stars, Drake, did not have a label – prior to his Cash Money/Young Money situation. Your best year was without a label. You came up with these ambitions of a big budget, signing bonus and all that…how does the success you’ve watched this year among your peers change what you want for yourself?
Freddie Gibbs: Really, it just shows me that my hard work is paying off. When I first started rhymin’, around 20 years old, I had aspirations of getting a deal. Of the first year-and-a-half, two years of me doing that, I achieved that. The work I was puttin’ in paid off. It just so happens that the deal [with Interscope Records] was not fit for me at the time, but it taught me a lot about the whole situation. Now it’s time to grind. Right now I’m sittin’ in a position where I can basically do what I want, and all that boils down to the music. I just got out of the lab this morning. I’ve been putting in hours and putting in hours. I’ve definitely got a long way to go. Like you said, I’ve been doing this without a label. I have no money behind me; I have no investors. All of this is from my grind. I’m in the streets; I ain’t workin’ no jobs. I ain’t got not no publicist; I’ve got my two managers: [Archibald Bonkers and Lambo] and I just linked up with DJ Skee. I have my engineer Josh [The Goon], and that’s it. It’s been a whole lot of ups and downs.
DX: You mention the studio and you being there this morning. One of my favorite records you’ve done is “Murder On My Mind.” Tell me about the angst you were feeling that day…
Freddie Gibbs: When I did that shit…you’ve got to really be down there in that spot to write some shit that vivid. At that point in my life I was at a real crossroads; I didn’t know if I wanted to rap no more. I had a lot of niggas in the streets that owed me, I had beef with niggas…so all of the stress and aggression built up and got put in a jar. When I got in the lab, I opened that mothafuckin’ jar. I just gave the most vivid depiction that I could give you.
DX: It’s a strange question, but with Michael Jackson passing, and being originally from Gary, do you think that brought any interest to the present day music scene there?
Freddie Gibbs: Maybe it did, maybe it didn’t; I don’t really know. Me being from Gary, I can’t say that I didn’t give me attention, but I can say that I didn’t use [his death] to get me attention. I didn’t speak on it or anything of that nature. Me and my homies was talkin’ about that though – all this shit bubblin’ for [me] at the same time of his passing. I just look at it like everything happens for a reason. I wish I would have had the chance to meet him, that would have been dope.
DX: You can look at an artist like Jay-Z, who, prior to his debut, was rhyming more like Jaz-O with a faster, more syllable heavy delivery. There were six years in there to evolve. Between the marks your hitting now and when you first jumped on the scene, what differences are you noticing, if any, in your style?
Freddie Gibbs: Nah. It definitely hasn’t been a change. I think there’s definitely been growth. I tell people, I think I’m one of the most versatile emcees out there. From jump, I been on different shit. Labels Tryin’ To Kill Me is the mixtape I just dropped with 81 tracks on it. That gives you me start to finish. You can see where the flow was and where it is now. I think I added things to my flow, like Optimus Prime at the end of Transformers 2, when he had wings and shit. That’s my shit now. I’m just full-speed ahead. I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do lyrically. I don’t think no nigga can match my flow.
DX: Labels Tryin’ To Kill Me is revolutionary. You’re giving us your catalog. I love the cover art too. The whole idea, whose idea was that to give it all away?
Freddie Gibbs: My manager Archie. These are songs that we probably wouldn’t put out on a new project but that we definitely want to get out there. Arch and Skee got together and sequenced it all. There’s some songs on there that people never heard the full version of too. There’s more shit than that. When I first came to Cali, I was in the lab like crazy. I probably got 80 more songs that mothafuckas ain’t heard.
But I don’t want people to think I’m just rushin’ shit out; I see a lot of that in the Rap game. Niggas get a studio in they home and then the quality of their music goes down. I may only do one song a night. But I might go in every night that week. I always believe in quality over quantity.
DX: You said you started rapping at 20 years old. You’re working with one of Rap’s top veteran producers in Buckwild on “The Wrong One.” With you being relatively a late bloomer with this, and him being the guy who put out O.C. 15 years ago, tell me about that session and that relationship…
Freddie Gibbs: With Buck, Buck’s like my big brother. Through all the trials and tribulations with [Interscope], we remained close; we talk a lot. When I went out to the Bronx to the studio, he made the beat on the spot. He wanted me to a paint a picture and he wanted to bring that storytelling shit out of me, ‘cause he knew I had it in me from listening to the shit that he had heard. That’s the type of shit that I wanted to get on. When I heard the beat, I just ran the story on out. All I had to do was just rehash [actual stories] and make it all rhyme.
DX: Fans have been clamoring to get an album together with you and Pill. How much do you listen to the fans in your career? Is that collaborative album going to be a reality?
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah, it’s gon’ happen. Definitely. Right now are both establishing ourselves in the game as individuals. Once we do that, and once we both get solidified, we’re definitely gonna come together on some shit, ‘cause we both got dope records together that people ain’t heard, both from my album and his album. He’s a friend before anything though, so it’s all love. Ain’t nothin’ ever planned with me and Pill. Shit, we get fucked up, and we just say, “Fuck it, let’s knock shit out.” We throw the beat on, on some playful shit, then get goin’ and construct something. We get to building and it comes out proper.
DX: When Barry Bonds used to hit the ball, he didn’t to run; he knew it was a homerun off the bat. With midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik this past year, did you see that as a homerun off the bat?
Freddie Gibbs: I knew that shit was going to the outfield. It could possibly get caught or some shit like that. [Laughs] The fact that I did that I did knock it out the park is a true testament to my work ethic and my team’s work ethic. We’ve been doing them records for the past four or five years. That record was supposed to come out on Interscope. That was basically supposed to be my Interscope album. That and The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs. I just split up the songs and just put ‘em out as mixtapes. midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik is the album that Interscope could have put out…for three years. At that point it wasn’t the right timing. They didn’t know what to do with me ‘cause I’m not from Atlanta, L.A. or New York or something like that. They really didn’t know how to push me. Praise Allah that it was able to see the light of day via the Internet for free or whatever. Now I think I’m beginning to solidify myself in the game. I want to eradicate a lot of this bullshit that’s out in the game and just show motherfuckers that you can have this intelligent Gangsta Rap and have fun with this shit.
DX: After those three, four years in waiting, do you look at 2009 as your rookie season, or do you feel like a patient veteran?
Freddie Gibbs: I think I’m still a rookie, man. My Rap career didn’t start till I was 20, 21. I’m 27 now. Most niggas was tryin’ to do this shit their whole childhood. I actually started writing rhymes and recording in my twenties, so I had to learn a whole lot in the league. I’m still learning a lot of shit. There’s a lot of OG’s in the Rap game that I respect like [Ice] Cube that I would like to sit down and get some game from. I think a lot of that’s lacking in the game right now. I don’t think a lot of the new niggas look to the older dudes to get some game and to keep this shit movin’, and to keep the tradition of this real shit goin’. Like I said, I’m just a sponge tryin’ to soak up all the knowledge I can to put my city on the map.