Freddie Gibbs sits down and takes a slow, deliberate puff from a blunt. He’s sitting in his trailer, settling in for this interview, decked out in Adidas gear from head-to-toe. The Gary, Indiana emcee has on a crisp grey sweat suit and impeccably clean blue, suede shoes. He appears relaxed as he leans on the couch but also likely tired from his performance, a set he says he is proud of. Gibbs has just finished performing in front of thousands in San Bernardino, California for the eighth annual Paid Dues Festival but he seems calm and cool.
There is coolness to Gibbs that’s hard to deny. Perhaps this lies in his sleepy eyes or his cavalier charisma. But with all of the years he’s spent maneuvering through the industry, he’s kept this laidback coolness alive. I notice this coolness seconds after walking through the door, upon being welcomed.
In his trailer, three friends and a cloud of smoke surround Gibbs as he greets me with a handshake. When he tells his boys that the interview is for HipHopDX, he announces, “We in the big leagues now.” But this isn’t new for Gibbs. He has been covered by major publications, including HipHopDX, for years. When I remind him of this, he says, “These faggot ass niggas don’t want to act like I’ve been here though, man,” talking about detractors. “They don’t want to see a nigga shine, man. I’m shining, though.”
Indeed, he is shining in this moment. Two Jesus pieces adorn his neck, catching the light of this dimly lit trailer in the diamonds. Shining. “Cause I’m in the streets, nigga. That’s why,” he tells me frankly when I point out the shine. “Fuck Rap.” He takes another puff and reclines.
Freddie Gibbs Explains Early Influences Including Ice Cube & Tupac
HipHopDX: I’ve heard you say that nobody can touch your flow. I’m interested to know, how did that flow originate? How did you hone that through the years and the early stages and progress to now?
Freddie Gibbs: That shit’s tailor-made. That shit comes, really, from listening to a lot of [Scarface], a lot of [Tupac], a lot of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. It comes from, you know, the forefathers of this shit, [Ice] Cube. I took elements from a lot of different guys and really constructed my flow. Now, I feel like I’m fathering niggas’ flows. So, you know, it feel good. And without all the bells and whistles and the hoopla and all that other shit that these other niggas got. I still maintain my respect level in this game. At the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
DX: You say you’re fathering flows now. Do you take it as a compliment or do you take it like people are trying to bite your style?
Freddie Gibbs: Oh, I take it as a compliment. It’s a lot of niggas that try to bite my style that done took a lot of my styles and ran with them since like, Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik. Niggas be talkin’ ‘bout they bringing back double-time flows and shit like that. My nigga, we been doing this shit. That’s that Midwest shit. So I don’t know what’s on these niggas’ minds nowadays. But shit, I think that, you know, in that ’08-’09 time, I was really one of the only niggas really doing that fast flow. I’m probably one of the most versatile niggas in this, so it don’t really matter. You just seen my show with Madlib. I did a gang of records with him and a gang of my own records, and I blended them in perfectly because it don’t matter. I just need a beat up there.
Freddie Gibbs Lists Master P, UGK & Scarface As Influences
DX: You talked about versatility. What do you attribute that versatility to? Growing up, what type of records did you listen to that were different?
Freddie Gibbs: I definitely listened to a lot of Rap. That’s where that versatility comes from. I listened to a lot of East Coast Rap, a lot of West Coast Rap and a lot of Down South Rap. I probably listened to more of the West Coast Rap. I listened to probably Scarface more than anything—him and ‘Pac. That’s just the base of everything I do and ‘til I go out, I’m always gonna pay homage to that. Guys that don’t get the homage they deserve, guys like Master P. I don’t think Master P get the credit he deserves as a rapper. He really got solid records that’s classics, street classics that real niggas can relate to. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t be rapping. Guys like that. Just that entrepreneur mind state. You know?
DX: Were you able to run into Scarface today and talk?
Freddie Gibbs: I talked to him on the phone this week, but I didn’t get a chance to bump into him [today]. I was so busy today. You know everybody is running around getting their sets together and all of that.
DX: Being able to call him is pretty dope. What is that relationship like, being that you studied his records as a kid coming up?
Freddie Gibbs: I guess. I don’t know. It kind of feel like you calling Michael Jordan. You know what I’m saying? It’s just like that. You know? It’s good. It’s good to have him there for advice. That’s really all I need. You’ve gotta appreciate niggas like that while they’re here. That’s what I do, because we done lost some great ones of his era like Pimp C and guys of that nature. So guys like that, I appreciate them while they’re here and I pay homage to them while they’re here. I ain’t gotta make no mothafuckin’ R.I.P. song when them niggas gone and all that monkey shit, tryin’ to make money off they legacy or tryin’ to do shit like that. Like I said, man, we should appreciate the art that these guys create while they’re here. I think that’s what I do at all times with guys like him and Bun [B] and shit like that.
DX: You also described your early influences with Bone Thugs. What’s your favorite Bone Thugs album and why? Why does that one stand out more than others? I know it’s a debate for a lot of Bone fans though.
Freddie Gibbs: Right. Them niggas will probably get on my head. Niggas be sayin’ Faces of Death [and] Creepin’ on Ah Come Up. It’s either between Creepin’ on Ah Come Up and E. 1999 [Eternal]. East 1999 was probably the best one, because it was the most complete album. I would say, front to back. It was the best. Creepin’ on Ah Come Up could be the best, like I said, but it was too short. It was an EP. That wasn’t an album. Shit, they all got great work but that’s the best work, the best body of work to me, East 1999. Front to back, you ain’t even gotta skip a record at all. It’s put together perfectly. Perfect, perfect, like perfect.
DX: Some people say The Art of War as well.
Freddie Gibbs: Art of War was good. You know what man? The only Goddamn double album that I liked was All Eyez On Me. I don’t like double albums. I just feel like you giving me too much shit at once. You know what I mean? I love that album. Not taking nothing away from that album, I’m just not a fan of double albums. I love that album, but I like East ‘99 better. I don’t like double albums. I hope niggas don’t start doing that again, because a lot of niggas weak as fuck, giving you a double bullshit. Nigga like, “Yeah, I’ma do a triple album.” Nigga, shut yo’ ass up. Bitch, we don’t wanna hear the first one. 8Ball did a triple album. That shit was hard. That Lost. Y’all don’t know about that.
DX: So no double albums from Gibbs?
Freddie Gibbs: I mean, if a company give me the right amount of money, I’ll do a double, a triple, a quadruple album on they mothafuckin’ ass. I don’t give a fuck. I don’t give a fuck about the format to this shit or none of that, man. I just want to put out music. As long as people get it, however they get it, it doesn’t matter to me. Fuck these labels, man. Cut a nigga a check and then I’ll do it. I’ll play your game but I’m doin’ me, my nigga.
Freddie Gibbs Talks Writing, Favorite NBA Players & Work With Madlib
DX: You just mentioned going from Madlib beats to others and putting them together seamlessly. Is there a difference to the way you approach a Madlib beat versus any other beat?
Freddie Gibbs: Of course.
DX: How does that difference manifest itself in the records?
Freddie Gibbs: it’s like playing in a mothafuckin’ game. I mean, LeBron James ain’t gonna play Kevin Durant the same way he gon’ play Deron Williams or some shit. He gon’ game-plan specifically. You just gotta have a plan of action specifically for each beat. It’s not just Madlib. I take a different plan of action for each beat. I see how creative I can go and try to test my limits without going overboard and saying some bullshit.
DX: It’s interesting. You said talking to Scarface was like talking to Jordan and right now, you just mentioned NBA players. Who do you have winning it this year?
Freddie Gibbs: The Heat. They’re the best team. They should win it. Somebody might beat they ass. Spurs might creep, but I think the Heat will win that shit. Can’t nobody fuck with LeBron. LeBron the best player in the game. Period.
DX: Where does he stand in history?
Freddie Gibbs: He top five, my nigga. If I gotta run with a squad, he gon’ be on it. If I gotta pick five niggas throughout the history of basketball, that nigga is gonna be on the goddamn team. I don’t give a fuck what nobody say. They can talk about all these niggas from the ‘60s and all that shit. That’s cool. I’m with it. But if I gotta pick a goddamn team, nigga, it’s gonna be [Earvin] Magic [Johnson] at the point, [Michael] Jordan at the two, of course, mothafucka. It’s gonna be LeBron at the mothafuckin’ three, [Charles] Barkley at four and [Shaquille O’Neal] at five. Fuck with me and fuck you, if you don’t like that order. I don’t give a fuck. Fuck Karl Malone ‘cause Barkley’s better. I don’t give a fuck. That’s my five. You can put that five against any five you come with and they can’t win, nigga. Mike, LeBron, Magic, Barkley, Shaq. Them my best five players all time, nigga. Put Bill Russell and Bob Cousy out there against them mothafuckas. They gon’ get ran. Put who ever you want. They can’t fuck with them five niggas. Them five mothafuckas is five freaks of nature in basketball. So hell yeah, LeBron on the all time five. Sheeeit. Who else you gon’ put at three? Don’t worry. I’ll wait. Who else? Only nigga that you could put at three is like [Scottie] Pippen. Pippen’s great. I love Pippen but Bron-Bron, man. You could put LeBron at center, nigga. You put LeBron anywhere in the mix. You can put Pippen on that team if you want, as the sixth man or some shit. You can put LeBron anywhere on that team.
DX: Switching gears, a lot of emcees are out here. You’ve got the young ones, the vets all together, coming together. If you had to school a young cat coming into it, what would you say are some of the pitfalls you have traveled through in your career that you would wisen a young buck up with?
Freddie Gibbs: Shit, I’d tell the young mothafucka to go get a job, nigga. Shit, UPS is hiring, bitch. Don’t get into this game, nigga. You’re looking at your competition and you can’t fuck with me, yet. Get on my level. That’s how I feel about you young mothafuckas, all y’all niggas.
“Cocaine Piñata” & Freddie Gibbs’ Upcoming ESGN Album
DX: So what’s next for you?
Freddie Gibbs: I’m ‘bout to drop that ESGN album probably in June for the summer time, just to hold niggas over before we drop that Cocaine Piñata with Madlib. ESGN is gonna be me, G-Wiz, D-Edge, Hit Screwface, G.I. Fleezy and Big Kill. We putting that shit together right now. It’s gonna be kind of on that Jay-Z Dynasty: [Roc La Familia] type shit. I got a lot of records that I like. We’re gonna fuse that thing together and make that shit work to show what we’re working with collectively. Basically, this album gave me a chance to breathe and breathe fire on mothafuckas I’ve been wanting to breathe fire on. So it’s really giving me a little outlet right now. Once I whack niggas on this mothafuckin’ album then I’m gonna fall back on they ass and just chill for the summertime, get my dick sucked and drink drinks with umbrellas and shit in them, nigga. Just like Tony Soprano said, niggas is getting wacked. Niggas is getting’ clipped. This album is strictly for niggas that’s getting they nuts clipped.
DX: Just all your haters and detractors?
Freddie Gibbs: Just anybody that want it with me, man. We even dissin’ potential enemies, just if we don’t like you. We checkin’ niggas’ temperatures. That’s what we doin’ man. I gotta go back in the lab, especially after this show today. I’m waitin’ on niggas to piss me off.
DX: No one has yet?
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah, they have, but they know who they is and they better put they mothafuckin’ 3-D glasses on, because I’m comin’ straight at they ass.
DX: How did you come up with the title Cocaine Piñata with Madlib?
Freddie Gibbs: I’ma tell you the truth, man. I had a dream, dog, that I had a little baby. The little baby’s birthday was here and shit. You know I like Latina girls and shit, man. I want to say all of my girls speak Spanish and shit. Anyways, so the baby would probably be a Mexi-nigga or some shit. So it was like a little nigga-Mexican baby and shit. That nigga wanted a piñata, man, in the dream, man. I don’t know. I must’ve been cooking some dope or some shit that week, because the nigga started hitting the piñata, and it wasn’t shit but dope falling out the piñata. I was just like, “Damn, man.” They was just kids playing in the dope. They was just playin’ in the dope. It was little four-year-old kids hitting dope in piñatas. I don’t know. It was a crazy ass dream. So, I just called that shit Cocaine Piñata.
DX: It reminded you of the record in some way? How did that become connected?
Freddie Gibbs: It was spontaneous.
DX: It’s gonna get people talking.
Freddie Gibbs: I mean, what does everybody want out of life? Don’t you want a cocaine piñata? Wouldn’t that shit be cool? That’s everything you want out of life. You can fit at least two birds in there. If you got two birds in life, you good. Most niggas started out with a teen. I know niggas that started out with a mothafuckin’ Wendy’s check straight to a teen, nigga, breakin’ down all dimes, nigga. So if you started out with a cocaine piñata, you’re pretty straight in life, man. We all tryin’ to get to that cocaine piñata in life.