He’s the new signee from Young Jeezy’s Corporate Thugz Entertainment and has the internet going nuts with every release. Now he’s preparing to turn online hype into real sales, but who exactly is Freddie Gibbs? TRU met up with him to try and answer that question.
Hailing from Gary, Indiana, Gangsta Gibbs is no stranger to adversity. The town has fallen into an economic decline ever since the steel industry started to phase out its activities there in the 60s and never fully recovered from it, with soaring unemployment figures, several deteriorated roads and unoccupied buildings as a result. In short, it’s a harsh environment, one you need confidence from to escape, and confidence is what Freddie Gibbs has in spades. When asked who his top 5 emcees are he’ll go straight up Dylan on you: “Freddie Gibbs, Freddie Gibbs, Freddie Gibbs, Freddie Gibbs, Freddie Gibbs”.
He’s not exactly the most talkative person TRU has ever spoken to, but he does pour a lot of himself into his highly autobiographical verses. It’s the unabashedly hardcore stance of his lyrics coupled with his struggle that are the main attraction to his followers, a feeling that being ‘gangsta’ was never a choice to him, but a means of survival. It’s something that many have missed in rap, but it never was a conscious decision for him to try and bring it back. “If it come back or not, I don’t really give a fuck, that’s what I make. That’s what I grew up on.” says Gibbs. Look further for glorified hustler romanticism, Gibbs simply equals grit.
But grit only carries you so far in the recording industry, and Interscope wasn’t feeling it. There was a time when they payed Just Blaze to give him beats, but they eventually decided to release him from his obligations without putting out a single song. Was it his unapproachability, was he reluctant to give them a pop single or did he just rub someone the wrong way? Who knows, and it hardly matters anyway, since his grind merely caught a speedbump.
Now a free agent with a slew of bangers created with both up-and-comers and top producers, Gibbs let the fruits of his labor run free on the internet with two critically acclaimed releases: The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs, which compiled most of the Interscope material, and midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik, which contained more recent material. Last year finally marked an official release, the Str8 Killa EP on Decon, simultaneously released with the Str8 Killa, No Filla mixtape. One of the songs on the project was the posse cut ‘Oil Money‘, a posse that would later grow into the group ‘Pulled Over By The Cops‘. It’s a crew with diverse styles making it uneasy to put them in certain boxes ruled by trends, and they have in common that they’re all emcees without frills, sticking to their own plan. Whether they will release more material than the few songs out now or go the route of many other hip-hop ‘supergroups’ remains to be seen, but they’ve certainly managed to stir up anticipation among listeners.
The downfall of his stint at Interscope leaves little to mourn over. With a solid fanbase and strong ties with indie labels it’s hard to see what a major label could offer an artist like him that he can’t handle himself in this day and age. It seems more like a possible detriment than a compliment to his hustle, but with his new deal, there’s a big difference. CTE is run by Young Jeezy, a rapper himself, and Gibbs is confident he won’t have to haggle over his creative liberties with him. “I get to control what I do. That’s the main thing. The mutual respect is really the thing that carried over. I know what I can make myself.”
No squabbles over content and a label head that actually signs an artist because he believes in his particular artistic vision? Seems like a smart move for any rapper, you get the pros of a label supporting your work with their full machine but little of the cons of potential beef with head honchos trying to steer you during the recording process. “He’s sold a lot of records, man, so I gotta respect that.” says Gibbs on the snowman. But signing with a rapper could possibly bring a whole different type of beef into the mix. When asked if his working relation with Pill (who signed to Maybach Music Group, which is owned by Jeezy’s adversary Rick Ross) might deteriorate due to the beef still simmering between Jeezy and Rozay he replies without much concern. “I ain’t got no problem with him. Ain’t no tension with the situation. I don’t know. Right now I’m focused on the CD shit. Just doing what I gotta do.”
“It’s a lot of respect. It’s deeper than some rap business. It’s an honor and respect thing. I chose to fuck with them in the long haul. It ain’t like no one album deal with CTE.” says Gibbs. Gibbs ain’t done, there are enough projects to look forward to with this street disciple. Now all that’s left for him is reaching an audience hungry for his raw food for thought. There are enough of them online and Freddie Gibbs is hard at work turning that buzz into something tangible, one way or the other. Like he says in his song ‘Scottie Pippens‘ with Curren$y:
“Trying to make a million dollars, f*ck a million downloads
But if that equal the same, snatch that up and give me my change
I made a lane up in this game so n*ggas gon’ remember the name”
Gangsta Gibbs, ho.
Words: Aaron McKrell & Jaap van der Doelen