Indiana native Freddie Gibbs is quite possibly the most assiduous rapper in the game. Since releasing his debut mixtape ‘Full Metal Jacket’ in 2004 he has continued to deliver high-quality material at an astounding pace. Earlier this year he released ‘Piñata’, a collaborative album with legendary producer Madlib, a release that has seen phenomenal acclaim and commercial success, really pushing Freddie Gibbs to the front of the 2014 rap pack.
I caught up with Gangster Gibbs during the London leg of his recent UK tour and got his thoughts on the albums success, how he’s finding the UK, the current political climate In America and why racism still exists…
Q. What’s good Freddie? Great to see you in the UK and welcome to London! How have you found the UK so far?
Ah man, I LOVE the UK…Glasgow was dope last night, it was a real good show and I’m excited about tonight, tonight is sold out!
Q. London’s a big one…
Yeah, it’s gon’ be dope!
Q. The album you’ve got out at the moment ‘Piñata’ with Madlib, it’s been out a while now, but how did that collaboration first come about?
You know what man; it was something that really just sprung out of nothing. Madlib and myself had mutual friends and we all just started to be cool, then it turned into a phenomenon that we didn’t expect. I definitely worked hard on it, I approached it like I do all my projects, like a rap athlete and I think I completed my mission, it’s selling good…it’s still selling. I’m totally independent, I can actually sit back and say that I did that on my own, and hopefully I can get a Grammy nomination for best rap album, because I think it’s definitely one of the more solid rap albums of the year. A lot of guys probably had bigger singles, those type of artists, but when it comes to putting together an entire project…a record…I think I succeeded in having one of the best of the year.
Q. It’s a classic album in my opinion, without a doubt…
I agree, thank you.
Q. How long in the making was it?
It was…man….actually man it was a span of maybe over like, 3 years. I was putting out other projects, I put out BFK, I put out the ESGN project, all in the whole time I was working on the Piñata album. So it was something that I would go to, then go back to…it was hard to make, it was like putting together a puzzle, because it was something that I wasn’t used to, but like I say, I think it was the ultimate display of my versatility because I got to show that I could do something that nobody else in my genre was doing music wise, so it definitely set me apart from other street rappers and gangster rappers of this generation.
Q. When you were working with Madlib, did you both work on the beats and the lyrics together or did you work independently on your respective crafts and bring the two together afterward?
He would give me things…he definitely worked on all the beats, what I would do is I would chop things and I would put things where I wanted to in certain spots…it was a beautiful marriage, it came together great because he probably sent me a thousand beats, y’know? But I had to pick the best 16, well not the best 16, but the 16 that fit me the best. There was some other ones that I was like ‘wow, maybe I can attack that in a year’ or something like that. It definitely sharpened my sword as an MC, as a lyricist, so I had to pick my points and really attack it like a game plan, like a football game or something like that, you gotta have everything in place in order to get the win and I think that I succeeded on both ends, offensively and defensively on this record.
Q. Will you collaborate with Madlib again in the future?
Yes, definitely, there’s definitely gonna be a part 2. I can’t say when it’s coming, because we definitely gonna ride this one out, but sometime…and like I said it took me 3 years to make the first one, y’know we definitely gonna come with the sequel at some point, I just have to talk to Madlib and see when that can come about. I got enough tracks that I could make the sequel now really, but I wanna do it in the correct fashion…this one was a classic so I wanna follow it up with another one.
Q. Going back to your roots…you’re from Gary, Indian and you talk about that quite a lot in your music, ‘G.I. Pride’ for example. In the UK we maybe don’t have too clear an idea about what your town is like so can you describe Gary to us a little?
Shiiiiiit, look at this floor right here, that’s how Gary is, just fucked up man. It’s just a run down town, it’s a ghost town. How can I put this…it’s part of the rust belt of America, it’s one of those towns that had a flourishing industry within it, it had the steel industry, like Detroit had the car industry, it was kinda parallel to that. When that industry started to fail…loss of jobs…drugs, all kind of things of that nature…unemployment…economically it’s in a fucked up spot so similar to Ferguson, Missouri, similar to East St. Louis, similar to like I said, Detroit, similar to Flint, Michigan, similar to Youngstown, Ohio, the rust belt of America y’know man? It’s like those Midwest towns that are like…it’s just do or die in a lot of those towns.
Q. Coming from that background, do you think you can relate better than most to the problems that are going on in Fergusson at the moment, like you have a better vantage point to understand what’s going on there with the uprising and the shooting of Michael Brown?
Definitely, because I’ve experienced police brutality, I think a lot of black males have, especially black males that come from the streets. If you involved with the streets you definitely gonna have an encounter with the police at a certain point. Some of those times you might be doing wrong, and then some of those times you might not, you might just get put in a box because you’re, you know, that element and police can…a lot of police in America and everywhere abuse their power man. That’s a huge position…to be a policeman I mean. You essentially have my life in your hands…you can kill me, arrest me, take my money, take whatever you want…and it’s my word against yours and the authorities are gonna believe you, you’re an officer. So, you know this abuse of power man…it’s ridiculous. I sincerely don’t think they had to kill Michael Brown, I definitely think there was non-lethal ways of doing what they had to do…but, that’s America man, and everybody got a gun. I got a lot of guns, I wish that people didn’t have guns, I got a lot of guns because the next man got guns and I gotta protect my family, that’s why I got them. I wish that they would just outlaw assault rifles or something like that man, there’s no need for that shit in the neighbourhood, there’s no need for that but other people have them, so we have them…it’s that fear that makes you have guns. I don’t just show my guns in my videos and shit like that just to flash them or something like that, I’m showing you the element we’re in. We’re definitely bold and brave and courageous, but deep down we afraid man. We’re outnumbered…we are the minority, and it’s that fear that eats up our community, that’s why we hurt each other and do so many bad things to each other man, we are afraid. We are outnumbered in America, we come from slaves y’know? And we had a mentality injected in us that’s been carried on for 500 years in that country. I hate to say it but they’ve broken a lot of us, they’ve broken our families because that mentality gets passed on generation to generation to generation.
Q. That must be sad to see…
It stopped with me, it definitely stopped with me. I am free of the slave mentality, I don’t submit or succumb to anybody and they’re way of thinking, I’m fully aware of myself, my presence and my worth and most black people aren’t and they need to be. They need to realise their self-worth and the things that they can bring to the table and it will build their self-confidence and then break their slave mentality. That’s what’s killing us in America, that mentality from 500 years back. The powers that be they look at it like ‘ite, its fucked up y’all doing this, we gotta punish you punish you’, but you instilled that in us, they instilled that shit in us, that slave mentality, those politicians, police, overseers, all that shit is history repeating itself, that’s all.
Q. What’s next for you…your album East Side Slim? Is that still coming?
I think that’s gonna be a mixtape, my albums gonna be called Lifestyles of the Insane, that’s gonna be coming out in April…April or May I dunno, I got a baby on the way so I gotta pick and choose when I’m gonna drop my album.
Q. Congratulations! When’s the baby due?
The baby dropping April…the baby got a release date before the album!
Q. So we can expect the new album next year sometime?
Yeah next year sometime, in the spring or the summer, I’m definitely gonna come with a new project. I’m probably gonna drop a tape or something before the end of the year.
Q. Excellent, you’re mixtapes are always worth looking out for…
I’m definitely gonna feed the appetite of the people, y’know what I’m saying?!
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