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They say when times get lean, it’s best to reel it in and stick together. Born and raised in post-industrial, Reagan-approved Crack Era Gary, Indiana, Freddie Gibbs gets that. This would explain his grassroots approach to re-inventing a once promising major label-approved career into an independent DIY movement. In 2004, Gibbs signed with Interscope, but not one for the politic game, he grew tired of waiting for Jimmy Iovine to friend him on Facebook, built a team and a sound and began dropping heat himself. Following two underground classic mixtapes, “The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs”, and “Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik” (personal favorite), Gibbs returned in 2010 with “Str8 Killa No Filla” and a co-starring role on XXL’s esteemed “Freshman 10” list. A true representation of recession era hip-hop, Gibbs reels it in and hits the Midwest for a thorough run in promotion of the “Str8 Killa” record. Think back to the classic Midwest and Southern folks we used to watch on Rap City and Yo! MTV Raps in the 90’s. Now fast-forward it 20 years into the future. This is Freddie Gibbs. No Bullshit.
ILL PO: How’s it going? You Ready for Tour?
FREDDIE GIBBS: Yeah man, doing good…just in the lab right now putting finishing touches on a couple new projects. (ed. note – Gibbs upcoming album “Baby Face Killa” will be dropping this year)
IP: Nice. I’ve been rocking to your shit for the past couple years now. One thing I really dig is that you have a definitive throw-back classic 90’s Midwest/Southern sound. I really appreciate your continuation and updating of that legacy.
FG: Oh, Yeah, Definitely. I grew up on that sound and all them dudes, too. I really try to keep that alive in everything I do. I feel like it sets me apart from everyone else. Staying true to myself and my roots will always set me apart.
IP: When I saw “National Anthem” hit MTV2 a few weeks ago, it really reminded me of the mid-90’s Southern and Midwestern videos that used to drop from artists folks might never hear from on a national platform again (i.e. Ghetto Mafia, Dayton Family, etc.): Everything from the Symbolism to the Camera treatment.
FG: A lot of people say that it reminds them of an old Public Enemy video.
IP: Yeah, I can see that. It actually reminds me of Outkast’s “In Due Time” a little bit. Was that a conscious effort on your part to make that connection between eras?
FG: Hell yeah. I wrote the treatment. I really wanted to contrast the two eras: the slavery era and the era today with the police. The song is kind of a story of redemption for me, so I wanted to think of a good storyline for the video to go with it.
IP: You’ll be in Cincinnati (by way of Covington) this Saturday, a city known over the years for its hostile relationship with the police. Judging by your video and music, I’m assuming Gary, Indiana shares a similar accord, as well as nearly any city. What do you hope to achieve with the statement you made in the “National Anthem” video regarding the fractured relationship between community and police? What would you like to see change?
FG: Oh yeah, I got people out in Cincinnati. The police out there are brash. Shit, I’ve been pulled over by police in Cincinnati. There’s all type of racist shit that goes on out there. But it’s everywhere. I experienced that shit in LA. I was just talking to my girl the other day about that. Basically, the police are getting too much power. You know, they murdered Oscar Grant. An officer killed him and aint nothing happened to that dude. They murdered Sean Bell and nothing happened.
IP: Yeah, it doesn’t feel like there’s as much of a response any more when things like this happen. Not as strong as the 90’s, when NWA was popping and the Rodney King/LA Riots went off. Sometimes it feels like people just begin to accept it now, which really isn’t cool.
FG: And Rodney King aint have shit on Sean Bell. He didn’t lose his life. But worse shit is happening now, and black communities are not in an uproar like they used to be. Nobody really did shit for Sean Bell and Oscar Grant.
IP: Like Cincinnati, Gary Indiana is a mid-level Midwestern town that was struggling before the recession and I imagine is only struggling more so during it. Given your strong representation of the city and growing success, what part do you hope to be able to play in Gary’s future?
FG: I think that everything I do is definitely representing Gary, Indiana. You know, I’m a product of the industrial wipe-out. And I’m also from the crack era. That’s what I talk about and that’s what I focus on in my rhymes.
IP: Some artists blow at an early age without many years of due-paying and performing under their belt, but you’ve obviously been doing this for a minute now. Over the past couple years you’re audiences have grown monumentally and diversified greatly. When did you realize things beginning to move in fast-forward? What was the jumping-off point to where you saw all your paid dues begin to really put you out there?
FG: Well, I think from the jump, I aint wanna fuck off my money and fuck off my time. There’s so many dudes out here rappin’, and I aint wanna be one of them. I was taught not to respect these rap dudes. I was taught not to respect these dudes who were just passing out CDs and that’s it, so I tried to go as hard as I could. Shit, I got my deal with Interscope in my first year of rapping. I figure, you can’t deny sheer skill. If you work hard at something, and sharpen your skill, it can’t be denied at the end of the day. So all this is just me staying sharp. I take my time and put 100% effort into everything I do.
IP: As you find yourself playing “Pitchfork Festival” markets, do you find that it changes the way you write at all? Do you keep a more diverse audience in mind as you’re writing new material?
FG: No, Not at all. My main thing is just to do me. Totally. Those Pitchforks, and all those festivals, that’s why they fuck with my shit, because it’s authentic. It’s because of the fact that I don’t conform. So I’mma just keep doing what I do.
IP: On a side note, I always thought you would do some dope shit with Big KRIT. Any plans for that?
FG: Man, if I can get his people on the phone. I’m chasin’ these dudes down man, but I can’t get any response. But you know, I keep it gangsta. I don’t fuck with the politics.
IP: Thanks a lot for taking the time out. I really appreciate it. Good luck with the tour, the show and the new record.
FG: Thanks a lot; I really appreciate all of y’all.
Freddie Gibbs will be playing the Mad Hatter in Covington, KY This Saturday, January 22nd with openers Vincent Vega, Trademark Aaron, and Picasso.
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