Tonight: Pill and Freddie Gibbs at On the Rox
The video for Pill’s “Trap Goin' Ham” was infamous before it ever saw release this summer. Uncensored and unscripted, cameras followed the Atlanta rapper deep into the trenches of the city’s often forgotten 4th Ward, a warren of crack pipes, poverty and cash transactions. According to those who watched the filming, its deleted scenes are arguably even more harrowing, with footage of tasers, topless crackheads and a particularly unstable soul swinging a fluorescent light bulb like a light saber.
“Trap Goin' Ham” harks back to Chuck D’s possibly dated analogy about hip-hop being the CNN of the ghetto — this is before it became the bright babble of the Cartoon Network or the fangless foppery of Fashion TV. This is blood-raw reality rap, intended to shock and shed light on a pocket of poverty overshadowed by the shining skyscrapers of the New South’s capital.
In a statement accompanying the video, Pill explained that the intent was to terrify: “These conditions that our people live in are terrifying, and we seek to expose what so many have forgotten ... It seems as though our city and our people place no importance on our community any longer. These are the places you never visit. These are the places that hip-hop claims to care about. These are the people that most of gangsta rap music fraudulently portrays. Our mission is to bring REALITY back to street music.”
Along with his most recent mix tape, “The Prescription: 4180,” the video establishes Pill as perhaps the most promising Atlanta rapper since the Dungeon Family — one capable of toeing the line between book and street smarts, conscious without being condescending, and blessed with a flow as ferocious as the healthcare debate.
One of few 2009 mix tapes capable of rivaling Pill’s is “Midwestboxframecadillacmuzik,” recently released by the Atlien’s frequent collaborator and fellow On the Rox headliner, Freddie Gibbs, a former Interscope signee recently relocated to Los Angeles from his hometown of Gary, Ind. His vision of the Steel City is so poisoned as to make “Bleak House” look like “Full House,” a hell of internecine violence, chronic unemployment and a crack trade that flows like the Ganges.
An album masked as a mix tape, “Midwestboxframe” is the most impressive gangsta rap debut in years, and proof that the genre isn’t superannuated but rather filled with superfluities. Like his brethren Pill, Gibbs goes in on well-worn subjects (pimping, peddling and poverty), but demonstrates a poetic detail alien to most of his peers, describing Gary on his first mix tape, “The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs” as a “land of lost hope / clouds of mill smoke / community devoured by hard and soft dope.”
His blunt-burned baritone and agile rap ability find him carving out a compromise between the screwed ride music of Houston heroes Pimp C and Z-Ro, the double-timed dizziness of Midwestern speed rap a la Bone Thugs and Twista, and the searing aorta-on-sleeve salvos of 2Pac. It’s unconscionable that Interscope would let a talent like this slip through the cracks — you won’t see a free agent this gifted until next summer when another Midwesterner from an economically depressed factory town becomes eligible.
-- Jeff Weiss
DJ Quikie Mart Presents Pill and Freddie Gibbs at On the Rox tonight at 9 p.m. 9009 W. Sunset Blvd. Free