Pop & Hiss

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Freddie Gibbs and the Genius/GZA land at the Echoplex tonight

August 24, 2010 |  2:51 pm
Freddie_Gibbs_promo_photo_1 Ask Freddie Gibbs what’s on his iPod, and he’ll inevitably tell you the same thing: early Scarface, Geto Boys and Ice Cube. Occasionally, he’ll mix in some old-school R&B or some 2Pac. But 2Pac’s favorite record was the Geto Boys' “Grip It on That Other Level,” so there’s a consistent theme at hand.

It’s neither a very unique nor diverse play list, but within those artists’ early work you can find detail-heavy street narratives suffused with emotions fit for an Olympian myth: rage, revenge, jealousy, lust and enough illicit substances to fill a bacchanalian festival. The seven deadly sins and then some.

Since emerging with a pair of acclaimed mixtapes last year, the former Interscope apostate has attempted to fill that same void of raw realist rap and haunted emotions. He has plenty of competition, but few can match his unique skill set of perfect cadence and a vengeful baritone.

Pocked by permanent physical scars from a brutal childhood in Gary, Ind.,  and metaphorical ones from the doubters he’s endured in a turbulent industry career, Gibbs has been named one of XXL’s Top 10 Freshmen and praised by the likes of hipster-skewing publications such as Pitchfork and the Fader.

Currently without a deal, he recently released his “Str8 Killa No Filla” EP on the indie-underground imprint Decon. It was an unusually hardcore record for a label primarily dedicated to positive-skewing rap, but it reflected Gibbs’ widespread appeal to rap traditionalists and anyone who still believes that rapping well with smart lyrics should matter (it should).

Paired tonight at the Echoplex with the legendary GZA from the Wu-Tang Clan, Gibbs has elevated his live show to the point where he might give the grandmaster a run for his king piece -- rapping with the ferocious hunger of someone desperate to checkmate his rivals -- both imagined and otherwise.

It's one of the better nights for live hip-hop in recent memory. If more light-hearted fare is your preference, you’d be well served to head to Spaceland to catch New York trio Tanya Morgan, playing alongside local standout TiRon and veteran Ahmad of “Back in the Day” fame. But those who angle toward the grimy side would be wise not to pass up the pair of Gs. In advance of his performance, Pop & Hiss asked Gibbs a few questions.

Now that your EP is finished and out in stores, what are you working on?

I just did a new record with Jim Jonsin and otherwise, I'm working on my debut full-length, "Baby Faced Killa." 

Have you been getting approached by a lot of labels?

Hell yeah. All of them, and it's the same ... deals. I'm just stepping to them and telling them what I want and that they have to match it.

Are they offering mainly 360 deals?

Yeah, that's the standard, but I don't think I'm the standard rapper. 

Who else are you working with on the new album?

I'm not sure yet. I've been waiting to get into the studio with Alchemist, but I don't know anyone else beyond that. 

Has it been strange to go from basically being anonymous to getting all this praise in a relatively short amount of time, and with that, has it been hard to stay focused?

Its been a blessing -- it was a long time coming, and there's still a long way to go. Its been a blur. I'm just working hard and staying focused, and away from the negativity. There's a lot of people trying to come back into my life, but I try not to pay them any attention. 

Were you a big Wu-Tang fan coming up?

Not so much a huge Wu-Tang fan but I liked certain dudes a lot. I loved Raekwon, Method Man and Genius. I loved the Ol' Dirty Bastard -- he was my favorite.

What's the dumbest thing you've heard in one of the label meetings you've been taking?

That I don't have a hit commercial record. I don't even know what that means. 

ZIP: Freddie Gibbs -- 'Str8 Killa No Filla' mixtape (left click

-- Jeff Weiss

Photo: Freddie Gibbs; Credit: Alexander Richter

GZA, Freddie Gibbs and Kendrick Lamar at the Echoplex, 1154 Glendale Blvd., tonight, 9 p.m., $18.