Freddie Gibbs talks R&B collaborations, Nirvana, Odd Future and 'A Cold Day in Hell'
The quest for authenticity is often mocked in the cynical swamp of 21st century Internet existence, but honesty remains a cardinal virtue. In contemporary rap, few voices call out nonsense better than Freddie Gibbs. The Gary, Ind.-bred, L.A.-based artist speaks with a candor that makes him the rare rapper whose interviews are as compelling as his tunes. Although most rappers mumble off-the-record asides, Gibbs offers an unflinching and unfiltered perspective.
Last year, XXL magazine named Gibbs one of the 10 Freshmen for '10, and his ability to pair chronic-dense lyricism with smooth country rap cadences has made him a darling of both backpackers and those with Pioneer speakers in the trunk. And Bill Simmons. His live performances bring a similar ferocity -- they're raw, unruly and unpredictable. Right now, as far as live rap shows go, there's Yelawolf, Odd Future, Gibbs -- and then the rest. His songs and videos are too profane to post on the Los Angeles Times' site (as was much of this interview, which required much editing, as you'll see below), but you can find plenty of tunes here.
Wednesday night's Troubadour performance marks Gibbs' debut with live band the Park. It also features a deep top-to-bottom bill including local favorites the 87 Stick Up Kids, Free the Robots and San Francisco's highly tabbed DaVinci.
You did a cover of "Rocksteady" on your last record and you've been vocal about your love of R&B. What's your favorite rap/R&B collaboration of all time?
One that was really dope was "Only You" with 112, Biggie and Mase. To do a rap song collabo, you gotta have a dope concept, period. And you definitely gotta have a dope rapper with their own style and strut. You can't have some foreign ... dude trying to hit that ... out the park. It's pretty easy to lay a rap on one of those songs. Jay-Z just won a Grammy for that New York song, and it would've been a hit with or without him.
What's the worst CD you ever purchased?
I bought a lot of ... No Limit CDs back in the day. I was always just infatuated with the brand because I loved those beats. It was probably one of the Silkk the Shocker CDs. Maybe "Charge It 2 Da Game." I used to love bumping it, but Silkk is probably one of the worst rappers I’ve ever heard. But I got a couple of his albums, so I don't know what that said about me as a consumer back then. But really, Silkk is one of the worst ... I’ve ever heard.
You're playing with a live band Wednesday night. What's your favorite rock band?
I didn’t really ... with too much until that grunge .... Those ... were grimey. And they were following all these ... guys singing ballads. Kurt [Cobain] changed it up. That's why it was such a revolution when he commited suicide. Plus, you mess with ... Courtney Love, you're bound to kill yourself. But I love Nirvana. I still bump "Smells Like Teen Spirit." I used to listen to it before all my football games.
What's the most frustrating thing about rap today?
It's probably the money factor, because records don’t sell like they used to. That and the politics of it. Look at that Freshmen Top 10 cover that was released. When I did it, I was one of the guys with no political ties, no ties to the magazine, no ties to any rapper co-signing me. I'm backed by nobody in the industry -- basically, an industry outcast. Getting picked spoke volumes about my music. A lot of people in the rap game don't have music that speaks like that. It's one hot single and you’re out.
Just the other day, I heard Kevin Black telling Y.G. that he brought the West Coast back. That dude ain't brought it back.... I'm not talking .... about him, nor am I knocking his hustle, but that's a ridiculous thing to say. When I heard that, I turned around and walked away.
You were Twittering about your party over All-Star Weekend. What happens at a Freddie Gibbs party?
Girls ready to bust down. My entire floor was a big cloud of weed smoke and there were even cupcakes for the people who got stoned. Shouts to Big Man Bakes downtown, they came in and laced us. We also got Conjure Cognac to lace us too, so people walked out drunk.... It was a great time. People were paying to get ... Hollywood ..., but I don't do that, that’s just not me.
You have a new group called Pulled Over by the Cops. What's the best thing to do when you're pulled over by the cops?
Just shut up and give them what they want. Talk as little as possible. It depends on the circumstances, though. If you're in the act of carrying illegal substances, just stay cool. If you're smoking weed, you're pretty much caught. So just stay quiet.
What's the music trend you wish would go away?
Skinny jeans and rappers getting tattoos on their face. I just saw another dumb ... get another one. Not Gucci ... Yung LA did it too. That's idiotic. They see Lil Wayne wearing these tattoos on the face and they copy him. We already got enough ... to deal with, being black people in society, and then you do that ... It is what it is. People will be rolling around in their graves with face tattoos.
You've been pretty vocal about your dislike of a lot of other rappers. What do you think of Odd Future?
I think they are ... weird, but they say what they want to say and they're original, so I can ... get with that. They do what they want to do and they don't conform, so they're cool by me.
I've got my album "A Cold Day in Hell" coming out in the springtime. Then I'm doing "Baby Faced Killer," that's a two-part thing. Then I have my secret album that I’m doing with a nameless producer and another project. So it's going to be a three-part thing. There's going to be connecting themes. Hell on Earth, Satan, 13 tracks on each record.
-- Jeff Weiss
Photo: Freddie Gibbs. Credit: Village Slum