Freddie Gibbs Talks Eminem's Rejection, Standing Out With "Str8 Killa"
Exclusive: Gary, Indiana's finest reveals Slim Shady's shunning of him and explains why his official debut will set Gangsta Gibbs apart from Drake and other peers.
Coming straight outta G.I. – that’s Gary, Indiana (a.k.a. 2005’s murder capital of America) for the uniformed – is the savior of street hop, Freddie Gibbs. A week from today, on August 3, the onetime Interscope Records signee will finally unleash his first formal release, Str8 Killa, (which will be preceded by the Statik Selektah-helmed Str8 Killa No Filla mixtape companion piece to Gibbs’ EP debut, available for free download via XXLmag.com this Thursday, July 29th.)
Last Wednesday, (July 21st), Gangsta Gibbs spoke to HipHopDX about his Decon Records debut, (which is led by the hypnotic hater-bashing “National Anthem”), along with obtaining his thoughts on several other noteworthy topics. Never one to hold his tongue, the man with the machine gun flow fired freely during his detailed discussion with DX, licking off shots at his contemporaries (“Really all the muthafuckas that came out the last five years is copycat-ass niggas”), at one of his peers in particular (“I ain’t never been on no fuckin’ Degrassi High or no shit like that”), and at the best-selling Hip Hop artist of the last decade/label CEO that passed on signing the gangsta from Gary a few years back (“I don’t need no Eminem.”)
HipHopDX: The first, and most important, formal question I have for you is...why Miilkbone? [Laughs.]
Freddie Gibbs: I just enjoyed that beat [from Miilkbone’s “Keep It Real”] so much, and I loved it when Jay-Z and Big L rapped over it [for their "’95 Stretch & Bobbito Freestyle."] So I just wanted to put my spin on it [for “The Ghetto”.] I hadn’t really heard nobody touch that [instrumental] since [Jay-Z and Big L.] Out there in New York they say that’s sacred, so it’s like if you touch something like that then you really gotta do something to it.
DX: Yeah, Kay Gee of Naughty By Nature, he cooked up a classic track for that “Keep It Real” joint. Has Miilkbone or Kay Gee reached out about you using that instrumental?
Freddie Gibbs: Nah, not as of yet. But…they probably ain’t trippin’, man. It’s just all about good music.
DX: If you’re ever interested in remaking another often overlooked classic joint from the mid-‘90s, you should go on ahead and cover “How Much” from your artistic forefathers from the Midwest, Top Authority.
Freddie Gibbs: Oh yeah, Top Authority…that Rated G, that was my shit, man. I love Top Authority. That Michigan shit.
DX: Top Authority, The Dayton Family -
Freddie Gibbs: Oh yeah, Dayton Family: Bootleg, Shoestring, [that was my] shit, dude.
DX: Do you see yourself as a continuation of what was coming outta Flint back in the day as opposed to what was coming outta [nearby] Chicago? Like, Flint was more gutta gangsta shit but it was always centered around the struggle, and Chi-town’s a little bit more pimp shit…
Freddie Gibbs: I see [my music] kind of as a relation of both, ‘cause I rap about both elements. In the Midwest it’s a gutta area. They call it the rust belt: the Gary area, Flint, Michigan, and Detroit and all of that shit. It’s a lot of impoverished people, and broke-down factories, no jobs. So…we definitely gotta rap about that struggle element of it…as well as the pimpin’ element of it. So I think [my music is] definitely a combination of both.
DX: Top Authority had a joint called “National Anthem” on that Rated G album, but your “National Anthem (Fuck The World)” isn’t a cover of their shoot-em-up song but rather a middle-finger to your doubters and detractors: “Playa hatas, fuck ‘em / Record labels, fuck ‘em / Radio, fuck ‘em / Hope my shit still be bumpin’.” I hope so too after they hear that line. [Laughs]
Freddie Gibbs: That’s just the real, man. That’s just how I feel. I think there’s a lot of people in this game gettin’ caught up too much in the hype of trying to impress either radio or record labels or just these bustas out here that don’t really know shit about music. Nobody’s just making what they wanna make, and that’s what I wanna do. I’m just all about making what I wanna make and putting it out how I wanna put it out, with no pressure from no [one.]
DX: If it’s “Record labels, fuck ‘em,” why’d you sign on the dotted line with Decon?
Freddie Gibbs: I signed with Decon [Records] to put out the EP. [But] I’m still like unsigned. I didn’t sign like a record deal, we partnered up to do this EP, this Str8 Killa, ‘cause they believed in what I was doing, [and] I believe in what they doing as a company, so we just partnered up to push this thing out nationally, just so I could get something in the stores…and to get a good look out there. Decon is a great company… I love everybody over there. We doin’ our thing.
DX: Now I’m just gonna play devil’s advocate here and ask if the recording home of Rakaa and Chali 2na is really the best fit for you? Are you concerned at all about appearing too subterranean Hip Hop to appeal to the audience for a Young Jeezy or a T.I. – the audience that seems more suited to your style?
Freddie Gibbs: Nah, definitely not. That’s the good thing about my music is like I’m so versatile as an artist. I [can] impress different crowds. I just rocked 5,000 people at the Pitchfork Music Festival. And 90% of them people was probably white, or wasn’t from where I’m from or from the ghetto or dealt with the things that I’ve dealt with. But, it’s great that my music can still connect to those people that never been through the pains that I been through. [And that] just shows my versatility as an artist. So yeah, I’m not worried about connecting with a certain audience. I think that my music can transcend over all of that.
DX: Are you gonna try to slide to the other side of the spectrum though and get you a Gangsta Gibbs Gangsta Grillz or something like that to try to impact that other audience too?
Freddie Gibbs: Nah, probably not. [Laughs] See, the thing about me is I’m into doing things differently than most rappers do nowadays. Everybody try to run and get a [DJ Drama hosted and mixed] Gangsta Grillz, or get some deejay to try to cosign ‘em or some shit like that. I don’t give a fuck about that shit. That was the whole thing of me doing the [EP deal] with Decon – nobody expected me to do that. That was way left. So, I just wanna do things that set me apart from most of these other rappers. Everybody got a damn Gangsta Grillz. I could care less about that shit.
DX: I know Alchemist has put some shit out through Decon, so was it Alc that hooked you up with the label?
Freddie Gibbs: Nah, it wasn’t [Alchemist], it was through other mutual friends. But definitely shout outs to Al. Al’s one of the most talented people in this game – that I’ve ever worked with. And that’s why we leaning towards doing this full-length project [together].
DX: Yeah, “Scary Gary” is my shit. So when we getting that Devil’s Palace EP with Alchemist?
Freddie Gibbs: Aw man, whenever we can both slow down and get in the lab and knock it out. We both got crazy schedules right now but…I’m in the lab doing my thing, [so] either way it go I’m putting a full-length out next, and it’s gonna be something to be reckoned with. The Str8 Killa EP is already something to be reckoned with. I don’t think that nobody in Rap is doing what I’m doing. I don’t think nobody got my flow. I tailor make my own shit. I ain’t rappin’ like none of these bustas. Really all the muthafuckas that came out the last five years is copycat-ass niggas, so it’s like, I don’t copy none of these niggas. Can’t none of these niggas do what I can do, because ain’t none of these niggas from where I’m from.
DX: Back in January for your feature interview with DX you proclaimed that “I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do lyrically. I don’t think no nigga can match my flow.” Why don’t more cats from this generation of artists care what they do lyrically or what their flow [is] like…?
Freddie Gibbs: Point blank, bottom line, period, these niggas are dick-ridas. Like I just said, they all copycats. Most muthafuckas don’t give a fuck about the integrity of they work, or what they saying, as long as that shit hit, as long as they get that check [and] that record is spinning on radio. [But for me], I got a little brother, a little sister, [and] I got a whole city behind me and on my back, [so] I owe more to them than just to go rap some Looney Tune bullshit. I owe more to myself. I don’t wanna look back five years later or 10 years later and [be] like, “Aw man, I made that bullshit?” I’ll never feel bad about nothing I put out. And I ain’t gonna embarrass my family and my city by putting out some bullshit.
DX: Now let’s go back here, you mentioned that the next project on deck for you is a full-length, you got a tentative title we can give out to the people?
Freddie Gibbs: You know what? I don’t even know yet, man. I’m just gonna play it how it go. It’s gonna be something along that whole Devil’s [Palace] content…’cause that’s what I’m on right now. So it’s gonna be something real deep, something real hard, something satanistic. [Laughs.]
DX: [Laughs] “Devil’s Son” from Big L kinda shit.
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah, it’s gonna be some shit that’s gonna terrify these niggas.
DX: Your mother is gonna be…angry [Laughs.]
Freddie Gibbs: Oh yeah, my mom and my stepfather church-going people [so] they love it, man. They really love it [Laughs.]
DX: You said you’re in the lab, can we give out any names of any producers or any collaborators [you’re currently working with]?
Freddie Gibbs: I just worked with my homeboy Develop. We just did a real hot joint, “Face Down,” that’s gonna [be featured on the Str8 Killa No Filla mixtape and] really make a real impact… [And] I actually just did a new record with Jim Jonsin, so whew, watch out for that, that shit is gonna be real dope.
DX: Are you still working with any of like [your] old Interscope collaborators: Just Blaze and Buckwild?
Freddie Gibbs: Just [Alchemist] pretty much. Me and Al still link up. I would definitely like to work with all of those dudes [again], but they got they shit going on and I got my shit going on. And I can’t slow down to get in the lab with some prima donna-ass muthafuckas. I just wanna get in the lab and make music. Shouts-out to Buckwild though, [that’s] my homie. I still fuck with Buckwild, but we just ain’t got in the lab and did nuttin’ as of late.
DX: I know you’re focused on your own dolo project, but after “God Damn!” you know a full album with Reks is now mandatory.
Freddie Gibbs: I’m supposed to do a show with Reks like real soon down in Florida. So yeah, shouts out to Reks. And shouts-out to the homie Statik Selektah. He mixing the Str8 Killa No Filla mixtape. It’s just love. It’s just good to see good people doing good shit in this game and it was a pleasure to work with ‘em.
DX: You’re supposed to be on that 1982 album too, right?
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah, I was born in ’82, so I’m definitely gonna fuck with Statik and them on that. I heard Statik doing some shit [with fellow ‘82er] Cassidy [too], so it’s all love. Like I said, I just wanna make good music, and I definitely love what Statik doing.
DX: Now besides Reks, you know that after “Run Up To Me” , “Do Wrong” , and “Womb 2 The Tomb” [that] a collabo project with Pill is also in high demand. Any chance of maybe doing like a mixtape or something to satisfy that demand?
Freddie Gibbs: Uh…I mean, who knows man. Pill going in his direction with his career, and I’m going in my direction. Shouts-out to Pill. Pill the homie… Hopefully we can get in some more work. Like I said, he doing his thing, I’m doing my thing, [and] I wanna see how these solo careers pan out. [When] we both got the time and the space to do that [duo project] then I’m definitely open for it.
DX: “Womb 2 The Tomb” just reaffirms to me that Gangsta Gibbs and Gangsta Pill are carrying that 2Pac torch for this era… So how responsible do you feel for keeping that ‘Pac tradition of ghetto gospel alive for this generation?
Freddie Gibbs: I think that somebody owe it to him. [2Pac] was definitely one of the [greatest], if not the greatest, of all time in this game, and I think his name and his spirit [should] still be spoken up [to] remind people of the impact that he had on the game. Everything that I do I just try to pay homage to the greats, be it ‘Pac, Scarface, [The Notorious B.I.G.], Jay-Z. If I do something that they did or they touched it’s just an extension of my hand to them…
DX: I know nobody likes comparisons but it’s hard not to compare a joint like “Rock Bottom” from Str8 Killa to some classic Me Against The World era ‘Pac. But you got a living legend on that joint witchu, Bun B. How does it feel to have a trill O.G. like Bun coming through with the co-sign for Freddie Gibbs?
Freddie Gibbs: Aww man, shouts-out to Bun B, man. That Trill O.G., go get that, in stores August 3 – right along with that Str8 Killa. Bun…I’m speechless when it come to Bun. Bun is definitely one of the staples of southern Hip Hop – Hip Hop period – and just to be on a record wit’ him was an honor for me, ‘cause I grew up listening to Bun. I probably bought [UGK's] Ridin’ Dirty two or three times. All the records that [UGK] put out: Dirty Money, Too Hard To Swallow, Supertight, I was jammin’ all them. All my older uncles [used to be] jammin’ those. So I’m a product of that whole UGK era, [and] so I thought it was fitting for both of us to do a record [together.] And I love Bun for coming out and knockin’ that out for me. I’m real appreciative of that, ‘cause I meet a lot of sick muthafuckas in this game and Bun always kept it 100 wit’ me. He invited me to his show last June in New York – rocked it. Bun always kept it a 100 wit’ me; he ain’t never Hollywood or any of that. So I definitely appreciate Bun for that. He definitely somebody that I look up to in this game and wanna follow [in his footsteps.]
DX: There’s a video for the other joint Bun is featured on, “Oil Money” , forthcoming, correct?
Freddie Gibbs: Definitely. It should be done within the next couple of weeks… We doing like a group project with Chuck Inglish, Chip Tha Ripper, Bun B and myself, and it’s gonna come out hard. I’m just glad that people are taking a liking to the record that we did, ‘cause it’s definitely some left field type of shit.
DX: Now, a Bun B co-sign has become like a stamp of approval for newer artists like yourself, Drake, etc. And in relation to that I wanna ask you about something you spit a few years back, for the title-track to your Live From Gary, Indiana tape. On that joint you said, “Critics compare me to these rappers in my age bracket / Don’t put me in the category wit’ them faggots.” A few years forward from that statement, do you feel like fans need to keep you separated from the Kid Cudi’s, the Drake’s…?
Freddie Gibbs: Definitely man, you gotta separate me from them dudes. ‘Cause we definitely not doing the same type of Rap. Them dudes ain’t been through what I been through, so they can’t put it down how I put it down. The same with me, I can’t put it down how they put it down ‘cause I ain’t did the shit that they did. I ain’t never been on no fuckin’ Degrassi High or no shit like that. [Laughs] My nigga, I’m from Gary, Indiana. I’m from the ghetto, my nigga, like the real ghetto. So I can only just speak on what I’m speaking on and make good Gangsta Rap music, ‘cause that’s what I grew up on. And…not just Drake and [Kid] Cudi, shit, you gotta really separate me from everybody in the game ‘cause I’m the only person from Gary, Indiana out here like that. [And] like I said, I tailor make my flow [and] don’t none of these niggas rap like me. Right now it’s just Midwest versus everybody. We doin’ our thing, and I’m just trying to put on for my city and my region. And that’s how I separate myself from these niggas in the game.
DX: I noticed when you got the XXL Freshmen 2010 cover it’s kinda like – I can’t remember if you’re standing next to Big Sean, but it’s kinda like…one of these kids is not like the other ones. [Laughs]
Freddie Gibbs: [Laughs] Actually, I think I was next to Big Sean, but the homie Jay Rock was next to me too. Shouts-out to the homie Jay Rock, that’s my Blood, that’s my nigga. But…like I said, in everything I do, in every move I make, from the smallest detail, I try to set myself apart from the rest of these Rap niggas. That’s what I like about that cover, I don’t think that nobody was alike, so to speak. I think that everybody on there do they own thing. And that’s what was cool about it, it was real diverse.
DX: Let’s just end this Q&A with one loose question I been wanting to ask you since reading your LA Weekly feature, did I understand correctly that while you were with Interscope Eminem passed on working with you?
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah, Eminem passed on me, man. [Laughs] That’s one of the craziest things of my career. I love Eminem’s work…but him and [Shady Records co-founder] Paul [Rosenberg], I guess they figured that I wasn’t up to they standard. I don’t know what the fuck they was thinking when they did that, ‘cause I see other muthafuckas on they label that can’t hold a candle to the shit I do. But that’s they business, that’s they company, I don’t got nothing against what the fuck they doing. Until a muthafucka say something bad about me, then I’ll go in on these niggas. But I ain’t got nothing against nothing they doing. That was a stage of my career I was at, and maybe I wasn’t appealing to them at the time. But, I ain’t trippin’, it is what it is, I ain’t bitter about that. At first I felt surprised, especially when I saw other muthafuckas that they signed. I’m like, “Man, this [dude]? C’mon man, get real.” [Laughs] But at the same time, it was a blessing in disguise ‘cause it got me to this point where I’m at and letting me know I don’t need no muthafucka to get my name out there. I don’t need no Eminem. I don’t need no co-signs from none of these niggas to get where I need to be in this game. So that [experience] was just kinda opening my eyes to something, and showing me to go another direction. I [could have been] on Shady [Records] and shelved or dropped or forgotten about right now. I’m 28 right now, [and] I think I’m at an age where I can definitely see things better than what I could see ‘em at 23. So I’m glad I ain’t sign with Shady Records.
DX: I just can’t believe there was no Midwest love coming from Em [Laughs.]
Freddie Gibbs: Yeah, that’s what I said, man. And [then] they signing bustas. [Laughs] Straight bustas. I don’t even gotta say these bustas' names. But, I ain’t trippin’ my nigga, like I said, that’s they company. Hopefully, I can come up and be on the same level as Eminem one day.