Music interview: Freddie Gibbs is Walter White
He grew up in the marginal ghetto in Indiana and didn’t start pursuing music until he was 21-years-old. His uncompromising rhymes are filled with violent, unpredictable and alarming stories of his life on the rough outskirts of society as one of America’s forgotten poor – his stint as a drug dealer included.
Harriet Cheney braved a weed-infused dressing room to catch up with LA rapper Freddie Gibbs just before he took the stage at OutsideIn Festival in Sydney. With his standard joint in hand (well, it’s legal in LA), Gibbs talked about being gangster, his new album with legendary producer Madlib and, most importantly, Breaking Bad.
It’s your first time in Australia. What’s the least expected thing that you’ve seen since being here?
The switches. They were crazy! The Cadillac on hydraulics. When I was in New Zealand and I seen that, I was just like “wow!” I was shocked to see so much American culture and such an American nice car. It was ‘83 Cadillac Fleetwood with Brougham with switches. I was like “damn!” and especially because you all drive on the other side… it was crazy! I didn’t expect Australia to be as similar to America as it is. I mean I could just come over here and live and the cultural barrier wouldn’t really fuck me up too much. Except driving… I’d be fucked up driving.
When did you start writing rhymes and rapping and realise that music was what you wanted to do?
Probably at 20/21 years of age. I ain’t grow up doing that shit. There was no real scene (in Indiana). There wasn’t a lot of real-like rappers to look up to. It wasn’t like New York or LA where they’ve got Jay Z and Tupuc in their city. It was nothing like that. I heard a lot of it, but in my city and area I didn’t have that to look up to. Now I feel like I’ve established that a little bit.
But you had to move to LA to do that, right?
Definitely. I moved to LA and got engulfed in a music scene.
You’ve just released your debut solo album…
No. What’s a debut album? I’ve done so many projects I’ve been putting stuff out on the streets for a long time. I can’t really call anything I do right now a ‘debut album’. That’s some name that some blog or something gave it. I’m like “okay”. I guess they feel it’s my debut because I stopped fucking with Jeezy (Gibbs collaborated extensively with American rapper Young Jeezy). Yeah, but that debut shit is stupid.
Okay, so your non-debut-just-released album is called ESGN (Evil Seeds Grow Naturally). Interesting title. What’s it mean?
I figured that I needed to start a brand and I always wanted to do something with ESGN. I just feel like it’s everything that I embody. I watch ESPN all day and I just wanted to make a play off that. Make it into some gangster shit. The homies love it. I just wanted to create a movement, something to latch onto and it’s a bit taboo… it’s not the shit your parents want you to listen to.
You have collaborated quite extensively with Madlib and your EP Deeper is about to drop (it was released on 24 Sept), with album to follow early next year….
(Gibbs’ producer chimes in: “Yeah we do”)
Oh yeah okay. I don’t know when my shit’s coming out. It just comes out.
How does the creation process differ when you’re collaborating on an album? How much do you share?
I don’t share shit. I don’t share nothin’ with nobody.
Okay. That must make collaborating a bit difficult…
(Laughs.) Nah you definitely split it up evenly. It’s easy. It’s like we both go half on a rack of cocaine or semeron (a fictitious drug). Yeah same thing. It’s easy.
What about the younger guys? I know you did a track with Joey Bada$$…
Yeah I did a track with Joey Bada$$. People that I collab with are people who I like their shit… you know? I respect them.
I heard rumours that Cults and Best Coast were sending you their stuff…
(producer chimes in again: You did the Cults remix)
Oh yeah I did. I forgot I did that. Been there done that.
What’s a collaboration that you’d like to work on that would surprise us?
I don’t know if it’s a surprise or not but I want to do something with Drake. I want him to give me a verse or something. I want to do a song with Jay Z, but same thing… no surprise there. I want to do a song with the best people so that I can put a measuring stick on myself to see where I’m at compared to the people that they call the best. I want to be amongst that. To see where I’m at as a rapper I need to rap with the people they call elite. I don’t think too many people could fuck with me so I gotta get in there with the rap gods.
I saw on your Twitter that you’re a bit of a Breaking Bad fan…
Oh yeah! I am Walter White.
Really? You don’t look like him…
(Laugh) Yeah… I’m Walter Black.