Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brett Allen
Freddie Gibbs left behind some of his personal property when he left the studio following this very impromptu session last month. We'll get back to the personal property in a moment, but for now, we focus on the details of the visit. It was spur of the moment for a number of reasons. First of all, no one had considered the possibility, until a few hours before it was to happen - a random meeting of Daytrotter, Class Actress, The Hood Internet and a special project involving The xx - and even when it had been arranged, there were still lingering doubts that this would even go down, as improbable as it all was. But about an hour later than expected, Gibbs, a DJ, manager and a buddy showed up, spent an hour or more on the couch soaking in a remix that The Hood Internet had cooked up and then penned some freestyle verses to throw down on top of everything. It was relatively quick and we stayed out of the Gary, Indiana, rapper's way for the most part. He was kind enough to hang around for another half hour for this session and it showcases exactly why Gibbs is one of the best young, hip-hop talents in the country, displaying smooth wordplay, a retro tint and braggadocio to rival anyone in the game as he pumps out easy track after easy track. Gibbs turns his strong ego into a huge asset, delivering boasts like the ones that - if "Notorious" taught us anything - got Biggie Smalls a recording contract. There is a healthy self-esteem residing in the tall and lanky MC and one of its main points of contention seems to be the kinds of material that he would arguing is being fabricated, bought and sold too easily these days. He sees most of the work that's being done as phony, taking more of a curmudgeon's stance on modern hip-hop, the way Salinger would if he had been asked to dissect and discuss the merits of anything Ke$ha or T-Pain in the grand scheme of things. It would have been an ugly discussion, but likely a quick one - to the point and blunt. Gibbs insists, so often in his rhymes, that he's not a poseur that you feel talked into it and you'd feel brainwashed if it didn't actually seem as if it were the truth. He raps about poverty and neighborhood in a way that sounds as if it's tapped into the noises, disturbances, groans, gun blasts, arguments, sobs, desperation and short glimmering instances of hopefulness that penetrate easily through the thin walls that carve out existences in the projects. He offers, "Couldn't afford a baby crib/I slept up in the sock drawer," and that couldn't feel more lived and understood. There are few - almost no -- references or allusions to money-attaining, money-loving or grubbing in the three songs that he taped with us here, just raw looks at how he is choosing to live and get by, making this his job, his 9-to-5, and believing that he was cut out for something better than holding a loaded Beretta, just not sure what that might be, or how long it will take to discover. He intros "Never-ending Cycle" with the line, "Now it's time to speak that real shit. The shit that make you kill shit," and the refrain mentions constant beefs with police, waking up hearing gun shots and being caught in the same old cycle, stuck in the system, in the same ghetto that's always been. The frustration in a Gibbs song stems almost completely from a general malaise regarding his plight and the plight of so many more of his friends, a feeling that there's nothing that's going to change anything ever. This burden gives Gibbs his edginess and that transcendent quality that makes a line like, "Gangsta Gibbs from the guts never gave a fuck" an ideal candidate for his tombstone someday and oddly enough, his not knowing how soon that day will come or how distant it is from now, is what makes this all the more compelling. It makes the potential danger thrilling in a real way and his insistence on keeping his "dick in the hood bitch," interesting and somehow much more important and understandable than we could possibly comprehend.