Why you should care
Because he makes a compelling case for “underrated.”
This is an edited version of a piece brought to you by our friends at Vibe.
Freddie Gibbs doesn’t like seeds in his weed. Even more importantly, Gibbs’ right-hand man, Diego, doesn’t like seeds in his weed. A cozy trailer parked behind Bonnaroo’s the Other Tent has become Gibbs’ backstage birthday pregame spot. Plastic cups, ice bags, wine, champagne, an assortment of juices, sodas and energy drinks, and a half-full bottle of Patrón (the rapper will take the rest to the face during his debut performance an hour later) crowd the countertop. Gibbs is coolly seated on top of the cooler housing all the cold beers and water. His manager, Pun, is leaning back in a cushioned recliner playing DJ with his iPad, rattling the room. Madlib — the producer, DJ and Piñata collaborator who linked with Gibbs thanks to mutual friends, good marijuana and a musical chemistry that just clicks — is posted up against the wall, passing an already lit blunt to another one of Freddie’s LA homies.
In an era where record sales are dwindling and performances are primary streams of revenue, Gibbs has found a cozy spot in the festival circuit and touring for his niche audience. “These n***as’ whole careers are predicated on if they can make a radio record or not,” he says of mainstream rappers. “I don’t gotta be the n***a at the tippy top. I’m gonna get money like this for the next 20 years. I’ll be at these festivals and Europe and American tours for the next 20 years of my life.”
Here, the booming entrepreneur details his plans for longevity, the root of his business acumen, how he can breathe new life into dying record labels and why Freddie Gibbs is doing much better than the world thinks he is.
VIBE: Your Freddie Kane OG supply is taking off during a pivotal time for marijuana in America. Any words of advice for people trying to come up in the legal weed business?
Freddie Gibbs: Hell nah, because I want to get all the money. It’s just like the dope game: Try to move in on me and you gotta get up. I ain’t telling you n***as how to do nothing. I’m gonna keep bringing the n***a fish. You bring a n***a fish, he’s gonna eat good. I’m gonna keep letting you n***as eat good, but I’m never gonna take you to the motherf**king water and show you how to fish yourself. My granddaddy taught me that. Never show another n***a where you fish. I’ll never show another n***a my fishing hole because he’s going to try to get my fish.
Can’t be too mad at you for that. Have you tested Freddie Kane on other rappers?
I just tested it with the No. 1 rapper of all time, Snoop Doggy Dog. He smoked that Freddie Kane and he said, “I thought Freddie Kane was another n***a.” Shout out to Snoop. He’s the Godfather. The Doggfather. Much love always and respect. Once Snoop Dogg gave me the plug, the stamp, it’s all love.
Getting a thumbs-up from Uncle Snoop is huge.
I got much love for Snoop. He brought me on GGN and it was an honor and a pleasure. I grew up on that sh**, man. I was a little n***a, maybe second or third grade, I don’t know, bumping that “Lodi Dodi.” I used to be on some gangsta sh** walking to school with that. And that Chronic.
Were you rocking with N.W.A. too? Because [the film] Straight Outta Compton is about to come out.
I grew up on N.W.A, Geto Boys. My dad was listening to that. My mom had me at a young age, like 20, and she was the oldest child. All her brothers were 7 and 10, so I was like a younger brother more so than the oldest child. I was the younger brother to all my uncles, so they were going through their childhood and their teenage years and I was right there. Everything that they were loving, I was loving. I wanted to be a gangsta from birth, not because of the music but more so what I was seeing. What my uncles were doing. I was just fascinated with the street lifestyle from a young age. Of course I wanted to do other sh**. I wanted to be in the NBA. I wanted to be in the NFL. I went to college to play sports, but I got kicked out because that street sh** is just always a part of me. Looking back in hindsight, I used to go through a period in my life where I used to regret it. I used to be mad at myself for not doing the right thing, but I don’t feel that way anymore.
Switching gears, what’s one of the latest books you’ve read?
Scarface’s book. That’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. And that’s my homie too. So as I’m reading the book, I’m calling him. He had to tell me like, “Man, just finish the book.” So when I got done, I called him and we were on the phone for like an hour. It’s a lot of layers to Scarface. That’s probably why he’s one of my favorite artists. When you peel all those layers back, you really get Brad [Jordan]. He’s a close friend of mine, so to be able to get that knowledge from him is priceless and helped me get through the last five years of my life and career.
What’s the best piece of advice he’s given you?
To just always be my own boss. You see the trials and tribulations of what he went through with his career, and when you read the book, you see the timelines during the course of the book, when he was happy and the times when he was sad. It seems he was happiest when he got that Def Jam job. But then that peaked and went down when they wouldn’t really sign nothing that he brought. Then Ludacris brought him back up and that made him happy. You can tell his emotions from the book. When I write my book, y’all ain’t ready. The sh** that [Scarface] was talking about with crack houses and bleeding n***as blocks out and moving them. I was listening to his sh** as I was doing it. There’s probably another n***a out there listening to my sh** as they’re doing this sh**. When Jeezy came out, he was telling it to a T: the stove, bricks, these are the measurements. He was breaking it down. That’s what made Jeezy so special. He was giving you a clear-cut vision of the kitchen and that dope-boy lifestyle. Then ’Face talked about it too. He was talking about it in the early ’90s. The way Jeezy did it, he made it like … damn. And then Ross compounded upon that, and so on. From that you got a whole genre of trapping rap. Me and dude ain’t on the same page, but I definitely can respect that.
You mention Jeezy, who’s well-established and widely known in the music game. What are your thoughts when people refer to you as underrated?
I like it, because when you’re underrated, you always got room to grow. If I’m overrated, then I can fall down, but when I’m underrated, then I always have room to grow.
And festivals like Bonnaroo are major. It means middle America knows and loves you.
Because it’s an organic growth. It was never fake. Ain’t no label come behind me with no $100,000 behind a single and put it to the radio. Every place that I’ve gotten in my career, I’ve gotten on my own from real growth. I didn’t go pay DJs for radio. I was like, “I’m just going to grow a fan base.” I think everything that happened for me happened organically. That’s why I say I’ll last longer than the next n***a. I’ll be around longer than them because I have classics under my belt, thanks to [Madlib].
It sounds like you know exactly what you’re doing.
These record labels need to hire me. There are a couple big record labels that want to hire me as an A&R [artists and repertoire representative]. I’m about to do that. That’s going to be the transition of my career. I mean, come on, man, I kept Freddie Gibbs relevant for the last seven years with no label. So imagine if I apply those tactics to another artist with a label’s money? I can do that. I kept Freddie Gibbs relevant with dope money. My own money. I ain’t never take a check from a label. I ain’t never take a dollar from Young Jeezy, contrary to popular belief and contrary to what that n***a said on Hot 97. I never took a dollar from him. That’s our discrepancy. But back to that label-head sh**, that’s definitely in the works right now. I definitely have tactics that a label doesn’t have. I took a meeting with a couple labels and they were asking me questions. They don’t know what the f**k to do. Major labels are about to be obsolete. They hire young Gibbs in there and they can last another 20 years. They put me in the office and they can do it. But they gotta pay, because we’ve been doing it on an independent level so smoothly. Now the labels are asking the successful artists questions.