To hear Freddie Gibbs tell it, he’s spent more than a few days on street corners living the kind of life middle-class audiences know only from “The Wire.”
When the Gary, Indiana, native rapped about rival MCs who “made a name off bangin’ and hustlin’, but really wasn’t” on breakout 2010 single “National Anthem (F--- the World),” he staked his own claim to authentic thug life. When he left Gary to accelerate his rap career, Gibbs chose Los Angeles because “I was selling dope in LA, so I felt more comfortable out here,” he said in a phone interview.
In recent years Gibbs has been posted up at a metaphorical intersection, too. His music exists at a lucrative convergence of interests in the underground rap landscape.
Rap traditionalists respect him for his adept wordplay, sterling technique and strict allegiance to 2Pac-style ghetto bangers, evidenced most recently on last fall’s merciless “Cold Day in Hell” mixtape. In basketball terms, he’s a blue chip phenom with a picture-perfect jumper, whereas somebody like Detroit weirdo Danny Brown scores with ugly hook shots.
That core contingency of hip-hop heads is not alone. Internet hype fiends lap up his ceaseless stream of collaborations a la “Thuggin’,” the collaborative EP he just released with acclaimed producer Madlib, or his on-stage appearance with indie rockers Cults in New York last week. Gossip hounds keep tabs on the sizable catalog of insults he flings toward other rappers. Presumably he’s got people in the streets.
With all eyes on Gibbs, seemingly every name in the game wants to work with him.
Well, not everybody.
“A lot of people scared of me,” Gibbs said. “A lot of people don’t want to get on tracks with me because they don’t like what I have to say. I’m welcoming all that though.”
Gibbs is not shy about verbally berating the likes of Lil Wayne, Big Sean and Lil B, each of whom he perceives as too soft or nonsensical. He shares similar contempt for the ever-expanding legion of rappers clogging up Datpiff.com.
“Most of these n----s need to go get a job,” Gibbs said. “To whom it may concern, I don’t give a f---. If they feel like I’m talking to them, they should just get a job. UPS is hiring.”
One rapper he does respect is Young Jeezy, who signed Gibbs to his CTE Records last summer. Though Gibbs’ much-anticipated official debut album “Baby-Faced Killa” is expected this year, he isn’t in any rush to finish it.
“Putting out a record in the stores is fancy and everybody likes that,” Gibbs said. “Your album, that ain’t nothing but the f---ing commercial. You gotta be the movie.”
Keep that in mind when Gibbs rocks Skully’s this Friday. And while he could probably sit down for a serious conversation about urban decay in his crack-riddled hometown — “It’s getting worse every day,” he lamented — remember that first and foremost he’s coming to Columbus to party.
“Ohio got some bad b----es, man,” Gibbs said. “That’s mainly what I’m there for.”