Still Livin: Freddie Gibbs Speaks On Rick James, RTJ2 + More In His Last Interview Before The Infamous Rough Trade Shooting Incident
Live photos courtesy of Bowery Presents
Freddie Gibbs has been a fixture in music news as of late for the best of reas0ns and also some not-good-at-all reasons. Good news first: last Monday, November 3rd Gibbs put on a mesmerizing performance in front of a sold out crowd at Rough Trade Records here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Bad news: as he was leaving the venue just after 1 a.m., shots rang out. Gibbs escaped a volley of bullets, but not before two of his entourage were hit, the hooded gunman responsible fleeing into the Brooklyn streets on foot. Gibbs has expressed zero doubt that he was the intended target of the Rough Trade shooting and the NYPD’s investigation has revealed that the shooter had hung around him all night, sticking close to his circle during and after the show, apparently waiting for him to exit into the streets before pulling the trigger.
The shooting was officially only the second gun-related incident in Williamsburg this year and was taken by many as nothing short of inevitable, the violent crop of seeds sown by Gibbs’s hard lyrics and tough, thuggish attitude. But was it really all that? The real motive may remain a mystery, but to misread aggressive rap lyrics as an invitation for violence is to assume that hip-hop, as a culture, doesn’t know the difference. That kind of assumption underestimates fans’ ability to differentiate between a song’s realistic story and this real, human life. It also implicitly attempts to silence Freddie Gibbs–an MC of brilliant wordplay and inspired rhythms–and turns him into a muted stereotype.
The reality is that Gibbs is in many ways the last thing an outsider might expect: an indie artist who runs his own label, makes his own career choices and raps on whatever he pleases. That night in Brooklyn the Gary, Indiana native put on a visceral display of his skills, turning from barbed wire trap to his more soulful Madlib productions with a poise that’s made him hip-hop’s most revered (and envied) shapeshifter. As the crowd stood in awe, Gibbs spat verse after gnarled verse, many of them delivered acapella without a second of relent. If you’ve only heard “Piñata“–brilliant as it is–then you hardly know what he’s truly capable of.
In what’s now become an eerie transcript, Okayplayer sat down with Gibbs just after midnight at Rough Trade, after he’d finished his show but before the attempt on his life. The conversation focused on the MC’s musical process, artistic idols and his ambitious plans for the future. Still, these words now carry a chill that’s hard to shake–police reports have revealed that the gunman was there, in the room, during the interview even as Gibbs relaxed and told us “I don’t need bodyguards–I’m my bodyguard.”
Gibbs told Okayplayer after the shooting “I’m feeling great. I’m getting right back in the lab the rest of the year to finish my album. 2015 is gonna be crazy.” So read on and rest assured–Freddie Gibbs is Still Livin’.
OKP: What was it like, working on the new album, with Madlib? How did you two connect and get to work?
FG: [Pauses. Glances at his manager.] Everybody be asking me that shit, man. It wasn’t shit, man. People that I knew knew him and we just did a straight record, man. It wasn’t even anything crazy. There’s a lot of industry politics that keep going on, but wasn’t nothing. We just knew each other, did a record, and it came out great.
OKP: People are calling it the record of the year.
FG: You think so? Thanks.
OKP: I think it’s you and Run the Jewels 2, neck and neck right up there.
OKP: Nah, you got em?
FG: Hell yeah [laughs]. But no, Run the Jewels is cool, and I fuck with Killer Mike. But I don’t think anybody did an LP like me, that’s just me personally. I went for a different route–I think I’ve got a real diverse set with a lot of different types of songs on it, and people really do relate to that Cocaine Piñata shit, especially out here. I did that to throw a monkey wrench in the game and show that you can do whatever you want to do.
OKP: S0 do you want to throw a different monkey wrench into it, now?