Freddie Gibbs’ story is one like many rappers before him: He was a 20something who had taken up drug dealing … and wound up a convicted felon, before music saved him.
“It gave me something to focus on, something I love. That had always been my problem … I just didn’t have a passion for anything,” Gibbs said. “I didn’t seek to be in the music industry or rap or anything of that nature growing up. It just fell into my lap. That’s how God works sometimes.”
Appearing Sunday at XIIIX Lounge (formerly Kamp’s Deli & Market), Gibbs played football at Ball State before grades forced him out and back to his native Gary, Ind. It was then and there that he got into dealing, and he’s continued to share his experiences there — good and bad — despite having it behind.
The gritty, harsh reality of growing up poor and in a crime-addled city is ever-present in his music, and reflects the hard times the nation is seeing at large.
“People are attracted to authenticity. They want to see something real,” Gibbs said. “We are in a recession, and I hate to label myself as a ‘recession rapper,’ but people think I’m like Robin Hood or something. People need an underdog to root for because they are underdogs in their own right.”
He’s unleashed a wave of bluecollar friendly tracks, including “National Anthem” and “Oil Money,” which have become a rally cry for the working class, earning raves while not compromising his vision and desire for something real, tough and emotional.
“It ain’t some shit where I got a catchy-ass beat and all you like is the beat and the hook, and you don’t give a fuck about what I’m talking about,” Gibbs said. “People are really zoning in and listening to what I’m saying wordfor-word.”
He’s done most of it without a label; he signed with Interscope in 2006 before the deal flamed out without a release. Gibbs has gone it alone ever since, releasing a flurry of mixtapes and EPs on his own means.
“I feel like artists these days don’t realize their self-worth. Without you, shit don’t move. Without me, there ain’t no music, no shows, ain’t nothing,” he said. “I’m worth enough to myself to not sign everything away to a label.”
It’s about all about being cautious and conscientious in selecting his next move. His debut full-length will likely see a major label — on his terms, of course — within the year, with more projects in between. He promised the studio album will be worth the wait, making the sort of statement that will leave a lasting impression.
“I’m slow to commit. The people that support my shit deserve my best for that first, real big splash I’m going to make,” Gibbs said. “I’m not going to put something out less than that standard. Everything’s got to be calculated. It’s a long career, and if you do everything right, you can make it even longer.”