It almost feels silly writing an introduction to an interview with Freddie Gibbs because there's no way I can tell his story better than he can. On a technical level, Freddie Gibbs honestly might be the best rapper rapping right now. He's basically unfuckwithable on an atomic level. He's a fun dude, too--he walked into our office with a cup full of lean and when I asked him what he was doing in New York, his answer was simply, "Drugs." We sat down in a conference room and had a long, long talk about the art of rapping, the troubled economic situation in his hometown of Gary, Indiana, which R&B singers he's trying to have sex with (none), and drugs. Lots and lots of drugs.
Noisey: Walk me through how you write a verse.
Freddie Gibbs: I listen to the beat, first and foremost. I don’t like pre-written raps; I think it makes the song better if you listen to the beat first. In a sense, you have to make a marriage with the beat. I ride the beat, hear the flow of the drums, get the melody of my flow, and then from that point it’s a process of what I want to say. First, I figure out how I want to say it then I want to say. It’s kind of ass-backwards but it’s like, you’re making sounds in your head and then you just have to plug the words in. Do you like to be high when you write?
I like to be high when I do everything. How much weed do you smoke?
Probably about seven to fourteen grams a day. I remember you caught going through airport security with some weed and they wrote “Come on, son” on it.
Yeah! Nigga wrote a note on my weed being like, "Come on, son, you coulda hid your weed better than that!" I was in a rush! I put that shit in my sock…I didn’t think niggas was gonna be going through my goddamn socks, you know? That was that. Really?
Anything over an ounce they be trying to give you time. It’s a Class D felony and shit, look it up. They ‘bout to legalize that shit everywhere though, man. I don’t give a fuck. I'll smoke it if they legalize it or not. I’m still gonna travel with it, I’m still gonna smoke it, I’m gonna do whatever I need to do with it. Fuck the Feds, the CIA, the DEA, all the alphabets, all of y’all. How bad was Gary growing up?
We don’t have things like a movie theater or a mall, nothing of that nature. Walmart won’t even come in that motherfucker. You gotta travel outside of Gary to get simple, everyday retail. That’s not even within the city, so to speak. There’s some but it’s not, you know, always readily available. How do you think the city can recover from that?
Really, it just starts with implanting business and taking up a lot of that property and using it. You gotta beautify, you gotta make it look good so people will want to live there and work there. But for people to live there you need to create jobs, people need to work to sustain life, you know? There’s not a lot of that. I feel as though economic decline in a city like Gary is often cyclical. How do you feel crime plays into that?
People gotta get it. You gotta do what you gotta do. When there’s no job available, when there’s no work for you, what can you do? Especially when you’ve got mouths to feed, you’ve got habits, you’ve got expenses--a job’s not always readily available to you, so you’ve gotta take a different route. Nobody gets really deep in that game because they want to be, they just doing it because they have to. That’s when it comes in. People rob, people murder, and people sell drugs--that’ll go on until the end of time until you create a space or an outlet for those people, you know? The other day I was thinking about how it’s always the black side of town or the Latin side of town that’s always the worst in every city I go to. Why do these races have to be associated with that standard of living? I think that’s the sinister thing about racism in America.
Yeah, all the way through, all economic. You know, with the presidential election, everyone was like, "How can a black man economically run this country?" That was their whole argument against Obama. The only argument.
Have you ever gotten arrested?
Oh man, where you wanna start? Yeah, I’ve gotten arrested for gun possession, drug possession, shit like that. Never no rape, no assault or battery, I ain’t like that, I ain’t never assaulted no woman, no petty shit, none of that. Just basically protecting myself.
Tell me about the process of robbing a train.
First you find some tracks that come through the city. Sometimes the trains stop, so you pop the lock and find out what’s on that train. Sometimes it’s shoes, sometimes it’s TV’s, and sometimes it’s McDonald’s chicken patties. You never know. We used to do that. Snatch and grab.
Was there a certain element of living the outlaw lifestyle that you enjoyed in your youth?
Definitely. I think I just have a knack for doing bad shit, period. There’s just something in me, you know? I just have to go against the grain. I mean, I can be objective and do what I need to do, handle my everyday living, follow directions, etc. But there’s something that’s always been attracted to that taboo. It’s been like that since I was a child. They tell a nigga don’t play with fire, and I was the exact opposite.
When did you start drinking syrup?
I always fucked with it for years but as an occasional thing, you know? I like syrup; since I got a little temper, it keeps me calm. I’m a fan of the downers. I just like to smoke, I’m not even a big drinker. I hit the Hennessey every now and then but I ain’t tryna feel like that in the morning. I’m mainly just a weed smoker.
Do you feel like you’re punk rock, in a way?
Yeah, a little bit. I look at myself like an indie rocker. I look at some of my fans at my show and a lot of them look like they’re straight out of a punk rock show. They like what I’m coming across with. I had seen them same thing when I went to this Scarface show, so it lets me know that I’m on the right track. You know, I’m touching people that’s not from different walks of life, but the things that I’m saying is affecting them as well, and they can feel it. That’s love. I like my job.
Is there anybody rapping right now that you can’t stand?
I don’t know, man. I don’t really pay attention that much. It would have to be a nigga that showed some disrespect. If a nigga disrespect me then I’ll bury em. It don’t even have to be in a rap, it could be when we see each other, you know? If you do something I don’t like, something of that nature, bam, I’ll burn em. You see me again, we bout to fight. And if he beat me up, we have to fight every time I see him ‘till I beat him up.
I heard that R. Kelly is apparently a trained boxer.
I don’t doubt that. R. Kelly IS from Chicago. He IS about that issue. Where he comes from, they’re about that life--he ain’t from no suburbs.
I think he has a chip on his shoulder because he sings.
You know, man, to keep it real, I was just talking to my boy BJ about this shit--a lot of motherfuckers thinking that just because a nigga sings don’t mean he can’t whip your ass. You don’t think these niggas didn’t fuck some niggas up back in the day? These R&B niggas will whoop your ass. Just cuz you rappin’ don’t mean you can’t get your ass beat.
A man is a man is a motherfucking man; square up, If you match up a nigga, you fight him. The nigga you can’t match up with, you shoot that motherfucker. That’s how I see it, that’s how I survive. How come you ain’t asked me about some R&B girls I’m tryna fuck?
Alright, which R&B girls are you trying to fuck?
Do you drink a lot of syrup?
Nah man, I ain’t like these other rappers, it’s an occasional thing for me.
I mean, it’s pretty dangerous.
If you make it dangerous for yourself. If it’s like, a weekly habit, then yeah, you about to be dead. It can be way dangerous. Plus, niggas be doing cocaine and shit, drinking a lot of alcohol, you know?
I feel like a lot of people look at getting fucked up like a math problem where people add uppers and downers in so they’re trying to reach a normalization point. You know what I mean?
Mhm, they’re trying to get back to a certain point. They’re chasing the dragon, baby. They’re trying to get that same high they had when they first did those drugs. I had an uncle, may he rest in peace, that smoked crack. I would ask him, “Why do you still smoke crack?” and he would be like, “Man, it’s me just chasing the high.” Right then and there, man, I saw that shit for myself. I saw that addiction. It just made me realize that shit. Ain’t nothing wrong with having a habit as long as you can maintain that habit. As long as that habit is not affecting you providing for yourself and your family, then you good, you know what I mean? If you out there buying pipes everyday, you fucking up your crib, car, and all that shit, you know, buying a sack everyday and you ain’t taking your kids out nowhere--that’s when your shit is fucked up. If you can’t maintain your habits in a clean, fashionable way, then you need to quit.
What’s the highest you’ve ever gotten just smoking weed?
Smoking weed laced with Oxycotin. I used to be addicted to Oxycotin in like, 2006, 2007. I was taking a lot of that shit, taking Vicodin, Oxycotin, opiates, you know? All that shit. I was selling them and just popping them. I was eating them like candy and shit. It just got fucked up real quick. I had to just quit. I quit cold turkey.
Did that suck?
Cold turkey? It sucked. I just moved to another state, away from the place I was getting all those pills. It was fucked up for a minute. That’s a real strong addiction to have. I started looking at myself like a drug addict and was like, "I’m no drug addict, I can’t do this shit. I need to get off this shit, I need to get new shit." When I started sprinkling that shit on my weed, that’s when I knew. I was like, "Man, what the fuck?" My homeboy would come over to smoke and I’d have blunt rolled up for myself. He’d be like, “What are you doing” and I’d say, “You can’t hit this shit.” Awkward feelings like that made me stop that shit, I just had to let that shit go and move forward. I ain’t no drug addict. But you know, everybody have to go through something and that’s something I had to learn for myself, I grew from that shit.
Drew Millard is on Twitter and has never smoked laced weed--@drewmillard