Freddie Gibbs

24th September 2019

Critically acclaimed rapper Freddie Gibbs joins Bullseye to talk about his music career. He was born and raised in Gary Indiana – the birthplace of the Jackson 5. Gibbs grew up seeing his neighborhood change for the worse in a lot of ways. People were in poverty and times could be described as desperate. As a young adult, Gibbs used that pain to spark an impressive rap career. He creates stories of a past and present he feels very fortunate to have escaped. Gibbs talks to us about his career, his collaboration with Madlib and he even talks to us about a very trying time in his life. Plus, he’ll tell us why he starts every live show with a prayer!

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Photo:Jessse Thorn
Rapper Freddie Gibbs on Bandana, his new album with the legendary producer Madlib.
Before Freddie Gibbs ever dreamed of becoming a rapper, he was working at a shoe store in his hometown of Gary, Indiana. It’s a rust belt town, an hour outside of Chicago. It also happens to be the home of Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5.

Gary’s a rough place these days. Over the last 6 decades it’s hemorrhaged residents, shut down schools, fought a growing crime rate and poverty. Freddie was, like a lot of kids at that time, faced with a future that seemed bleak, searching for an escape. His outlet was in athletics. He was quite good. But like a lot of kids in his neighborhood, he had a hard time staying out of the streets.

Music would become another escape hatch. Gibbs found out a couple of his friends had started making records, they even had a studio in town. So Freddie started hanging out there and pretty soon he wanted to be a part of it even though he wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like. Would he become a producer? A DJ? Maybe a manager? Being an MC literally never occurred to him.

It wasn’t until Freddie was a grown man that he learned he had a gift for rhyming, a sense of rhythm, and a voice that commands your attention. Freddie raps about the streets. About the time he spent there, about the friends he knows who still are. About the friends he lost. If there’s a guiding theme in Gibbs’ music – it’s pain.

A few years back, his career took an interesting turn: he started collaborating with Madlib, a producer and MC from California. A guy who makes impressionistic, kind of strange beats known more for working with artsier, weirder MC’s like MF Doom or Talib Kweli.

The result was Piñata, a record where two very different artists thrive in their own element. It probably shouldn’t work, but it does. The music’s strange, kind of beautiful. Freddie still raps about the streets. There’s still that same pain there. It just hits you harder.

The pair have a new album called Bandana, and it’s really great.

Freddie x Madlib BANDANA from Kenny Greene Jr on Vimeo.

Gibbs joins Bullseye and reflects on his upbringing, molding his rhyming style with Madlib’s more eclectic beats, making music while on “daddy duty” and why he starts off every live show with a prayer backstage. He also talks to us about a very trying time in his life. Plus, Jesse and Gibbs talk Scarface. The rapper, not the 1980s Al Pacino remake.

Check out Freddie Gibbs on tour throughout Europe this fall.

In this episode...

Senior Producer
Maximum Fun Producer
Maximum Fun Production Fellow

About the show

Bullseye is a celebration of the best of arts and culture in public radio form. Host Jesse Thorn sifts the wheat from the chaff to bring you in-depth interviews with the most revered and revolutionary minds in our culture.

Bullseye has been featured in Time, The New York Times, GQ and McSweeney’s, which called it “the kind of show people listen to in a more perfect world.” Since April 2013, the show has been distributed by NPR.

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Maximum Fun Production Fellow

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