Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: Freddie Gibbs

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Freddie Gibbs

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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.

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn: The Last Poets

The Last Poets

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Photo: Sound Evidence

The Last Poets on their legacy and new album "Transcending Toxic Times."

The Last Poets are more than a band, although, you could call them that as well. A collective? An idea? A movement? Sure!

Let's back up, though. The year is 1968. In Marcus Garvey Park in Harlem, a group of black musicians, writers and activists formed a group. They called it The Last Poets. They read poems, played drums, brought in other instruments later. And when they spoke, they spoke plainly. Their message was about unity. About social justice. About empowerment. About all that was wrong with their world and all that could be done to make it better.

Their groundbreaking self-titled debut album was pressed by the same small record label that produced the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis. The Last Poets are widely considered to be the grandfathers of hip hop genre along with Gil Scott Heron.

Over 50 years have gone by since the group formed. Dozens of members joined and left the group within that time frame. Dozens of albums were recorded. You can feel the spirit of the Last Poets in rap legends like Common, Kendrick Lamar, and Public Enemy and A Tribe Called Quest. They've been sampled in hundreds of hip-hop records including songs by NWA, Biggie Smalls, Digable Planets, Snoop, Dre, Madlib and many more.

Two of the groups original members Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan have a new album called Transcending Toxic Times. It fuses spoken word with jazz rhythms and hip hop. It's out now and it's wonderful.

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