INTERVIEW: Freddie Gibbs talks Madlib, "Bandana" guest appearances, and finally making it to the majors.
Consistency is key in this rap game. Even one small step in the wrong direction can derail the whole plan. But in the case of Freddie Gibbs, the minor setbacks have led him to the very point he’s at today. It’s the reason why he hasn’t lost his hunger over the years and the same reason why his latest album, Bandana, is as potent as it is.
Back in 2014, Freddie Gibbs and Madlib released their joint album, Pinata. The two made up an unforeseen combination that created one of the most revered hip-hop albums of the decade. Five years later, and the two were back at it again with Bandana. But the project itself was created under dire circumstances. Freddie Gibbs believed this could be the last album he ever released to the public after he was falsely accused of sexual assault in Austria in 2016. If convicted, he could’ve been behind bars for 10 years.
“As soon as I got out on bail, in Austria, I went to a studio out there,” he told HNHH. “I memorized a lot of the beats so once I got them back, it was like getting my baby back. That’s how I got through that whole trial mentally, these beats and this music.”
Since his release, Gibbs simultaneously worked on Bandana while concocting his comeback project, You Only Live 2wice, as well as 2018’s Fetti with Curren$y and Alchemist. Bandana marks Gibbs major label debut, despite being in the game for over a decade. Up until now, he’s made a name for himself as an underground legend with Pinata only helping to solidify his cult following.
Photo By HNHH
HNHH: Yo, what’s good bro?
Freddie Gibbs: Hey, what’s going on my boy?
Nothing man. Appreciate you talking to me.
I appreciate y’all having me man. When y’all don’t wanna talk to me, then I’m gonna get worried.
Before we get into it, I remember it was your birthday when you were in Montreal and on your Instagram story, you were talking about somebody paying for your party bus. Did anybody do that for you?
Nah, they didn’t. They fucked me over man.
They did fuck you over bro.
No party bus. I was highly disappointed.
How have you not gotten banned off Instagram by now?
Because I’m in the Instagram mafia. They fuck with me.
First off, congratulations on Bandana. I’ve been looking forward to it since you dropped Piñata. I’m a huge fan.
Thank you bro. That’s crazy.
It’s very dope. Every project since then is a new sound but you’re still giving the fans exactly what they want, you’re still dropping bars, you’re still giving the vivid raps that everyone loves you for. Why was it important to hold off on releasing Bandana until you had the major label backing?
I feel like this is one of the most important albums right now, for this century, the 2000’s. I feel like I need to present it in the correct fashion. I think that what we are doing right now could probably change the game a little bit.
Definitely. One thing that particularly caught my attention with this album compared to your previous albums, is that you’re almost talking from a birds-eye view. With every other project, you seemed to be giving a very active, view from the ground but this time, you’re overlooking everything that you’ve done and giving the reasons behind why you were doing it. With “Fake Names” specifically, you go through this dark place and then the beat switches and you hit a more breezy flow. How much of that was Madlib’s intention? Was Madlib trying to challenge you or were you trying to challenge Madlib?
I was picking the beat switches because they were at places where I wanted to shift gears on the album. I wrote this album with an intention of not ever rapping again because I thought I was gonna go to jail for ten years for that stupid shit. I was like “Alright, I gotta step outside myself and analyze myself,” because I was going through a lot of pain at that time. I had to be like “Damn, what are you really doing? What are you in this for? If there’s a rap hall of fame, are you going or are you just gonna be a drug dealer/rapper your whole career?” and I was like “Nah. Let me really zero-in here and focus on everything I have to do.” It worked out perfectly. Tunji gave me the opportunity to do something with a major label and never have to switch up. It was the perfect situation for me. My fans appreciate it because I didn’t sell them out. I gave them what I promised. That’s all I can ask for. Praise God.
Photo By HNHH
So at the end of the day, thank God it didn’t, but say you did get that ten years and this was the last album you ever released, would you say this is the pinnacle of Freddie Gibbs musically?
This is definitely the best project I’ve ever done but I felt that way when I made Piñata. I felt that way when I made You Only Live 2wice. I felt that way when I made Shadow of a Doubt. I felt that way when I made all of that shit. I feel like I get sharper and sharper every project. This is the best one because I’m the best at rapping that I’ve ever been. I’m in the best shape of my career lyrically. I can do more things than I could five years ago.
Definitely. Even with “Freestyle Shit,” you’re using more melodies which is not new to your style but you’ve honed into that a lot more. Where do those inspirations for melodies come from?
Guys like Lil Baby, Gunna, the young cats man. I listen to their music. Of course, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony started all of that shit so I definitely draw inspiration from Krayzie Bone and all those cats. They were the first with that style. Nowadays, I listen to guys like Lil Baby and Gunna. They got a lock on the melodic flow and I like that shit. I listen to some of everything. It’s all inspiration.
Getting back to the writing of Bandana, after you beat the case and were exonerated, was there any part of it that you felt you had to go back and rewrite or rerecord? Or did you want it to be as raw as possible?
I always keep it raw.
I know that happened a few years ago, was there any touch up in between that time?
Nah. When I came home, I probably added a couple of songs but everything was raw. “Crime Pays” was the first song I did. Shoutout to Sophie, I got to shoutout Sophie every interview because when I was over there, she helped me out a whole lot. She made sure I got in the studio so, without her, this album probably wouldn’t have even happened. So, shoutout to Sophie over there in Austria. Once I got in the studio over there, I memorized a lot of the beats so once I got them back, it was like getting my baby back. That’s how I got through that whole trial mentally, these beats and this music.
That makes this album a lot more meaningful. With so many songs, you can tell the amount of intimacy and the things going on in your life at the time. A few days ago, Lambo posted pictures from the sessions and said you and Nipsey Hussle were in the same studio building while you were recording Bandana and he was recording Victory Lap. Both projects are super great and will likely be the albums that come to mind when people think of both of you respectively. What was the energy like in the studio and do you have any particular memories of running into Nipsey at the studio?
Yeah. We were bumping into each other every day. We were so locked into our shit that we didn’t get anything done. I wish we had got a track done. I wish we could’ve gotten a track done a long time ago because I’ve known Nipsey since 2009 so it sucks. Every time I hear his music now, I kind of get sad. I can’t say enough about Nip. I was recording Bandana upstairs so we’d be in the kitchen every day. We’d be bringing different chefs. Shoutout to Mr. Fries. He was coming through a lot with the lobster fries. Nipsey was having him come up. I remember we had both just got a Benz. I just got an S-Class and Nip had the Maybach and I was like “Damn, yo shit longer than mine.” He’d park his shit in front of the studio every day and I’d park mine in the gate. I’d say “Why you not parking in the gate? You crazy as fuck.” He was like “Nah, it’s all good.” Then somebody walked past and scratched his Maybach up and we were laughing about that. I got a lot of respect for Nip and the things he was doing in the community. Musically, he was coming into his own. He was Grammy-nominated and was about to take off. Rest in peace.
Definitely. I know you’ve previously said that if you weren’t rapping you’d be a teacher and on “Education,” you, Yasiin Bey, and Black Thought were dropping a lot of game and historical references. Do you ever see teaching in your future? Is that something you’d still be interested in?
Hell yeah. I would definitely do that. I’d probably have to go back to school but fuck it. I would definitely do that. I could see myself doing that when I retire.
So, “Palmolive” is the big track on there and probably the most anticipated collaboration in a very long time. I know you’ve been asking to do shit with Pusha T for a long time. Was it a strategic move for you to get this track on Bandana or did you guys just get it in when you had the chance?
I wanted to get him on a Madlib beat, to be honest with you. That was my goal. I thought that would make the biggest impact. I think that song is a classic. Pusha T, Black Thought, Mos Def, and all of these guys played an integral, vital part of this project. Without those features, I don’t think it would be the same. They added the extra sauce that I needed. I’m forever grateful to those guys. It was an honor rapping next to Push. I think that we both went off. I get goosebumps when I listen to that song. I think we hit it on the head. We A&R’d that shit. Me and Lambo got all the features we needed to get.
How did Killer Mike come into play for the hook?
Oh man, that’s big bro. He blessed me. We just put the hook together and it was a wrap. We made the song work.
I feel like Piñata encapsulated everything dope in the underground during that era, that 2012 to 2015. But with this one, it was more curated in that sense. I know you recorded during that period in Austria. When you were able to start thinking about features, did you think “We should just cut it down and tell my story,” or was it more like “I’m gonna make sure this is done correctly,” like you didn’t want to saturate it with features?
No, not at all. At first, I wasn’t gonna do any features but the right ones were coming in so I took it. Once Mos Def sent a verse, I was like “Okay cool, we can do features.”
How did you get that Mos Def verse?
If I tell you that, I’d have to kill you.
I know you said the same shit with the Gucci Mane feature back in the day. I’m gonna trust the powers that be.
We got it. It’s some mob shit. Shoutout to Yasiin Bey. I appreciate him so much.
I was watching your Boiler Room set and I was wondering if you’d smoked any of Kurupt’s Moon Rocks since then.
No, I don’t.
No? Never again.
Not with Kurupt and that shit he smokes. That shit is too much. I don’t want no drugs in my system like that. That Moon Rocks shit too much. I can’t fuck with that shit.
Fair enough. With Bandana out, what’s the next move? I assume there’s a tour in place.
There’s gonna be a tour. I’m just living in the moment right now. We letting it breathe. We think we got a classic on our hands, hopefully, a Grammy nomination. That’d be great. I think it’s the best rap album of the year, no shade at anybody but no cap either.
I know you mentioned Montana will be the final installment in this trilogy, is this another album we’ll have to wait five years for?
I don’t know man. With this major label thing I got going on now, they might want me to put it out soon. I got it so it ain't no problem.
I’m looking forward to it.
I appreciate that.
Thank you so much for talking with me. Congratulations once again.
Thank you bro. I appreciate it.
LISTEN TO FREDDIE GIBBS & MADLIB'S "BANDANA" HERE.