Interview: Freddie Gibbs Talks 'Cocaine Piñata', Not Being On A ‘F*ck Jeezy’ Campaign, Jay Z

If you haven’t heard about the new Freddie Gibbs album, you’re on the wrong part of the Internet. Together with L.A. music wizard Madlib, Gibbs has finally dropped Cocaine Piñata, a album three years in the making. We can confidently say its one of hardest gangsta rap albums of 2014.

When we caught up with Gibbs on the phone, he was coming off a night-long celebration of the album’s release. He sounded relaxed, somewhere between happy and hungover. He was candid about his time at CTE, insisting that he wasn't running a ‘Fuck Jeezy’ campaign. He talked about his smoking habits and talking females with Madlib in the studio.Gibbs also expanded on his forthcoming album, Eastside Slim. This guy doesn't stop working.

VIBE: I saw you tweet ‘Classic. Check.’ the other day. It’s crazy to see how far your career has come to make it to this point.
Freddie Gibbs: A lot of people wrote me off with the whole Jeezy shit. They thought I was just a mediocre rapper, and I wanted to get out of the zone of people saying that. They were only saying I was a mediocre rapper because I’m from Gary, Indiana. If I was from L.A. or New York or something, they’d be calling me a rap god.

I rap better than all these niggas in L.A. I rap way better than all these niggas in New York. I rap way better than any nigga in Atlanta. I rap way better than any nigga in Miami. Give me another five, six years of full throttle, and I could be just as good as Jay-Z, rapper wise. I think I’m almost up there with him right now as far as lyrical talent. I want to be considered one of the best. I think I’ve established that with this album in terms of whose got the best wordplay and who’s a real street nigga. There hasn’t been a rapper like me in a long time.

Was there any one incident that acted as the straw that broke the camel’s back with Young Jeezy?
Just a lot of lying. A lot of, 'We about to do this' type of shit. You can’t stand next to a nigga that boldface lied to you like a bitch. For a man to treat you like a bitch? I’m not gonna sit there and get treated like no bitch. I watched the nigga treat his homies like a bitch, and I wasn’t about to be no bitch for that nigga or no flunky. I was one of the only niggas around [CTE] who had his own movement, had his own money, had his own shit goin’ on when I started fuckin’ with them. Everybody else was just waiting on Jeezy to feed ‘em but I ain’t that nigga. I’m talking about literally waiting on this nigga to feed them hand to mouth. I can’t do that shit.

I told these niggas, we need to do this or that. I donno if [Jeezy] thought I’d quarterback the rest of these CTE niggas but that ain’t what I came over there for. I came to establish my career and do what I had to do. I can’t respect certain shit. Certain niggas get walked on but I won’t get walked on.

Is there any point you want to arrive at by going at Jeezy now?
Hell na, I don’t give a fuck. It’s just how I felt at the time when I went in the booth. That nigga definitely not that important to me at all. I ain’t got no contract or no red tape or money [issue]. It’s just some personal shit, how I feel about a nigga I lost respect for. This ain’t the ‘Fuck Jeezy’ campaign, I could care less. The day I made that song, that was how I felt. So I’m not about to take it off the album. Too many niggas in the rap game right now are too politically correct. How I feel, I’ma say that. I might feel like dissing another rapper this week.

At the end of the day, [‘Real’] is good music. I was in a situation with him so I spoke on it. If I had a god damn issue with another rapper, I’d say ‘Fuck that nigga’ too. I could care less about that nigga. I’m just a young black entrepreneur trying to get where I need to be.

I’d be a liar if I said I didn’t learn anything from Jeezy. I picked up some things on how to be a boss, and I’m not gonna lie about that shit. He definitely carried himself like a boss and he did some boss shit, not all the boss shit he was supposed to do, but I took some of those traits and some of that game. If I was around him and didn’t pick up any game, that’d be stupid on my part, to be around the nigga all day and not absorb any knowledge. I learned a lot, I ain’t no hater, but I also learned a lot about what not to do.

Being such an outspoken rapper, do you ever weigh the possible consequences of retaliation, especially in light of talent we’ve lost in the past?
Not really, because I grew up with real guys trying to kill me every day, so I don’t really worry about no motherfucking rapper. Rapper niggas…they wanna rap. At the end of the day, these niggas don’t want no violence. They wanna rap, do their show, make their money and go home. Don’t nobody in the rap game wana kill nobody, Pimp C already told y’all that. These niggas don’t wanna fight nobody.

I’m not trying to aggravate nobody to get them to come fight me, but if I feel you did some pussy shit, I’ll speak on it. If you wanna fight, we’ll go there. But these niggas is rappers, and at the end of the day everyone wants to go home safe. I’m not worried about any physical retaliation. I’m not worried about no man on God’s green earth harming me because I move in a respectful manner and guys everywhere fuck with me.

The only thing is when you speak your mind, it makes people scared of you. People don’t want to fuck with you. I don’t really give a fuck about that either. I’m at the point where I’ve established a fanbase and I’ve got a good amount of people that will support me regardless. That’s what this whole thing is built off of, me being me. I won’t say nothing ignorant. I’m an educated individual. Niggas might say I’m the Richard Sherman of the rap game. I’m top five dead or alive.

Tell me about the process of recording Piñata with Madlib. Did you two get in the studio?
Yeah a couple times, but most of the times he was just sending me beats and I’d pick through ‘em. New batches, old batches. Gang of shit.

The thing about this album that makes it so special is I recorded it over the course of three years. You see when I’m still grinding, like when I first started recording this album I was still selling cocaine. Toward the end I was getting more established in the rap game, got the [XXL] Freshmen Cover, so my life started changing. I sort of grew up with this album and the music grew and lived with me. I made Cold Day In Hell, Baby Face Killa and ESGN during the course of Piñata so I’d just put that on hold for a bit and then come back to it.

The first song I did was ‘Thuggin’ and the second one I did was ‘Shitsville.’ Once I did those two songs, I knew I was on the road to making an album. I tried to get Jay-Z on ‘Shitsville’ but he didn’t hit my line back.

On Baby Face Killa you went a little bit out of your comfort zone with a Kirko Bangz feature, a DJ Dahi beat, etc. Were you shooting for radio?
Na, not really. I just wanted to work with people I felt I could do good music with. I don’t think about the mainstream, the radio, none of that shit. I just make music. There are guys that got bangers and hits but they’re not in the studio like, “I needa make a banger.” My favorite song right now is that Rich Homie Quan [‘Man Of The Year.’] I love that song. Different rappers got different talents, It’s like X-Men. Every nigga ain’t gonna be the same. People gotta respect that shit.

I’m sick of people recently comparing me to YG. I love YG music. When I first met YG around the time he was first fucking with CTE, I told him, ‘Man, when I first heard that ‘Toot It And Boot It’ shit, I ain’t fuck with that shit. This was a real conversation. I kept it real with him, I told him, ‘I respect your grind, your new music is fire, you found your lane and I was wrong about your music. You got West Coast shit going on. That’s love.’ I dapped that nigga up and it’s been love ever since.

Niggas think I got an issue with [YG] because of Jeezy shit. That’s two totally different situations, my nigga. That’s like two players coming to a team and he doing his shit with the team but I got a contract dispute with the team. Niggas need to quit making it seem like I got an issue with YG. I live in L.A. my nigga. I ain’t got no bodyguard. I see YG, I see all these niggas.

Now that you’ve released the album with Madlib, are you leaning towards working with single producers on future albums?
Maybe. Not yet. I don’t wanna whore myself out like that to niggas who just want to do a project with me because they want to do it. I want to be real selective about it. Niggas I fuck with. Madlib, Statik Selektah of course. Those are my homies. And Alchemist, I’m still waiting to get in with him.

I have to ask, since you mentioned his name. What’s the status of the album with Alchemist, Devil’s Palace?
I don't know, bro, you gotta ask Alchemist about that shit. I just been trying to get in the studio with him. If I can get in the studio with him for a week, I’ll make that shit happen. I want to get him on my Eastside Slim album. I’m about 80% done with that. [Eastside Slim] is gonna turn a lot of heads. It’s definitely way different from the Madlib shit. It’s more stories on this record, I’d say.

I just worked with Mike Dean. I worked with Brodinski. I'm working with a lot of Canadian guys. I got a song with Young Thug. I want to be one of the most versatile rappers in the game. I don’t want to make just straight Midwest music or straight boom bap rap or straight country rap or club shit. I want to do all that shit.

I know this is an unfair question, but give me your top 5 dead or alive.
That’s not a fair question. [Pauses] Ah shit….fuck man…Scarface, 2Pac, Jay-Z, fuck man, damn….Big Pun, and…Eminem? Those the top five rappers I think. I want to be in the top five dead or alive, so I got a whole lotta work to do if them the motherfuckers that I need to surpass. Like Lebron said he want to be on the Mt. Rushmore of basketball, I want to be on the Mt. Rushmore of rap. So I got mountains and mountains of work to do, and I’m just getting started.

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Interview: Suave House Founder Tony Draper Links With Celebs Like 2 Chainz, G Herbo and Nick Cannon To Feed Their Cities

The harrowing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately disrupted Black communities across the United States with cities like Chicago being among the hardest hit. Throughout the year, artists from the city have stepped up and held socially distanced food drives and PPE donations across the city’s South and West sides. With his deep ties to Chicago since the early 90s, Suave House Records founder/entrepreneur Tony Draper, alongside NBA veteran Ricky Davis, made the Chi’ their next stop as part of the nationwide Feed Your City Challenge this past October 17th at the Pullman Park Community Center.

The chilly, yet bright and sunny Saturday saw hundreds of people drive through the parking lot of the complex, receiving groceries from the many volunteers, gathered from across the city. Masked up with PPE in the trenches with the civilians were local natives and celebrity supporters like Chitown’s Grammy winning producer/music executive No ID, rap star G-Herbo, new rapper Queen Key, NBA star Jabari Parker to media/music entertainer Nick Cannon. Draper and Davis were handing off items and loading boxes of farm-fresh produce and meats in the trunk of cars, and offloading the 95,000 pounds of food to feed 7,000 residents. While they were not in attendance, Common with Jhene Aiko and Social Justice Collective donated funds for the free groceries.

“You can’t lead the people until you feed the people. We’re out here in the community in a real way. People always talk about what’s going on in Chicago and these are the things going on in Chicago. Positive things for the community during a time like this. People coming together and it’s a wonderful event,” said Cannon.

For Draper, bringing the Feed Your City Challenge to Chicago and being able to pull it off successfully was crucial because October 17th, marks the 24th anniversary of the death of one of Chi’s most influential DJs, Rapmaster Pinkhouse, who passed away in 1996. “It feels like myself and my partner [Ricky] Davis coming to Chicago and partnering with Common, No ID, Jhene Aiko, Nick Cannon, G-Herbo, Jay Allen, [local FM radio] Power 92 and Pat Edwards was a sign from God that it’s meant to happen on this day. Even though Pinkhouse is gone, he’s still influencing the south side of Chicago and he’s still sending us blessings. We had to pull it off, we had to,” Draper said with conviction. 

Meanwhile, Power 92.3’s DJ Pharris, DJ Nehpets, DJ Commando, DJ Amaris and Hot Rod were on the 1s and 2s while Parker, Hot Rod, G-Herbo, and community activists Joey G and Nico Naismith played basketball with the kids. A nonprofit Hoop Bus was set up with a small hoop with Black Lives Matter symbols and the names of victims who were killed by police officers. 

G-Herbo, who has been volunteering his time to the kids of Chicago throughout 2020 says that events like this are important to build and strengthen Black unity across the city. “It’s beyond just being able to feed and provide, it’s allowing people to feel unity in the city. This is the city coming together and a lot of important and powerful people coming from the city, all walks of life coming together for a positive reason and that’s what it’s all about.” When asked if this event defied the stigma of Chicagoans not being unified, Herbo exclaimed, “Absolutely! We unified right now and it’s only gon’ get better, so we’re just trying to lead by example and make this normal. This is not just an event, this gotta be the normal for guys like myself and for the city.”

And the people who showed up to receive their free groceries were more than appreciative. Takara, a mother from the Southside of Chicago says that while she found out about the food drive at the last minute,“It’s a lot of food out here, a lot of good people out here and it’s something that we need. Events like this are very necessary and it’s filling the need for families who can’t feed their children during these times. I wish I could have volunteered and done something more, but we need this.”

In a one-on-one with VIBE, the legendary Tony Draper talks about his connections to Chicago, the importance and impact of the Feed Your City Challenge, the role celebrities play in activism, and more. 

VIBE: Earlier you shared that Oct. 17th was also the day that Rapmaster Pinkhouse passed away. For the younger readers who might not know who Rapmaster Pinkhouse is, could you share who he was and why he was so important to Chicago?

Draper: For young people that don't understand how music was heard back then, there was no social media [in the early 90s], there was no Instagram, so you had to get your record to the hottest person in the city. That person had to make a decision about whether it was good or not. And if that person touched your record in Chicago, that person would spread, it was automatic. That’s what happened to a young Tony Draper with 8Ball & MJG’s first albums. He put his hands around it and he exposed it to the Chicago market. Every time I think about Chicago, I always think about Pinkhouse. Pinkhouse was the main reason why I even came to Chicago.

Talk about that. What was Chicago like for you when you first came here?

Coming to Chicago was a very interesting moment for me because when I came, I had my hat cocked a certain type of way and I didn’t know the rules and regulations. And he told me, “Tony, man you gotta keep that hat straight (laughs). And I kept it straight ever since. So, for me, doing my journey as a young Black man from the inner city, raised by a single parent, establishing Suave House at 16 years old, seeing what I went through to establish [the company], and make it a force to be reckoned with. That was an accomplishment, but also I wanted to touch people I knew understood the music and understood where I was coming from and the importance of a young Black man that was a true, independent CEO and giving me the avenue to get my music heard. I’m from Memphis, raised in Houston, but Chicago is Suave House’s biggest market to this date. They supported everything Suave House did and I wanted to bless them [with the Feed Your City Challenge], the same way they blessed me.

With the conversation within the music business revolving around Black Lives Matter and supporting Black communities, what do you think it’ll take to get many of these CEO and executives from the major labels to support these communities like what you and many of the artists have been doing across the country?

I think they have to be involved with people they’re not comfortable with. Stop giving money to these organizations you think is giving the money to Black people, because they’re not. Nobody is holding these organizations accountable. Do business with somebody that has their finger on the pulse. A person that you know is in the music business that has been very successful in the business. Like right now, the Feed Your City Challenge, we’re in our ninth city. We’ve had eight of the top music artists host these cities without funding from the parent companies. [The artists] are giving the money themselves. Jhene Aiko gave money herself. Nick Cannon, himself. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz…Pee from Quality Control. 

Pee was on vacation in Mexico and he took a private jet back to Atlanta just to attend Feed Your City in Atlanta. He didn’t have to do that, but he did because he cares about where he’s from. He cares about the area. He wants to take [talent] from the area, but he also wants to give back to that community. See, white people want to come and exploit your community, but don’t want to build a library over there, never build a basketball court, never build anything. When an artist is dead, they say ahhh aahh ummm. If you wanted to demonstrate good character, you would have said, ‘I made a lot of money off that artist. Let me do something for that community as a token of appreciation for birthing that particular artist.’

I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before.

And you’ll never see it unless I do it and I am going to do it. That’s why I’m in Chicago. I’m going to every city that has blessed me and fed my family because every time I feed myself, I feed my family, my loved ones, it comes from my fans. My fans gave me the opportunity by buying my records. I had a dream, I had a drive, but without the opportunity, you might not have heard of Tony Draper. So, I’m always appreciative of people that have helped me, that’s why I want to help them. I’m in the best place I could ever be in my life. I’m 49 years old, I’m successful, I’m good. Bro, you want to know what makes me happy? Giving to somebody else. There’s another star out there that’s hoping and praying that they could get an opportunity and if I could give them that opportunity, I’ll give it to them. I don’t relish in the attention; I relish in the accomplishment. Let me help somebody. And if I help them and they become successful, they don’t owe me a quarter. I won’t sign them to a management deal or nothing. I just want you to acknowledge it and pass it on. See, we got to learn how to pass it on.

With the timing of this event brought on by the pandemic, how do you feel about it all?

I think it was God’s mission. With COVID that’s really unfortunate, a lot of people lost their lives during this pandemic. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their homes, their properties. My heart goes out to them. But if me and Ricky Davis can put a smile on a mother’s face, a father’s face and feed their children, that’s all I need. I remember me and my mother going to churches and food banks, walking with free government cheese, powdered eggs and we was happy. We were so happy, smiling and grateful. I think without that, I don’t think we would have made it to the following week. So, I’m always thankful for everything God blessed me with. I don’t think I’m special. I think that I had a plan and I stuck to my plan and made it happen.

Suave House has had a lot of artists who have always been outspoken about social and political issues, [similar to like an] Ice Cube recently. Considering that, and what you’re doing with these artists for the Feed Your City Challenge, do you think that the role of the celebrity today is to get in front of these issues or to fall back and support the people who're already doing the work?

I think it’s a choice. For me, I’m not a city official, I’m not a politician. I’m more comfortable with doing and getting my hands dirty on the ground. If I was in Chicago building houses for people, I would actually be there. I wouldn’t [just] send no money or send a crew there. I would be there. That’s how I feel blessed. I feel blessed by actually talking to the people and them seeing me out there distributing groceries. I feel good when a person drives up in their car and they pop their trunk and say ‘Draper?! You putting groceries in my car?!’ And they may be happy about ‘Space Age Pimpin’’ or ‘I’m So Tired of Ballin’’ or whatever, but just the mere fact that they were happy about me putting groceries in their car meant more to me than anything else. I think it’s a choice you make as an individual.

For a lot of people, some celebrities end up causing harm because their celebrity and actions might overshadow the actual issue.

You know what though? Without you being a celebrity, you might not be heard. So why not use that platform to be heard? I think LeBron James is phenomenal. I think Ice Cube is phenomenal. You don’t have to agree with him, but you have to respect him for speaking his mind and trying to get something for Black people. Nobody else did it! Nobody else took the initiative to write a Black America contract and present it to both [Biden and Trump] camps. So, I think that was a phenomenal move, whether I agree with it or not, it was still a phenomenal move. We got to stop with all this goddamn talking and do some action.

Draper and Davis’s Feed Your City Challenge will be arriving in Compton, California as their next stop on November 21.

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Interview: T.I. Talks Activism, Verzuz Battle, And His Desire To Produce A Biopic On His Life Before Fame

Although Tip "T.I." Harris has earned some very respectable stripes as an emcee for his successful rap career, the self-proclaimed “King of the South” moniker really began to take true form once he stepped into his community activism calling. He’s acted in blockbuster films opposite Denzel Washington, Paul Rudd and Kevin Hart, but his willingness to speak truth to power has shown an unwavering commitment to being on the good side of history, as opposed to choosing silence to secure a spot on the good side of Hollywood.

During this recent conversation, Tip talks about his upcoming Verzuz battle with Jeezy, politics, the Trap Music Museum, and his desire to make his TV/film directorial debut.

Be sure to check out his newest album, L.I.B.R.A available on all streaming platforms.

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Ziggy Marley's First Time Voting In America

No more long talking from politicians. Today, the people have their say at the ballot box. Judging by the number of voters who showed up early this year, the 2020 election is going to smash all records for voter participation. With a deadly pandemic, wildfires, floods, economic pressure, and a struggle for survival playing out from the tweets to the streets, the stakes have never been higher.

If you're reading this right now and you haven't voted yet, it's not too late. Get up get out and let your voice be heard. As Samantha Smith recently discussed on her IG Live, this year's election is too important to sit out.

Snoop Dogg will be voting for the first time this year—and he's not the only one. Ziggy Marley voted for the first time this year also and documented the process on social media. "I decided to vote and I wondered to myself why," Ziggy wrote on his IG. "Then I thought about those who came before, the price they paid. In part, I am voting in honor of them and to honor them, to not belittle their many sacrifices and struggles with my high jaded righteousness and indifference. Many brothers and sisters from numerous backgrounds and origins marched, bled, and died to give people like me basic rights in 🇺🇸 , the right to be treated like a human being, the right to vote."

As the eldest son of the Robert Nesta Marley aka the King of Reggae, Ziggy is part of a mighty musical legacy, but his father is more than a musical legend.  The new film Freedom Fighter—part of the 75th anniversary series "Bob Marley Legacy"—examines Marley as a symbol of human rights with a voice more powerful than any politician.

Ziggy has continued his father's musical mission as a solo artist and part of the Grammy-winning family group Melody Makers. His 2018 album, Rebellion Rises opens with a song entitled "See Them Fake Leaders," leaving no doubt about his views on the institutions of government. Still, Ziggy remains engaged in the political process, doing his part and encouraging others to do the same.

"Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and others thought, 'Voting rights? Civil rights? Who cares? What difference will it make?'" Ziggy wrote on IG. "Just imagine what the world would have looked like now if not for their sacrifices. Go ahead, imagine it. Can you see it? Well, what do you think?"

"To be clear voting is not the end-all," Ziggy Marley added. "It is a small piece of a puzzle and just one of the tools in our toolbox that we must use as part of a larger effort to bring positive beneficial changes for all people. The work must continue at maximum effort after elections regardless of the outcome." Ziggy emphasized that he was not voting for a party or a person for an idea. "Even though we have differences we can be better human beings, more united human beings, more loving human beings, equal human beings, just human beings. The politics will come and go left right and center but still through it all the humanity that we must show to each other is not negotiable."

Ziggy voted by mail this year, but for those of you standing in line today to exercise your right and let your voices be heard, Ziggy curated a special playlist for Tidal's "Hold The Line" campaign. Music to vote by—from Ziggy and Bob to Fela and James Brown, not to mention Public Enemy and Rage Against The Machine.

Ziggy Marley’s new album, More Family Time, is out now on all music streaming platforms.

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