Interview: Lil Bibby On How Books And His Mom's Past Drug Addiction Changed His life
He's a manchild in the promised land
In only two decades on Earth, Chicago rapper Lil Bibby has witnessed just as much, or more, horror than a classic Jason and Friday The 13th horror flick. Despite the negative sides of seeing murder, friends going to prison as kids and his mother’s drug addiction, the young rapper somehow found a way to turn his troubles into positives by churning out heartfelt rhymes about his personal pain and agony--making Bibby-- arguably one of the most promising MCs under 30 in the rap game right now.
We all know that delivery, wordplay, content and swag are vital ingredients to making a great rapper. While Bibby can check off all of the above, he’s still one-up on your favorite rapper. How? Well, the baby-faced savage's vivid tales of gun play, paranoia and street violence on his Eastside Chi-City blocks offers an engrossing first person POV, and sheds insight into the Windy City’s infamous reputation for being one of America's most violent cities.
“I was a man at 12-years-old,“ the deep-voiced man-child said during a recent sit-down with VIBE. “When my mom used to do drugs. She ain’t care what we did. I was outside all night. Sometimes when she was sober, she’d be like: ‘You can’t go outside’ because of some crazy shit I did the day before. But I'd just wait until she do her thing, and be like: ‘Can I go outside? Can I go outside? Can I go outside?’ All you have to do is ask her three times, she just want you to get out of her face. I grew up angry. Angry at everybody.”
After trading his hoop dreams and street corner hustling for the microphone, Bibby channeled his anger into one remarkable rap flow. What matches his autobiographical sixteens is his die-hard grind. Bibby's vicious get-it-from-the-mud mentality helped his Free Crack mixtapes series win him thousands of fans, a deal with RCA Records, and collabs with rap heavyweights like Jadakiss, Kevin Gates, Juicy J and Common.
Coming off the release of the third installment in his Free Crack series, VIBE took the Big Apple's No. 5 Train over to RCA’s HQ, where Bibby, dipped in a maroon Adidas jumpsuit and beige Air Force Ones, was surrounded by his stone-faced day-ones and his RCA family, as they ordered salads and Burgers from Chirping Chicken. Usually reserved, Bibby opened up and gave us the real on his mother’s past drug abuse, his anger issues, Chicago’s gangs (organizations), his opinions on young blacks, what books he's reading, and much more.
VIBE: First off, coming from where you come from, in retrospect, what’s the problem with us young blacks men in the streets -- particularly Chicago?
Bibby: We don’t have no hope. We don’t really have any hope of leaving Chicago. Because when I started rapping, I never thought I’d leave Chicago. We haven’t seen enough. All we know is our street corners, what they see and what they do everyday. So, if that’s all you know, that’s all you going to continue to do, you not going to change. Nobody likes change anyway. That shit is awkward. It’s hard to change your ways or your way of thinking.
That reminds me of “EBT to BET,” where you rapped: ‘What the f*ck can a high school teach me?” You also talk a lot about knowing that you’d never be shit.
That’s how I viewed everything. I used to look at people that go to school and I used to see them on the streets like: ‘I got a college degree. I got a bachelor.' But they be like bums, so I’m like what the f*ck do I need with that? I’m not going to never be out here like that. And I wasted four years of my life, being broke, being in somebody’s school. And I just couldn’t picture myself like that. On top of that, Cam’ron’s thing in Killa Season did it for me.
But Bibby lets be real, not everybody can rap or shoot ball so they have to do something, and education can be a ticket out.
Nah, I know education is important. That’s why I went back to get my diploma.
Ok. Good. So look, you said that hope is missing from the 'hood? Where did you find the hope you needed to get out?
I’m not going to lie. When I was in the streets I never pictured myself changing. But I read this book, 48 Laws of Power. It helped me so much. It changed my whole way of thinking. I think that’s what did it for me. That book changed my whole way of thinking about everything.
In what ways?
When I was younger I used to be crazy, man. If anybody played with me or did anything that I felt was a little disrespectful I was going in and putting my hands on them. So, I read that book and it said to never get angry. In anger, you can’t think straight. And if you get angry the enemy always got one-up on you. So now, I try not to ever get angry because when I get angry I be thinking about doing something that’ll mess me up in the long-run.
That anger and frustration comes across in your music, yet you drop jewels. So what's the root of that?
I’m keep it 100 with you. I grew up angry. My momma used to do drugs. And, I just grew up angry at the world because of that. That’s why anytime I got into any altercation, or if any of my homies got into any altercation, they came and got me. I used to get a kick out -- this sounds crazy -- but I used to get a kick out of hurting people. And people used to doubt me...
I can definitely identify with having a parent addicted to crack. That shit really messes you up, I still deal with issues from sh*t like that from my childhood.
Yeah, it made me angry. And I used to give her hell. I used to give her hell about that. I hated that, man. I used to disrespect her, and it’s not good to say that but that really did something to me. And, that’s what had me angry. Then, people used to doubt me.
Yeah, about your light-skin complexion. You’ve mentioned that in your music.
Yep, they used to doubt me. But man, they didn’t know how angry I was over my mom. Man, I used to hurt people.
How’s your mom doing now?
She doing good. She don’t do drugs no more. I ain’t going to lie, she way crazier than she used to be (Laughs). But man, she been clean for years now.
Dope. Were you able to see her facial expression once she realized that this rap shit was real?
Man, I don’t think I was around. It kind of evolved. But at first she thought I was just talking when I told her that I was going to rap.
Momma Savage. That’s what’s up. We happy for you, bruh. So, have you really studied the Laws of Attraction?
I’ve started on the Laws of Attraction. I’m like a quarter of the way through it. And, I also have The Alchemist.
How’s The Alchemist, you like it?
Yeah, it tells me like different ways to view life and different ways to think. 50 Cent got one too, but I haven’t read it yet. I want to.
Yeah, he worked with Robert Greene on that -- The 50th Law. All Greene did was take stuff from writers and thinkers to compact them into his book. Books like the Niccolo’s The Prince, and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, and other sh*ts.
Oh yeah, and I have The Art of War.
How is it?
Man, that shit gives me a headache when I read it. I can’t get all the way through it.
Yeah, it’s heavy. It took me a few times. Just go through and then come back to it. You’ll get it. That’s what I did. You got some classics on deck. Keep it up. But lets switch gears. From the outside looking in, it seems like Chicago’s organizations are split up. Like, you can live in a Vice Lord 'hood but it’s still divided by blocks. Now, is that just me or is that what’s really going on?
Yeah. Chicago is a different place now. It’s probably one of the craziest places as far as that right now. It ain’t no G.D.s, or Stones or nothing like that no more. It’s still some G.D.s and B.D.s but they killing each other, too. It’s just streets or blocks now. People in their own circles, their own homies.
(Ed note: Bibby’s homeboy, Chase enters the conversation to share his opinions on Chicago’s organization culture).
Chase: Everybody clicked up. You got G.Ds kicking it with Mo(s), you feel me. And if everybody got the same opp, they gon’ ride on them. They ain’t giving out no safe passes.
Bibby: But, half of the time they end up getting into it too. Basically, it’s every man for themselves, or every crew for themselves.
That’s crazy, B. In the jails and prisons G.D.s and Vice Lords run the system. And in Mississippi, where I'm from, in the prisons, Stones and 4CHs link with the Vice Lords, because it’s too many Gangsters but they keep it organized. And if a cat violate, he get his issue.
Yeah, in prisons there’s a lot of organization. It’s nothing like that on the outside. And those guys that are running jails right now, they know about it. That’s why a lot of them end up going back; you got to adapt. When they get out they just lost causes. They can’t come back to the street with that same mentality. The young guys run the outside. Man, Chicago is a different place now.
Did you watch footage of Laquan McDonald?
Man, I ran across it. It’s sick, man. Ain’t really nothing he could’ve did himself. The police getting out of hand, man. I’ve seen like four different videos this pass week of them shooting people. I don’t know what to say about that. Why would you shoot a kid like that? What if one of your kids came into our neighborhood and we did something to him? We don’t bother the White people in our neighborhoods. We automatically think they the police. If we started doing stuff like that they’d hang us on a rope for messing with a White person. You can’t do anything to a White person, they’ll find a way to punish you.
It’s like they don’t think we’re human beings, man.
Some of them do. Not all.
You're right. Not all.
Some of them be having problems at their home, and they have problems with themselves. Power get to a lot of people’s heads. Nerdy white boy get a badge, he not used to power so he abuse it. And people are still racists. Don’t even try to hide it. People are still racists. Some white people still look at us like we’re below them.
How do you feel about Obama?
I don’t really know what he can and can’t do. I think the Obama Care is good. But, I don’t think he can do too much about the city unless you really in it, and got time to put into and be out there.
So, how was it for you going into this project?
I learned a lot of new stuff about myself, man. I’m still trying to figure myself out. I ain’t going to say I learned everything about myself. I learn new stuff about myself everyday. And I’m trying to work on my patience. I’ve gotten way better since I was a kid but it’s still stuff that causes me to snap on people sometimes when they do little stuff that I don’t like.
You know, you always barking at “industry cats” on wax. Drop names on the industry cats that you’ve really had to bark at.
(Laugher) Nah, I ain’t got nothing to say about none of that. I mean, I see it for what it is now. It’s entertainment. People going to do what they got to do in front of the camera or behind the mic.