Watch Andrew’s seven-part conversation with Freddie Gibbs, which uncovers the untold stories behind the rapper’s recent success and Grammy nomination for “Alfredo.”
When it comes to career paths, Freddie Gibbs took the stairs. His trajectory follows a long and arduous journey, but the groundwork he’s laid for well more than a decade is finally paying off in spades. At 38 years old, Freddie Gibbs is one of the most popular and revered rappers of his generation.
Gibbs recently snagged his first Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album for “Alfredo,” a collaborative effort with the storied producer, Alchemist, and a record widely viewed as one of the best rap efforts of 2020. The prior year, Gibbs released another critical smash, “Bandana,” in tandem with the legendary producer Madlib. He seemingly can’t miss right now, and he’s seizing the momentum with a new record deal at Warner Bros. — his first major-label opportunity as a solo artist since he was dropped from Interscope in the mid-2000s.
As that episode suggests, Gibbs’ ride has been bumpy. He rebounded from the Interscope disappointment by becoming a breakout star in the Blog Era thanks to a number of self-released mixtapes. In 2010, he landed on XXL magazine’s highly coveted Freshman Class cover alongside stars such as J. Cole, Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and the late Nipsey Hussle. Gibbs subsequently scored a deal with Young Jeezy’s CTE Records, which ended in a public fallout and feud.
Yet the cream always rises to the top. In 2014, Gibbs returned with a vengeance on “Piñata,” his first collaborative project with Madlib. The album netted widespread acclaim and took the duo around the world. Then, in June 2016, things came to a screeching halt. Gibbs got arrested while on tour in Europe on bogus sexual assault charges stemming from a 2015 incident in Austria. Wrongly accused, Gibbs was later fully exonerated and cleared of all charges, but not before spending months in jail and cleaning out his bank account fighting the allegations.
The Indiana native found himself back at square one, largely having to start over. Frustrated albeit determined, he rebuilt his career and returned to the charts. Not content with his status as an underground hero, Gibbs turned into one of the most consistent, skilled and talked-about rappers of the past five years — independently, and on his own terms. So, with nowhere to go but up, Gibbs inked a deal with Warner Bros., which plans to take his artistry to a bigger stage.
Why, after a number of successful years working with the indie giant, Empire, would he complicate things with the politics of the major-label system?
In our sitdown with Gibbs, we discuss the last few years of his life, and how COVID-19 has affected the biggest phase of his career — not to mention snagging a Grammy nomination in a year that won’t have a traditional awards ceremony. We talk about his longevity and the mental health challenges many artists face. We also chat about his work with Alchemist, Madlib and Rick Ross; what it’s like being the first rapper from Gary, Indiana, to be nominated for a Grammy; and how Mark Zuckerberg is the only person who can give him back his Instagram account.
Andrew Barber is the owner/creator of Fake Shore Drive, a Chicago-based media, management and events company founded in 2007. Andrew is also a playlist curator, published music journalist, artist manager, brand and record label consultant and media personality. Andrew currently sits as Governor of The Recording Academy’s Grammy board. His radio show, The Drive on Shade 45, airs weekly on SiriusXM, and has been on air for over six years. He has also hosted programming on MTV and one of Chicago’s top radio stations, 107.5 WGCI-FM. As a journalist, Andrew has been published in publications such as VICE, Complex, Fader, XXL, Mass Appeal and more. Andrew’s company, Fake Shore Drive, has been instrumental in the rise of Chicago’s hip-hop scene, having helped cultivate the careers of Chance the Rapper, Chief Keef, Lil Durk, Vic Mensa and the many other gold- and platinum-selling artists.