Freddie Gibbs’s Workout Plan: How He Made Himself “The Most Athletic Rapper” -

Freddie Gibbs’s Workout Plan: How He Made Himself “The Most Athletic Rapper”

 Freddie Gibbs’s Workout Plan: How He Made Himself “The Most Athletic Rapper”

The turning point in Freddie Gibbs’s career came in 2011, when he first connected with Madlib after his longtime manager Ben “Lambo” Lambert brought him a collection of the producer’s beats. Gibbs was indifferent at first (“I wanted to rap on Shawty Redd beats and shit like that,” he told me), but later took it as a challenge because he didn’t want Lambo to doubt him. “You’re not about to tell me that another n-gga does this shit better than me,’’ he told me in his husky baritone. The first song Gibbs made from that selection was “Thuggin,” which would later be included on 2014’s Piñata, the album that broke him to a wider audience after a decade grinding in hip-hop’s trenches. It was clear by that point that the Gary, Indiana native turned L.A. transplant could rap, but this opened eyes to the type of music he was capable of making. After sitting with the song’s chilling strings and sinister bass for a minute, Gibbs knew he had something special on his hands.

“I got up that morning, I watched Raekwon’s ‘Incarcerated Scarfaces’ video, I went to 52nd & Compton and sold a motherfuckin’ four-way—four ounces of cocaine—and then I went home and made that shit,” he remembers. “I was like, ‘Alright, this is about to be the basis of all of this shit.’ Because it sounded like some Wu-Tang shit. I remember I was in downtown L.A., so when I did the video, I just showed you everything I did the day I made the song.”

Now, at 38, Gibbs has cemented himself as one of the best rappers in the game (the best, as he naturally puts it) at a time when most of his peers begin their downward slope. “By my age, a lot of guys’ careers are dwindling,” he says. “Most rappers’ careers are over by the time they’re 30, to be honest. A lot of these n-ggas don’t make it to 30. But I’ve done the proverbial slow burn.” He survived the risks of being a rapper/working-drug-dealer, and a business that preys on young people and casts them away when they’re deemed useless. He even got a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album for Alfredo, his 2020 collaboration with another acclaimed producer, The Alchemist.

Freddie GibbsShutterstock

Gibbs didn’t actually win Best Rap Album, of course—hip-hop legend Nas finally picked up the Grammys equivalent of a lifetime achievement award for his 13th album, King’s Disease. Gibbs will be the first person to tell you that the Grammys don’t validate his music, or Black artists in general, but he still took the time to enjoy the moment, appearing on MSNBC’s The Beat with Ari Melber and performing “Scottie Beam” (in which he raps: “Will never let this industry demasculinize me”) on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. He even wore a suit, which he later described as “electric pink lemonade,” the day of the show. “I think what’s significant is that I’ve been making what I wanted to make and I got nominated,” Gibbs said a week after the Grammys. The nomination isn’t his biggest achievement: It’s that Gibbs has succeeded on his own terms.

After being dropped by Interscope Records in 2007, Gibbs sold crack to fund his career as an independent artist during hip-hop’s oft-romanticized blog era. He was part of XXL’s Freshman Class in 2010 and signed to Jeezy’s CTE World record label the following year, but left on considerably less than amicable terms in 2012 due to disagreements about the direction of his career. In 2016, he spent four months in French and Austrian prisons on sexual assault charges, but was acquitted later that year after DNA evidence showed he had no sexual contact with either of his accusers. His second album with Madlib, 2019’s Bandana, was darker and more abstract, but still debuted at number 21 on the Billboard 200. On Alfredo he sharpened his bars and peppered them with a trademark sense of humor that’s become even more brash, earning number 15 on the charts.

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