Gary, Indiana’s finest musical export since Papa Joe Jackson’s kids were doing the damn thing , Freddie Gibbs has crafted his distinctly unrelenting brand of gangsta rap over the past few years via a series of acclaimed mixtapes and albums. Exemplary of the genre as the likes of The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs , Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik , Cold Day In Hell and Baby Face Killa have been, however, it’s Gangsta Gibbs’ recent album-length collab with spaced beat maestro Madlib , Piñata , that’s had folks throwing around the c-word (classic, fool). And while some may view Gibbs’ partnership with the Beatkonducta as unlikely, the truth of the matter is his work has always reflected a range of musical influences. During some brief down time from a recent tour, Gibbs affirmed as much – taking a few moments to reflect back on a few of the recordings that changed his life.
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1. Nirvana - "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (Geffen, 1991)
Freddie Gibbs : I remember walkin’ in the living room and seeing the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video on television – that Nirvana. I forgot how old I was. I was a kid. At first it was on mute. I was like, what is this? I thought it was a movie – a horror movie or something like that. And then I was just like, woooowww. I listened to that song probably before all my football games [as a kid]. Nothing in rap or any [other] genre of music ever had me that pumped up before. I definitely love that record to this day, man. Every time that comes on I’m like, whewww. I’m gassed whenever I hear Kurt Cobain’s voice. A lot of people use his name in vain these days – they like, “We Kurt Cobainin’ this, we Kurt Cobainin’ that.” I don’t think that’s cool. I wasn’t the hugest Kurt Cobain fan, but I definitely respected his music and loved his music. You got a lot of fake Kurt Cobain fans nowadays.
2. 2Pac - "Dear Mama" (Interscope, 1995)
Freddie Gibbs : During that time [in my life] when I was listening to that record, me and my mom weren’t really seeing eye to eye, so that gave me a greater appreciation for my mother.
No artist evoked the type of emotion that 2Pac did. I think that’s probably why he the best rapper – because he could make you laugh, he could make you cry, he could make you wanna murder a motherfucker. He’s the most emotional rap artist out there. 2Pac was an emotional rollercoaster. And he was so lyrically talented, man. I don’t think a lot of people give him the credit he deserves for his lyrics – because he really put a lot into his lyrics and how he brought it across. His influence will forever remain. On every rapper, not just me. Without him it wouldn’t be a lot of guys around today. I know I wouldn’t be here without 2Pac, so I love 2Pac to the death.
3. Dr. Dre & Ice Cube - "Natural Born Killaz" (Death Row, 1994)
Freddie Gibbs : I mean, that record speaks for itself. Just having beef with people, just giving you that [energy]. That’s another song that kinda get me in that same mode as “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It get me amped. It invokes that sudden rage that I just gotta have. It’s like it give me a thirst for blood, that song. I love that record. That probably influenced “Murda On My Mind” – numerous other records [of mine].
I first heard “Natural Born Killaz” – on the Murder Was the Case soundtrack. Records was comin’ out on Tuesdays, but there was a record store in my neighborhood, Mic Check – they’d have [releases] on the Friday [before]. So I remember bustin in there when Mic Check opened up and getting that Murder Was the Case soundtrack. And I was like, “Aw damn – Ice Cube and Dre back together?!” That automatically made me wanna jump to that song. And when I got on that, man, you couldn’t bring me down. I was too turnt up.
4. Christión - "Full of Smoke" (Roc-A-Fella, 1996)
Freddie Gibbs : Christión was on Roc-A-Fella, they had this song called “Full of Smoke.” I love that record, man. When I first start smokin’ I was bumpin’ that song. Like I was really bumpin’ that real heavy. I don’t think they ever came out with anything else. But that record right there, that’s definitely one of my favorite records to smoke to. I first heard it on the radio. And then I was like, man, I gotta get me a pack of swishers. I gotta go smoke. A lot of people sleep on that.
5. Geto Boys - We Can't Be Stopped (Rap-A-Lot, 1991)
Freddie Gibbs : “Mind Playin’ Tricks on Me” – that’s what had me hooked on Geto Boys and made me go back to “Do It Like a G.O.” and all that other stuff. But “Mind Playing Tricks” – [ sings the song’s sampled guitar lick ] – I hear that in my sleep. That was my theme music, what I thug to. When I’m just walkin down the street I hear [ sings guitar lick ] in my head.
That whole album [is important to me]. That’s basically the first rap tape I bought with my own money. I used to have it in my walkman in the 4th grade. So I’d be listening to We Can’t Be Stopped while the teacher was up there talkin’ some bullshit. I don’t know what she was talkin’ about. But Scarface, Bushwick and Willie D – those were my educators.
[When I first saw the album cover], aw, man – a midget in a hospital bed with his eyeball hangin’ out? I mean, it don’t get more graphic than that. I had to have that. You see that and then you hear the song called “Chuckie (Child’s Play)”? I thought this was the real life black Chuckie. That whole element of it, man, it was kinda like horrorcore but gangsta rap at the same time. Like if you liked stuff liked Gangsta Nip, Geto Boys. Man, I was into that. But that album right there really had me hooked. So that’s probably the most influential album on my career, period.