clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Freddie Gibbs Bet on Himself and Won

The Gary, Indiana, native talks about his career and his latest album and major label debut, ‘$oul $old $eparately’

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Last week, after nearly two decades in the game and countless acclaimed independent releases, Freddie Gibbs released his major label debut, $oul $old Separately. Ahead of $$$, the Gary, Indiana, native appeared on The Ringer Music Show to talk how he got to where he is, his acting career, and a lot more. To hear the entire interview check out the Music Show.

I would be a bad rap fan if I didn’t poke fun at you a little bit. You’ve released five albums, four collab projects, and 19 mixtapes in 15-plus years. When I saw the press release for your album, it was like, “Freddie says this is his debut album.” Like, “Bro, you can’t be in the game for 20 years and drop your debut project.”

Why? Why not?

Come on, man. Every rapper says that. Every rapper will drop seven projects and be like, “This is my debut album.”

I know, exactly. Megan Thee Stallion had like three debuts. I said, “I’m going to do just like Meg Thee Stallion.” I feel like a new rapper every time I drop anyway, you know what I mean?

I was recently watching your movie, Down With the King. It’s the rare film that makes rapping seem as solitary and lonely as sometimes I think it is. It’s just you, a pen, a pad, and a beat. How close is that to your own creative process?

That’s my creative process in a nutshell. I took from myself and implemented it into the character because that’s the only way I know how to write. I think that I put a little sauce on it because I had him writing with a pen and paper and all that to kind of throw it off because I don’t use pen and paper. I had him jotting it down. Being alone, getting in that zone, and that process—that’s definitely the same way I create my music as well.

I’ve read that you’ve been auditioning for a while—decades, a decade at this point. What’s the worst audition you’ve been on?

The worst audition that I ever been on, that’s crazy. I’m glad you asked me that because I auditioned for the show Black Jesus. It was Slink Johnson, right? Slink, that’s my homie. This was probably five years ago. After this, I was probably going to stop acting because I was like, “Man, they ain’t going to never fuck with me.” I went to go audition, and I met Slink 10 minutes before the audition. He be like, “Freddie Gibbs, man. I’m a fan. Blah, blah, blah.” I was like, “Oh, hell yeah.” He said, “Bro, let’s go smoke one in the parking lot.” I was like, “All right.” So I went down to the parking lot before the audition, got high with him. I’m thinking, “Oh, we good. It’s my man. He fuck with me. I got this in the bag.” I went up there, did the audition high as hell. They was like, “Uh, we’ll call you later.” I was like, “Oh.”


Yeah. And I ain’t get a job for probably like four years. So you got to take everything seriously. You got to be humble with this shit.

Do you ever watch a movie, see somebody who got the role over you, and be like, “Bruh, he’s wack! I would have killed it”?

I ain’t never seen nobody that got the role over me that was wack. Everybody that got the role over me was a great actor. Somebody got a role over me—it was Michael K. Williams, you know what I’m saying? Or somebody like that. I don’t even audition for no weak shit. I’m going to shoot for the stars if I got to audition for it. So the parts that I lose to would be to esteemed actors, like Mahershala Ali and Michael K. Williams. Experienced actors, guys that I can’t hold a candle to yet.

Damn, were you almost Blade? You said Mahershala Ali.

Nah, it wasn’t Blade, but we definitely audition for some of the same roles. Like I said, man, I can’t hold a candle to Mahershala. That’s my friend, too, so I look up to him and I be like, “Yo, man, I want to be where you’re at in your career.” Guys like him and Don Cheadle as well.

Yo, I want to dive into what I think is probably the best record on the album, “Grandma’s Stove.” You talk about your dad’s fight with stomach cancer, personal thoughts of suicide, issues with family.

Yeah. It was just dealing with a rough patch during the process of this album. Shit. Everything on the record is pretty much everything that I was dealing with. Dealing with transitioning from the streets to being a successful rap artist, that’s something different for me because I always had to be in the streets and be a rapper at the same time. It’s been a difficult process for me. It’s been difficult parenting during this process. You see I got a little baby right here. So during the making of this album, I had a child. I had two other small children. So you could imagine the difficulties that could bring.

We always talk about mental health, and Black men, and stuff like that. I think that song’s really just a cry for help, you know what I mean?

On that song, you rap, “Shows was hella empty, but fuck it / I got my niggas in.” You are the only rapper who will admit to that because there’s some popping rappers out there that had to cancel shows. Nobody showing up. Why are you so honest when most rappers are just like, “No, no, that never happened”?

Because, you know what? Rap is all about putting on a front. It’s like especially in the clout era, the internet era. All of this shit is really just like being something that you not, and I see a lot of guys do that. You know what I mean? But I can’t really do that. I think that’s what has given me my longevity.

Bro, I could have faked the funk a long time ago and been out of the game in a year or two, but I never did that. I think my core fans and the people that love me, they love my honesty and my vulnerability about myself.

This record is made to feel almost like this hotel where a bunch of celebrities in your orbit are popping in, popping out. What is the thematic core of $oul $old $eparately?

This casino thing is, like, life is a gamble. The base of the concept of it is basically me crashing in Vegas and gambling with life. I think an album having a concept is key to it being a good album. I feel like all the albums that I loved when I was a child, they had a real good theme to them. I feel like motherfuckers don’t even do that for you no more. They just give you 10 songs or 20 songs that they like that they made. It’s more like rappers giving y’all playlists now, and I’m giving y’all albums.

When did you reach out to KD to be on the album? Was this when he was trying to force himself off the Nets?

I don’t even remember him even doing that. I’m going to keep it real. That’s my homie, so maybe he did that shit when I wasn’t even looking, dog. I fuck with KD on a different kind of level. I didn’t even ask him to do that, you know what I mean? I came in the studio, and that was on there. He’s one of the greatest of all time, like I said, and then that’s my close friend. I hate even people thinking that I asked him to do that because I definitely didn’t ask him to do that.

Your older, middle-aged white fans are going to go crazy because you also got Joe Rogan on the album.


I ain’t going to lie. I was just like, “Yo, Fred, my man. What’s going on?”

It’s crazy you said I got older, middle-aged white fans, because I just walked up on some fans of mine that was like 15. It just speaks to the levels of the consistency that I got. I got a wide range of fans. I got fans that grew up listening to my music. I got people that I raised, literally, like Scarface and Tupac raised me. It’s like now I’m at the point where I’m like, “Yo, man, I got to be a whole lot more responsible with my music and be sharper,” you know what I mean? All that does is drive me to be better as a rapper. It’s crazy that I’m 20 years in the game, and I feel like I’m getting better every year. I don’t feel like I’m declining at all. I feel like LeBron James.

Do you ever get annoyed? Because I’ve listened to you for a while. I’ve read a lot of profiles, and so many of the profiles make it seem like you’re 60. I’m like, “Freddie just turned 40, people. What? Can y’all just chill?”

I don’t know where they get that from. It is what it is. Maybe I just got an old soul, you know what I mean? That’s cool, but I don’t know. I don’t know too many guys my age that do the things I do, do the shows that I do. They don’t look the way I look. Most people, they can’t even take their shirt off. Shit, I got young, fine-ass baby mamas, girlfriends. It’s all good right here. So I’m Gucci.

When I listened to the album at first, I was surprised. It sounds bigger. Your other projects are intimate—almost like a bespoke type of thing that a tailor would make. And this album feels like if this is going to be your major label debut, I want it to be big, I want it to be lush, I want it to be expansive. Why now? Why do the major label debut now?

I mean, it’s just timing. It was something that me and [Gibbs’s manager] Lambo maybe explored, but we didn’t know if it would work. With my business model and the way that I work, I never thought that it’d probably work on a major label.

I didn’t know because there’s certain things that come, requirements that come with being on a major—radio records, commercial success, things of that nature. Those are things that I never really chased in my career. To get it now, it’s just all about timing. Last week, my record was no. 3 added at radio. I never had a record added at radio.

Those aren’t things that come too much to my mind. I’m so focused on being sharp as a rapper, being sharp with a sword, being like a Jedi Knight. I don’t even think about how the public receives shit, to be honest. I know I got people that love me and fuck with me. I really just try to satisfy them with the music that I make.

What is the Freddie Gibbs business model? Because for years, you’re doing it independently. So how do you make that work? Most rappers can’t do what you do for that long, for 20-plus years.

Sell crack. … No, I’m just playing. Honestly, man, perseverance. I wouldn’t be where I’m at without Lambo. If I didn’t have a smart person, not just smart, but dedicated person in my corner—I mean, shit, I got to attribute the longevity to him, because we wouldn’t be where we at with just me rapping good.

Michael Jordan wouldn’t be Michael Jordan without Phil Jackson, you feeling what I’m saying? He had to be coached in the right direction and pushed in the right direction. Lambo been pushing me in a positive direction my whole career, and that’s what I love about him.

So I have to ask you then. You’re very, very honest about your past, selling drugs. I read that you were robbing trains at one point. What’s your opinion on all of these rappers getting caught up on RICO cases?

I think it’s sad because, you know what, man? Rap is so street right now. It’s so ingrained in the streets and part of the streets. A lot of us say we used to be like, “Yo, we want to get into rap to escape the streets,” but it’s no escape from the streets when you rapping, to be honest. Rap is the streets, you know what I mean?

I started rapping because there was a dude in my neighborhood that was making rap songs dissing me. So it was a gang thing. It was a rival gang thing. He was putting stuff about me on wax, so I wanted to put stuff on wax. I had a whole career bred off of beef. It’s dangerous in this shit.

I hate it for a lot of young guys because I hate the direction that it’s going in, but it ain’t really nothing you can do to change this shit. Every inner-city guy that don’t want to go to college and do something constructive with his self, he either want to be an athlete or a rapper. I followed that path, and I’m like, “Fuck.” My brother’s a fucking doctor. I feel like I’m just as smart as him. I could have been whatever I wanted to be. I love rap. I love this shit. This is a beautiful job. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

I feel like a lot of times, though, in this thing we sell ourselves short, because we bigger than just being rappers. Kanye said some interesting shit. He said, “Calling you a rapper is like calling you a nigger nowadays.” In some instances, that’s true, because the stigma behind being a rapper is kind of bad nowadays.

Does it stop you from getting any business in terms of just you walk into a place, and they’re like, “He’s a rapper”?


They don’t realize that it takes a lot for you to get where you’re at

Right. Nah, nah. I got white friends like Joe Rogan, so I don’t worry about that. They don’t bother me, sir.

Well, I have to ask you something as a reporter because I think you have some information that I could use. In a Funk Flex freestyle, you said, “Government was giving us COVID. It was a plandemic.” I would like to know do you have any information you could share with me?

I mean, I think the whole COVID thing was a money play, in my personal opinion.

A money play by who?

Everybody who was swabbing your nose and giving you vaccines and shit.

Right. Are you in a group text with Kyrie Irving?

No. I think Kyrie should have got his ass fake-vaccinated and then came on the court. Niggas had fake vax cards the whole time. I could have got him one from the hood. That was no problem. Could have showed that shit and been right on the court.

Do you ever get existential about your career? Because you do so much. You rap, stand-up comedy, act. Do you do that because that’s what you love to do, or is it the business model of being a rapper, you have to do a bunch of things to keep your name relevant, to stay out there, to make money?

Yeah, right now. After I drop this album, I don’t got to do shit but stay Black and die. I don’t got to rap no more, really. After this shit, really I don’t got shit to prove. After this, really I’m just rapping for fun, you know what I’m saying? I don’t got to do shit. I do everything because I like it.

Shit, you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life, man. I really like doing comedy because I like talking shit about people. If they going to pay me to do that for the rest of my life, then fuck it, you know what I’m saying? I love acting. I do everything I love to do. Once this shit get dull and I don’t want to do it no more, then I’m cool.

If it’s the rap hall of fame, I’ll start rapping right now. I’m going in that motherfucker first ballot. Whatever. I don’t have nothing to prove on the fucking rap side. I could use some more money from the rap side. I’ll take that shit all day if you want me to rap. You want me to motherfucking stand on the goddamn soapbox like Malcolm X, I’ll rap if you going to pay me.

At the same time, you feel me, I definitely want to expand my palate and do all kinds of other shit. Shit, I might be into body paint. I might start painting naked bitches or something. I’m an artist, you feel me? And that ain’t limited to just rap.

I’ve always wanted to ask you this. Would you ever release an R&B album?

I could do an R&B album. I’m good at that. I’m good at R&B. I’m one of the best vocalists in the game, you know what I’m saying? Really, I come from a long line of good vocalists. My daddy’s in the Chi-Lites, you know what I’m saying? I just have to really flex these vocal skills because I’ve been saving them. Because I’ve been rapping so long, I’ve been saving my skills. You see my commercial—all these songs, I wrote from ditties. That shit is no joke. Babyface, you know what I mean, that nigga stole my songs, you feel me?

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity. To hear the entire interview, visit The Ringer Music Show feed.