Friday, December 4, 2009

Freddie Gibbs: Talk of the Town

The fact that Freddie Gibbs’ soon-to-be meteoric rise in the mainstream consciousness can be traced to a handful of journalists speaks volumes on the influence of good writing and a fine-tuned ear kept to the streets. Sasha Frere-Jones can be credited for introducing Freddie Gibbs to his widest audience yet by discussing his work alongside big names like Jay-Z and Raekwon in an October issue of The New Yorker. His article stoked controversy for some, praise from others and raised a new debate in hip hop, a forum that has lately bickered over relatively low brow nonsense. Jeff Weiss had been banking on Gibbs’ skills for a while already, so by the time I’d read Frere-Jones’ piece, I’d already had a dog in the fight. I think Freddie Gibbs is one of the realest new emcees in the game. His approach is removed from all the gimmickry that’s commonplace to new artists trying to eat. Gibbs’ no bullshit, fitted cap, plain t-shirt, rubber band-wearing style is right up my alley. But best of all, the kid can spit.

Of course not everyone’s on the same page here. Noz of Cocaine Blunts seems to have a bone to pick with Sasha Frere-Jones and Jeff Weiss. I don’t fully understand the crux of his “beef”, but it seems to boil down to the fact that when it comes to new artists like Freddie Gibbs, Noz is more of a Waka Flocka Flame kind of guy. I’d never heard of him before. From the name alone, I’d assumed it was a new muppet that had moved onto Sesame Street. After checking out some of his music, I can’t say Waka is wack, but he’s not my cup of tea. Wikipedia lists his “associated acts” as Gucci Mane and OJ Da Juiceman. I’ll leave it at that. As Noz and Weiss continue to throw literary shots back and forth, I’ll continue to read. As Combat Jack wrote, blog beef is “the new white meat”. Jeff Weiss’ new cover story for L.A. Weekly on Freddie Gibbs can only fan the flames for what’s soon to come…

A recent article by XXL’s Brooklyne Gipson addresses Weiss’ latest L.A. Weekly article, specifically criticizing the fact that Freddie Gibbs is on the cover. Gipson calls to question whether or not Gibbs deserved to be the first hip hop artist since N.W.A. in 1989 to grace the cover of L.A. Weekly. Of all places, she writes, “a dude from Gary, Indiana (not named Jackson)”. Well, Michael Jackson has been on the cover of L.A. Weekly. Just after his passing, a black and white photo of Mike as a Jackson 5 youngster holding a cat was flying off the shelves. I’ve still got a copy of that issue in my magazine rack.

Gipson, an L.A. native herself, calls to question whether an outsider should be given praise and consideration as a Los Angeles/West coast artist. (Let’s not even get into the irony of the fact that the person espousing this sentiment is named Brooklyne – of course I’m just teasing.) I say why not? Many of my favorite L.A.-centric hip hop artists over the years haven’t even been from California! Tupac was from New York. Ice-T is from New Jersey. Kurupt is from Philadelphia. Xzibit is from Michigan. The list goes on and on. The same could be said about New York: How many East coast purists out there would deny GangStarr their props for (re-)defining the New York sound, even though Guru is from rival territory Massachusetts and DJ Premier is from Texas? Your birthplace doesn’t define who you are nor should it pigeonhole your style.

Who knows? Maybe it’ll take an Indiana-bred emcee to put the West coast back on the map. To that I say: welcome home, Freddie!

READ: The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs by Jeff Weiss
UPDATE: The Continuing Education of Freddie Gibbs: A Follow-Up To This Week's Cover Story by Jeff Weiss