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Freddie Gibbs at the Cabooze, 8/24/13

Freddie Gibbs
Freddie Gibbs
Photo by Erik Hess

Freddie Gibbs Cabooze, Minneapolis Saturday, August 24, 2013

I got pounds of Keisha / Dope house fulla geekers / Looking for that white bitch, cocaina, have you seen her?

Most of the Cabooze, about 75 percent full, is vibing and rapping along with this decidedly radio unfriendly but intensely catchy hook from the slow-burning "Have U Seen Her?" After the intro, Freddie Gibbs cuts off the beat and asks the crowd what they're holding. "Make some noise if you got drugs up in this bitch! Let me hear if you got that loud. Who got that cocaina?"

A sizable portion responds in the affirmative to all three inquiries, with more than a few blunts in the air. Launching back into the song, Gibbs displayed the skills that have lead some to call him the savior of gangsta rap. Though he hung back during the choruses, he's a barely contained force during a verse -- there's no wasted energy. He stands center stage, looking over the crowd like an emperor, delivering his raw and documentarian lyrics about life in thoroughly blighted Gary, Indiana with clinically precise menace.

Looking around the room, you might not have guessed that a lot of the audience had been waiting on Gibbs for more than three hours. The show was advertised as starting at 9:30 with two openers; in the end, there were six openers, mostly low-profile locals, and the first didn't go on until 11:00. Gibbs himself didn't take the stage until 1:35.

See also: Slideshow: Freddie Gibbs at the Cabooze, 8/24/13

Unannounced small-time openers and late starts aren't exactly unheard of at hip-hop shows, so the absurd delays of Saturday's show are exceptional by degree rather than kind -- and Minnesota's 2:00 a.m. bar close doesn't help. All the same, Gibbs isn't the type of rapper you'd expect to roll up with a 35 minute set.

After starting his career with a very brief and unproductive stint with Interscope, he has defined himself in part through a strong allergy to industry bullshit, releasing hard-edged gangsta rap mixtapes in direct contrast to the party drug and introspection fueled albums of many of his contemporaries. His 2013 "premiere" album, ESGN, was released on his own label of the same name. Everything about his career would lead one to think that the normal nonsense accompanying shows from big-name rappers would be largely absent.

The long slog of openers before Gangsta Gibbs had its bright spots. Highlights included a kid from Cottage Grove's Two Os who looked like he could still be in high school rapping "I eat pussy like noodle soup" with extreme confidence and southside rap crew M.D.E getting everyone involved with Chief Keef styled bangers like "Bang" and "California-Minnesota" (shout-out to Franklin Avenue).

M.D.E.
M.D.E.
Photo by Erik Hess
Freddie Gibbs
Freddie Gibbs
Photo by Eric Hess

DJ Ray Mills and host Dolo (a.k.a. Mr. Get it Poppin) kept things pretty lively during frequent breaks in the action. There's only so much you can do to keep a vibe going for that long, however, and by 12:30 a.m., people in the front row started resting their arms on the monitors, which is never a good sign. The nadir of the night came when D.G.B. Muzik Entertainment, the hosts of the showcase, came on just before 1:00.

Instead of the usual three songs and "buy our merch" set from show hosts, they played the longest and talkiest set of any opener, going for around half an hour and outstaying their welcome with most of the audience. When they ran through their keynote song, with the hook "If you don't fuck with us, then we don't fuck with y'all," it almost seemed like the words were directed at the crowd, which, to be fair, did not fuck with them by any reasonable interpretation.

After yet another opener (fellow Gary MC D-edge) Gibbs took the stage. His opener "BFK" immediately showcased his way of doing things: the lyrics are enticingly confrontational, and the beat is solely the background, serving to punch through the aggression inherent in the lines. Gibbs cut the beat completely off during a break and went a cappella, a technique he would return to throughout the set to place his flow front-and-center. His blisteringly fast cadence didn't compromise the body-blow lyrical content, ending with "What you know about that life in the mask? / Them Gary, Indiana, n*ggas gift wrap ya casket, how ya love that?"

 

Gibbs' portrait of Gary, Indiana, life is hyperviolent, hyperverbal, and hyperreal. His lyrics are reminiscent of the West Coast heyday of Gangsta rap, with a midwestern industrial-blight spin. When it comes to technical skills, Gibbs is at the top of his class, especially live, able to command a wide variety of deliveries, often switching between staccato emphasis and freestyle machine-gun relentlessness within a single verse. He calls to mind Andre 3000 or Kendrick Lamar in his versatility and Tupac or Bun B in his simultaneous melody and malice.

That abrupt of an upswing in energy can get a crowd worked up, and it showed: there were three fights during the short set, one during the first song. The crowd as a whole, IT-tech looking dudes in the front row and self-evidently cool kids alike, focused most of its energy on the music. Gibbs didn't seem fazed by the fights at all, and in fact playfully antagonized the crowd at one point by leading alternating chants of "Fuck that side" from the right and left.

Freddie Gibbs
Freddie Gibbs
Photo by Eric Hess
Freddie Gibbs and D-edge
Freddie Gibbs and D-edge
Photo by Eric Hess

Gibbs held the room together through any and all distractions, continuing to command the set lyrically -- the DJing was sparse and by-the-book, for the most part. "Kush Cloud," spacey yet strong on record, took on a new level of lyricism and power in the live show. Gibbs was at his most commanding during "Lay it Down," the ode to robbery off of ESGN. He began completely backlit, creating an image like that of a heavyweight preparing to enter the ring, and delivered with all the subtly of an left hook to the jaw.

As a general rule, Gibbs doesn't get political, he doesn't do slow jams, he doesn't do love songs -- everything is a variation on the Midwest gangsta shit he does so well. So when he pulls out a deep cut ("Tell a Friend," track 14 off of Baby Face Killa) it doesn't throw off the vibe of the set at all. On the record, the smooth funk beat of this song and the relatively relaxed delivery make this one of Gibbs' lighter tracks, but there's no ignoring the darkness of lines like "My white girl in the 'burbs she like to shoot up / Escaping the perfect life in the apparent way she grew up" when they're rapped 10 feet in front of you.

After quickly running through a suite of songs from ESGN, an unreleased song (possibly from his upcoming collaboration with Madlib, Pinata), and a well-received slow-riding throwback from 2009's midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik ("Boxframe Cadallic"), the show ended in appropriately anti-climactic fashion: with a feature. Gibbs brought on Sweetz P, one of the leaders of D.G.B., for her song "Impressive," which closed with a verse from Gibbs. Though her first appearance on stage was not well received, Sweetz P is, in fact, impressive, bringing a refined power to the mic.

And then the lights came on -- it was already after 2:00 a.m., and the cops were there to clear everybody out. Gibbs had performed for a little over 30 minutes in total. Freddie Gibbs' approach to rap is best summed up in the title of his 2010 mixtape: Str8 Killa, No Filla. When we finally got to see him, the Killa was in full effect, but the night as a whole was dampened by a remarkably excessive amount of filla.

Freddie Gibbs
Freddie Gibbs
Photo by Erik Hess

Personal Bias: I've been a huge Freddie fan since senior year of high school and had previously seen him perform at a much better organized 7th Street Entry show back in January 2012.

Overheard in the Crowd: "That's all I expect anymore when I go to hip-hop shows: angry, white, bros."

Set List:

BFK Rob Me a N*gga Kush Cloud Neighborhood Hoe Tell a Friend Have U Seen Her? Lay It Down Eastside Moonwalker Can't Tell Me Shit [New song, possible title] Boxframe Cadillac [2009] Ten Packs of Backwoods feat. D-Edge Sweetz P: Impressive feat. Freddie Gibbs


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