sp1.jpgSouthside St. Louis rapper Jovan “Jibbs” Campbell has always had a good ear. “I was about nine or 10 when I first heard [that beat],” he says of his national smash, “Chain Hang Low.” “I always thought it was a hit.” Unfortunately, the track that would introduce the now 16-year-old to the masses wasn’t initially his for the taking.

Produced in ’99 by Jibbs’ older brother DJ Beatz, the instrumental was originally made for another MC, Lil’ Mont, and featured Jibbs’ kiddie vocals on the Mister Softee-–inspired chorus. After the song barely made a blip on the local scene, Beatz stashed the track and concept. For years, Jibbs insisted they remake the song, so Beatz finally remixed it and handed it over to his little brother. “I got it…wrote the verses, wrote a prehook,” says Jibbs, “and there it was.” “Chain Hang Low” has since become the No. 1 rap song on iTunes and was recently featured on HBO’s Entourage.

As the baby in a family of musicians, Jibbs was always encouraged to pursue hip-hop. “We had a studio in my house,” he says. “My dad would play the drums, my mom would rap, [and] my brothers produced.” Beatz, however, was skeptical of Jibbs’ skills until the youngster jacked a beat off the Internet and took it upon himself to record his first full song. “That record was so cold,” remembers Beatz, who started inviting Jibbs to his basement freestyle sessions. “He was [12 years old] and killing older cats. He would beat them so bad that people were ready to fight him.”

As the family shopped for a deal, Jibbs kept recording and opened shows in the Lou for artists like Young Jeezy, Nelly, Chingy and Bow Wow. In August 2005, the teen titan was offered a deal with Geffen Records, which he gladly accepted. His debut, Jibbs Featuring Jibbs, showcases a versatile MC and songwriter equally adept at polished pop numbers (“Bring It Back”) and introspective songs (“Hood”). With an album scheduled to be released in the star-studded fourth quarter, Jibbs believes he’s ready for the competition. “It’s a grown-up business,” he says, “but I’ve been doing this all my life.”
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November 2006 issue (#86)