In The Wake Of The Trayvon Martin Verdict, Freddie Gibbs Speaks On Being Black In America
The Trayvon Martin-George Zimemrman case was thrust into the national spotlight, propelling the issues of race and classism to the forefront. During this process, many ideologies, beliefs, and opinions were expressed openly and very emotionally about the state of America, its justice system and racial divides. The hip-hop community exploded with their own opinions, setting the worlds of music and politics on a collision course on the mainstream platform. Freddie Gibbs, a rapper famed for his detailed articulations of his violent and tough upbringing, chimed in on a multitude of subjects dealing around race and the psyche one develops from growing up in a rough neighborhood. He swung by the XXL offices to discuss Gary, racism, being black in america, and being a role model as a gangsta rapper.—Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)
On Growing Up In Gary, Indiana
"It [was] Gary after the crack era. Gary, post-crack era is something way different than what the Jacksons ever seen in their life. They never experienced that ’80s or ’90s Gary. They was there in the ’60s; that’s when my dad was growing up. When my dad and my mom was growing up, Gary was a fairly pleasant place, the generation before me and my generation, we kind of turned it out. [The] mid-’90s was a war zone that’s probably due to the youngsters, the guys from my era and older.
"My childhood was cool, I got two solid parents, my momma wasn’t no crackhead, my daddy was no alcoholic or no shit like that. I just had my own interests in things I wanted to get into and things I wanted to do. My rebellious nature made me defy a lot of the things they probably didn’t want me to do, but that’s just how it goes. If it’s not for that, then I probably wouldn’t be here right now, so I definitely grew up in the midst of the bullshit. The murders, the drugs, all of that. It’s all right next door to me when I walk outside, the pimps, the pushers, the hoes, all that, I know all of them. [Laughs] They know my face, I grew up with them, they helped kind of raise me. I’m just a man of that environment. It’s a norm to me, I just know how to adapt and how to move through it, that’s why I’m never worried about it.
"[The Midwest] definitely hardens you to a certain extent, it kind of makes you build up a protective wall, kind of reluctant to let certain people in your world, and around you and things of that nature. Because you always got your guard up, but at the same time, it’s also a good tool to have—I don’t think it’s no other game you can get it other than that Gary game, that’s going to prepare you for every wild thing. Like us in the Midwest, we just have a different mentality than everywhere else I go. I live on the West Coast, and I done maneuvered out here on the East Coast and down South so I just know that moral fabric I grew up with allowed me to do everything I gotta do.
"It’s more of a, I’d say, blue collar vibe. I think our ancestors migrated from the South to work in those steel factories and things of that nature in Detroit, Gary, Chicago. So it’s definitely a real, blue collar type working mentality, like always working, get your grind on mentality. That’s in our blood, that’s what—you take that everywhere with you."
On The Racial Divide
"Growing up in Gary, it’s no white people or anything of that nature, so I didn’t know how to intermingle with white people. Honestly, I didn’t. I didn’t know how to communicate with them on certain levels, them or Latin people. Because I’m so used to going to school with black people, living with black people, so it took a lot of me venturing out into the world and learning how to conduct myself, how to just work with people of different colors, different religions, all of that shit. Didn’t really mean nothing to me at the end of the day. When I started venturing off, it showed me how closed minded your mentality can be when you’re staying in Gary, IN. I’m just glad I got the opportunity to move around and do what I got to do.
"I had a white guy in my elementary school in fourth grade with me. His name was Phillip or something like that. It was two white boys, only white boys in the school. And I don’t know, for some reason I thought they were kinda intriguing. I thought, 'Why y'all niggas go here, what made your parents put y'all here with us?' Like, 'Why you special enough to be in the black schools?' That’s how I felt. Why you here? Why the white schools don’t want you? [Laughs] But it was just the area they lived in, their family still lived in Gary—an all-white family that still lived here. It was definitely a culture difference, but I wanted to learn their culture. I wanted to see what it was. Was it that Brady Bunch shit you see on TV, because I know my household wasn’t like the fucking Cosby Show. So I kinda figured that they were regular people like us. They probably had a crack head in their family too. They probably lived in a trailer park or some shit like that. It's just getting to know people and just learning. It’s a small world.
"When I realized I was really black and motherfuckers drew the line in the sand [is when I first saw racial divide]. Let me take you back to those two white boys. In the fourth grade, niggas was starting to get older, niggas was starting to gangbang, niggas was starting to get into the streets, niggas want to fuck with bitches. In that period of your adolescence, them white kids, their parents snatched them out of our schools. They went to the white schools after that. It made me think like, damn, they was safe in elementary. We were all little kids coming up. But when it got to the point when guys started to get beat up and things of that nature, their parents was like, 'Naw this ain’t the school for my children, being around these black kids.' That kinda let me know right there, their parents drew a line in the sand. Like, 'Naw look, y'all don’t need to be in school with these motherfuckers, these niggas are crazy.'"
On Being Black In America
"I like the [CNN] special [Black In America] because it kind of delves into our culture. It gives a good description of who we are, aside from what’s perpetuated in film, in sports. Every nigga ain’t no God damn LeBron James, every nigga ain’t a rapper. We have good black doctors and good black lawyers, leaders and politicians and things of that nature. It shows the lifestyle of a nigga in America. [Laughs] Some of it is good, some of it is bad, but it’s the same for white people. But for the most part, we all in America living in the same standard, living with the same rules. Racism is definitely alive and in control. But at the same time, a nigga got an opportunity to make something of himself over here. Niggas be blaming everybody else for their problem. But you got a better opportunity than most motherfuckers. I tell black people this shit all the time. We’re born over here. We got opportunities, we just got to take them. Yeah there's setbacks cause we’re black but we need to learn how to hurdle over them.
"I just think niggas need to take more advantages of the opportunities that’s given. I just think that people come to this country every day and turn their life around, trying to make their life better for themselves and their family and they not even from this country. But being from this motherfucker might be what’s holding us back. Like for instance, Gary, they was giving tax breaks to Indians and Arab guys that would come in and start a gas station in Indiana. I think it was, not too sure the specifics, but they give them a five or ten year tax break. And by then, God dammit, they would of made hella money. You going to tell a nigga he don’t have to pay taxes for a gas station for ten years just so he can start it. If I go to the God damn, better business bureau, they ain’t going to tell my black ass that shit. They going to tell me, 'Nigga we want our taxes in advance.' It’s definitely certain things that hold us back.
"I remember when I got off the plane in Russia, everyone was looking at me. I [was] alone until I got onstage and they was like oh, you supposed to be there. Like, ah yeah, you rap. But the world is full of [racists]. Man, the world is full of them. I’m not saying over there is racist. We just all different. I’m just a nigga tryna get over like the next nigga. I’m not really race-focused. If you go to my shows there's white people there, there's black people there, there's Latinos in there, there's Asian people. I’m just tryna get my story across [to] different races. I’m not just making music for black people. I’m just a nigga from the hood, this my side of it. It’s for everybody, it's artwork."
On Trayvon Martin
"It’s a sad incident. You hate to see that. But I seen it before. It’s not the first time some guy from another race, another social group, came in our neighborhood and murdered somebody. It’s just a sad state of affairs. It sucks that he was 16, 17 years old. I just think Zimmerman went overboard and Florida definitely went overboard for not giving him no kinda time. And I’m pretty sure every person with a correct, sound mind feel the same way. It’s child abuse if anything. It’s no need to pull a gun on a child.
"The defense team was arrogant, stand-offish, talk shit to the judge. They did their job. They swayed them six jurors that were on the motherfucking jury. They swayed them for giving him [Zimmerman] no time. Those Jurors must not have a child or something. I thought you supposed to trial a person from niggas that’s in his peer group? The jurors were like 50-plus, they wasn’t from his peer group. They were some old women from Florida. Some old white women from Florida. They didn’t give a fuck about Trayvon Martin, his mother, all the cost involved that his family is going through right now. This shit is tearing his family apart, and this nigga just get to walk free? Come on, now.
"Niggas was trippin on that shit. Like all the shit you talking about, yeah, but what’s the fucking point [of more violence] my nigga? We can ride all day, but this shit don’t change a God damn thing. The boy still dead, it ain't going to bring him back. I just think they just went about it in a different way. Niggas say it's crazy. I know I be reacting, I know I have a temper. I realize I got younger people looking [up to] me, following my every word. I don’t want no young nigga listening to me and go break no window on some nigga door cause George Zimmerman walked. What the fuck is that going to solve? It ain’t any need to riot. They just going to put more niggas in jail. More niggas in the system to take off the streets. So lets go about it in a smart way. It’s difficult but it is what it is.
"Now that I hit 30, I think about a lot of things I say, 'cause I know I got young fans, guys that look up to me. But at the same time, I gotta get my point across, tell my fucking story. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. But at the same time, I'ma try to give people something that’s on the other side of that than just drugs and things of that nature. Of course I'ma talk about it though. That’s how I fed myself for the last 10 years, 15 years. So I gotta speak on it. But at the same time, I gotta forewarn a lot of the youngsters, show them a way out of that. Try to tell them the ways to avoid jail time and avoid dying and things of that nature. A lot of my music, it’s just a play by play, a handbook on how to survive. That’s how I look at it. I feel like I’m giving out a survival message. But at the same time, I definitely need to be more mindful of the things I say, the things I tweet."