Freddie Gibbs Is Proof That Your Greatness Outweighs Industry Rules
The Gary, Indiana, rapper’s story exemplifies the rise of a time that changed everything
I try not to put too much stock in award shows. Part of that is because of who decides the winners; part is because many of these shows depend on Black artists for ratings but don’t reward them for their work. The last Black woman to win a Grammy for Best Album was Lauryn Hill—more than 20 years ago. Last century.
That said, I found myself invested in this year’s Best Rap category for the Grammys, in large part because Freddie Gibbs’ album Alfredo was one of the nominees. Nas may have ended up winning for King’s Disease, but Gibbs’ recognition felt like a win for his grind—as well as for the blog era, that uniquely revolutionary period of hip-hop he came from.
I was a writer at hip-hop blog The Smoking Section when I first heard about Gibbs. His mixtape The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs ended up in our editor TC’s hands, and he passed it on to the TSS don, John Gotty. G immediately fell in love with the rapper whose authenticity was as certified as his ability to find the smoothest pocket on any beat he came across. One of the joys of TSS and the blog era was latching on to artists as they were coming up and doing what we could to change the trajectory of their careers. Each of us in the crew had our own artists we believed in; I spent much of those early days writing about people like KRIT, Dee-1, and Mickey Factz. But once we all heard Miseducation, the site became Freddie Gibbs central.
It’s been crazy to think about those times, which I’ve been doing a lot of in the days leading up to the Grammys. We were struggling writers trying to put on struggling artists who were being managed by struggling enterprising managers. And most of us had day jobs.
In particular, I’ve been thinking about one night in New York City in 2010. I was fresh out of grad school and was in the city looking for a job in journalism. One of your favorite hip-hop publications had just offered me an unpaid internship I could never dream of affording. I left that publication’s office and immediately went to the venue where Gibbs was headlining for the first time in New York. His performance was…