"I made a mistake signing to CTE and now with the ESGN album I'm about to erase that mistake," says Freddie Gibbs referring to his stint running with Young Jeezy's record label. The Gary, Indiana-based rapper's spell on CTE might have been a creatively unfulfilling one, but the experience helped prompt Gibbs to embrace the self-sufficient route and will release ESGN on his own label. Hive spoke with Gibbs this week about why he considers the 19-track project to be "the definitive Freddie Gibbs album," fleshing out ESGN's guest features, and why he had to sever ties with Young Jeezy.
When did you start recording ESGN?
I started recording right when I got off CTE, after I made that announcement. The first song I wrote was "The Real G Money." It's a self-explanatory song, it's me, just burning my money, it's hardcore.
That song's produced by Lifted, right?
Ah, yeah, Lifted is crazy. He did a lot of work with Kanye, he did "Mercy," he also did "Paper" on my album. We did a lot of records together and we've got a lot more to come too. He's a great guy to work with. I only work with people who I'm cool with and he's one of my homies. It was super easy, we've got a good chemistry.
You also have SMKA producing on the album with the song "Have U Seen Her."
Yeah, man, that's just me meeting them by running through the industry doing my thing. I met them in Atlanta and we started knocking out tracks. Since then they're always involved in my projects. They're definitely one of the best production teams in the game.
What's the vibe of "Have U Seen Her" like?
That's some hard-hitting real music. The vibe was we went to a strip-club and we was doing our thing. It's about the hustle, from the strip-clubs to the streets to the dope houses.
How did you get B.J. the Chicago Kid involved on the song "Lose Control"?
Ah, man, that's my homie so we're close friends and the music is easy from that point. He brings that soulful edge to the song -- I wanted something like that to smooth the track out but still keep it raw. He does that.
Why do you say ESGN is the definitive Freddie Gibbs album?
I've been in this game close to now nine, ten years and still doing it with no major label and had no push from anything. I've been doing it on my own hustle and showing people that it's about me. There were entrepreneurs in this game before me and that's the hand the industry has dealt me. I've been forced to put my own music out and do it myself because I guess I'm a threat to the industry and everybody's afraid of me. Nobody wants to touch me. So I got to do it on my own and that's the best way to do it, like with Jay-Z when he made Reasonable Doubt. I look at a cat like him and I'm inspired by that. What Jay-Z did was took his career into his own hands. So I've made some mistakes along the way and I'm learning from those. Signing to CTE was one of those.
At what point did you realize signing to Young Jeezy's CTE label was a mistake?
I'd say probably about half way through it. I was going on tour with Young Jeezy and I was opening the tour up and I was with CTE but it was like I was doing all my shows for the tour by myself and then Jeezy would come out two hours later. I didn't feel like I was a part of what's going on. I don't know whether it was 'cause maybe they're from Atlanta or whatever but I wasn't in their circle like that. It felt like I had my own thing going on and me and Jeezy would bump heads and we didn't agree. So like I said, I decided to take things in my own hands 'cause I was doing it on my own with no support for them anyway. It was like why am I pushing someone else's brand for free? I rocked with them at first out of love and respect, but that's gone. Now I got to move on.
Did Young Jeezy give you any good career advice during that time on CTE?
I doubt it.
Looking back during that time, what did you learn about yourself?
I learned that I ain't nobody but me at the end of the day. I was stagnant when I was there and that was because I was trying to not impress the guy above me but do everything according to what the protocol was. But I ain't following no one else's protocol, I make my own rules. I didn't like the way [Jeezy] was leading so I had to break off and lead my own troops. I got my own troops to feed.
Is there any chance you'll record with Young Jeezy in the future?
Not at all.
So who are your own troops that people should look out for on ESGN?
Definitely Hit Skrewface. I'm introducing people the same way Master P introduced his troops. One of them is Hit Skrewface and there's G-Wiz, D-Edge and you got G.I. Fleezy on the album. It's a solo album but I made sure to put my people on the strongest songs for them. It's all about playing to everybody's strengths and everybody's doing a solid job right now. These people have been in my corner for years now.
Will there be any more singles from ESGN before it's released?
Definitely, we're about to drop the video for "Eastside Moonwalker" on Monday, and there's the "Have U Seen Her" video coming out the following week. We got a lot of visuals coming. And we also just dropped the new joint "Freddie Soprano" this week -- I'm coming with the slaughter on that. I guess I did some different kinda themes with this record, I experimented with some different kinda flows to let everybody know that I'm the best and the most versatile, so the "Freddie Soprano" is letting everybody know that I'm still the best hardcore spitter in gangsta rap. There ain't no gangsta rapper that can spit as hard as me. A lot of these dudes are just riding each other's dicks and copying each other's flows, you know, it's like a god damn boys club and everybody's happy in there. Fuck that. That ain't the real story of the streets; the streets is home and the streets is grimy and the streets is cut-throat -- I'd say I saw two n****s getting murdered yesterday looking out the barbershop. So I can't rap all that happy-go-lucky shit. I got money but my people don't got money yet so I'm in the trenches with them. I'm telling the story of my city, Gary, and people know that.
How does that make you feel? Is there any pressure?
It makes me feel great. Like I said, I come and I give back and I do what I can do 'cause I'm a product of that place, I'm from there and I rose up from there. That speaks volumes in itself -- in the rap game, ain't nobody looking at Gary. Chicago had a surge in the rap game but they always had a presence in the rap game, but we never had a presence and we're right next door to them. So we got to take ours. That's what Freddie Gibbs is about -- taking mine. These dudes aren't down to take, so I'm taking mine; Jeezy wasn't down to take, so I'm taking mine. Jeezy ain't got the hunger I got, he rich already so he ain't hungry no more. You see Rick Ross and all these guys like Gucci and them, but it's the rap game, it's a sport, it's competitive. Ain't nobody above no motherfuckin' slaughter. I tell people I can be your best friend but I can also be your worst enemy.
What's coming after ESGN in terms of new music?
I'm trying to look at the business models of the black entrepreneurs who came before me like Master P and Jay-Z, so I'm gonna keep putting out projects. After ESGN I got the project with Madlib called Cocaine Piñata -- that's a special project that's definitely going to show you my versatility and who the best spitter is. Then after that we have Str8 Killa Part 2, I'm coming with that, then we gonna keep going with my homies like Skrewface and G-Wiz. It's going down.
Watch Freddie Gibbs' First Take performance for MTV Hive below: