Here's what Freddie Gibbs orders when he passes through the legendary chicken spot Harold's on the South Side of Chicago: Six wings, mild sauce and all the fries on offer. Gibbs's order is soon to be common knowledge, as the rapper invokes his favored part of the menu as the hook for a song named after the establishment. Check it out on this week's new EP with Madlib, Deeper.
On the surface, the song "Harold's" begins with Gibbs dropping a dewey-eyed reminiscence over formative years fueled by fried birds. But soon Gangsta Gibbs is branching out from the simple shack itself and weaving in memories and commentary about the characters and the community that surrounds it. By the time Madlib's wistful groove has wound down, Gibbs has skillfully moved from taking you into the spot to offering up a vivid and savvy snapshot of a time in his life.
So with "Harold's" staying on constant repeat this week, Hive asked Gibbs to elaborate on the sentiments he relays in the song. Here's his Harold's history lesson:
When was the first time Harold's came into your life?
Well my mom was a mail carrier and she used to bring it to me on her lunch hour. I used to eat it every day after school. It was better than the nasty-ass school lunch.
What was the nasty-ass school lunch?
Probably some bullshit pizza or some shit. Some bullshit fries and some mystery meat that you goddamn didn't know what was in it.
What makes Harold's food so appealing?
It's just chicken, man. It's simple, ain't nothing special about the recipe, it's a simple ass meal, you know? Chicken, sauce, some bread and fries.
What does Harold's look like?
It tries to look like a corner store, man, with bulletproof glass on that motherfucker so they won't get robbed. I mean, they ain't even got no bathroom in there. You come in that motherfucker, you order your shit and you get the fuck out. Ain't no fuckin' stools in there; it ain't shit to stay there. It's a menu and bulletproof glass and a pop machine. It was a pop machine with water, Faygo pop, menus and bullet-proof class. Ain't no juices there -- you ain't see no juices just pop.
Are you a fan of Faygo?
I like peach Faygo. If you mix it with some syrup it tastes alright.
Why does it hold a special place in the South Side community?
It's just part of the culture. It's one of the places that people would gravitate toward. It was started in Chicago and there's local support for it.
What was your first impression of going to Harold's?
Well it wasn't really nothing special or distinctive about the atmosphere -- it's just another ghetto, hole-in-the-wall chicken place, you know? There's a bunch of them in Chicago already so I decided to try the new one and I liked it. I fuck with their chicken every day. That's my shit. If I'm ever at home, I'm getting Harold's at least once a week. I love fried chicken -- I'm like Chicken George.
What's your normal order at Harold's?
Six wings, mild sauce, extra sauce with all the fries you can get.
Were there any rumors or stories about Harold's that you heard while growing up?
Not really, just that they got the bangin' ass fried chicken! Ain't no real rumors about the place or shady things. It's a place to eat, man.
You also reference a chili bowl in the song.
Yeah, but that's not Harold's. Fuck no, I don't even think they got chili. When I said chili bowl I was talking about a haircut. A chili bowl is a fucked-up haircut in the 'hood. It looked like someone put a damn bowl over your head and cut around it.
Did you have a chili bowl at one point?
Yeah, I did. Everybody got a fucked-up haircut once or twice in their life.
In the song you have a line about a girl being "raised in the church/ Turned out in the ghetto."
Yeah, I went to church when I was little myself. I wasn't raised in the church though, but I know some people that be fucking with church and they some fucked-up people. That's the point I was trying to get across on that song, about a hoe I was fucking with, letting them know that church girls can be the nastier-ass bitches.
Why is that?
'Cause they've been sheltered their whole life by their Reverend-ass parents, so when they get a taste of real life they go berserk and they can't take that shit.
What did you think about organized religion when you were growing up?
I believe in God, there's definitely a higher power over me, but I don't believe in no man trying to push religion on me like that. I don't believe there's no man greater than me -- there's God and that's it. So I don't believe in organized religion.
Why do so many people believe in it then?
They need something to believe. I'm not an atheist, don't get me wrong, I believe in God and everything, but the way I go about worshipping might seem unorthodox to others. I just don't believe in going to a church, but a lot of black people go to church as a way of life, but I feel like there's too many pimpin' ass Reverends. It's about us doing the right thing, but that's in anything. I'm not here to judge, I'm just here with my personal preference. I don't need no man to stand up every Sunday and give me spiritual guidance. If I need that I have people I can call for that and it's in their heart to do that. That's real.
"Harold's" was produced by Madlib. What's he like to collaborate with?
It's weird, 'cause he's a weird guy, but it's good. It's one of the best experiences I ever had. We're from different walks of life, but we both want to be successful in this music.
Does Madlib bring out another side of your writing?
I guess you could say that. I wouldn't say another side -- my life is always the basis of it all -- but I guess his beats are a challenge to do things lyrically rather than over other beats 'cause the nature of his tracks are not particularly easy to rap on.
Do you think people might be surprised that you're working with Madlib so much?
I don't give a fuck. I don't know what people think. I do the music I want to do. I just did a record the other day with Young Chop and another record with Madlib the week before that. I'm all over the place with my style and my music, but that's what I'm gonna do -- you're not gonna put me in a box with my music. I mean, I wrote a reggae song for Daddy Yankee. I'm multi-faceted. Every type of music is a challenge, it's like putting together a puzzle. I ain't about to be no pussy-ass on a record or be a cop out -- I'm a give people my experience and that's it whatever type of beat or genre it is.
Have you been asked to write for many other artists?
Do you accept most of it?
Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't.
What's the hardest thing about writing a song for someone else?
Getting them to step out of their pussy-ass box. Other than that, it's pretty easy.
Going back to your work with Madlib, it was reported recently that the upcoming album's title had changed from Cocaine Piñata to just Piñata. Why was that?
It is called Cocaine Piñata. Fuck Walmart, Target and all them motherfuckers -- the album is called Cocaine Piñata and I don't give a fuck what a retail store told you or some motherfucker told you so the shit can be on the shelf. The shit is called Cocaine Piñata and we're talking about cocaine, dope, hoes. Fuck that other shit. I'm a keep it real, man. Let them do what they do to put it on the shelves, but shit is called Cocaine Piñata.
The album's also reported to feature a bunch of rappers including Earl Sweatshirt, Danny Brown and Mac Miller. Which was your favorite collaboration?
Man, I don't really give a fuck about collaborations. Everybody that came by the house while I was making this shit, they kinda got on the album, you know? They came by my house, was getting high. It's just a mic, a nasty bitch and a lot of weed and some liquor. Whatever you want to do, hoes and drugs. We accommodate everyone. It's to set the whole atmosphere for the musical stampede that's about to take place. It's about setting the inspiration: Smoke some weed, light some candles, get drunk with the girls, then I'm rapping.
Deeper is out now on Invazion.