Fire Starter: Freddie Gibbs

Words of wisdom from Freddie "Gibbs" Tipton: "It ain't no 401K plan for no drug dealer or no robber. You gotta get something solid in your life."

The Gary, Indiana, native admits that he was lost for a long time in his life — as recent as last year he was facing jail time. Freddie graduated from high school in 2000 and went to Ball State University on a football scholarship, but was eventually kicked out due to poor grades. Back on the streets, Gibbs (his stage name was inspired by the badass Gibbs family in the classic film "Black Caesar") caught a gun charge (the first of two in his life) and was forced to go to the military as part of a pretrial diversion agreement. Freddie was soon discharged after he was caught smoking marijuana.

"That was another learning experience in my life," the 27 year-old MC said. "When that was over with I was kicked out of school, kicked out of the army — having that ain't gonna get you nowhere."

Gibbs started making mixtapes in 2003 and, taking a cue from 50 Cent's hustle game, he passed the tapes out for free. Ironically, one of his early tapes made it into the hands of an executive from 50's label, Interscope, in late 2005 — Gibbs was signed within four months. The company moved him to Los Angeles where he started recording ... and recording ... and recording. However, not much came from his two-plus years in the studio except experience.

"I locked myself on the fourth floor of Interscope — there wasn't no development, there was nobody telling me what to do, how to write hooks. Every lyric came from me, every concept, just a depiction on my life," he explained. "There was no telling me how to do this, proper etiquette — there was no artist development at all. That was something I had to take upon myself and do on my own. My time over there wasn't a total waste; it made me a smarter businessman."

Gibbs was released from Interscope in October 2007. Although he doesn't have a new deal yet, he's keeping his name alive on the blogs and streets with his mixtapes. The DJ Skee-hosted Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik is his latest and the follow-up to The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs. A compilation of his underground greatest hits, The Labels Tryin To Kill Me, was released at the end of last year.

"I respect everything about the L.A. culture," said Gibbs, who splits time between his hometown and Cali. "I'm trying to model my career after Ice Cube — that's one of my favorite rappers. You gotta respect the whole West Coast movement. Me moving out there was just by faith. Interscope signed me, I moved out there and went there and saw I could establish myself because L.A. actually had a scene. Nipsey Hussle, Jay Rock — those are he two dudes pushing that movement out there. I respect them dudes, but really I'm trying to put the Midwest on the map. Show we got a voice, show we got music too.

"A lot of people in Gary work hard to try and get out," he added. "It's a depressed city, a depressed economy. It's still my home. I still live there. I got family, friends there. I feel like me putting this street music out, it's gonna shed some light on the bad parts so maybe they can be fixed. Plus, it's no music scene in Gary — we don't even have our own radio situation. Everything we got is up under Chicago. I gotta go and create the scene. Being the first dude to come out the city in the rap game is a lot of pressure. For one, people hear Gary, Indiana, and think I'm some hick from the farm. But I'm from the bricks. This is the ghetto. This ain't no cornfield."

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