Freddie Gibbs at the Cabooze, 8/24/13
Photo by Erik Hess Freddie Gibbs
Saturday, August 24, 2013
I got pounds of Keisha / Dope house fulla geekers / Looking for that white bitch, cocaina, have you seen her?
Most of the Cabooze, about 75 percent full, is vibing and rapping along with this decidedly radio unfriendly but intensely catchy hook from the slow-burning "Have U Seen Her?" After the intro, Freddie Gibbs cuts off the beat and asks the crowd what they're holding. "Make some noise if you got drugs up in this bitch! Let me hear if you got that loud. Who got that cocaina?"
A sizable portion responds in the affirmative to all three inquiries, with more than a few blunts in the air. Launching back into the song, Gibbs displayed the skills that have lead some to call him the savior of gangsta rap. Though he hung back during the choruses, he's a barely contained force during a verse -- there's no wasted energy. He stands center stage, looking over the crowd like an emperor, delivering his raw and documentarian lyrics about life in thoroughly blighted Gary, Indiana with clinically precise menace.
Looking around the room, you might not have guessed that a lot of the audience had been waiting on Gibbs for more than three hours. The show was advertised as starting at 9:30 with two openers; in the end, there were six openers, mostly low-profile locals, and the first didn't go on until 11:00. Gibbs himself didn't take the stage until 1:35.
Unannounced small-time openers and late starts aren't exactly unheard of at hip-hop shows, so the absurd delays of Saturday's show are exceptional by degree rather than kind -- and Minnesota's 2:00 a.m. bar close doesn't help. All the same, Gibbs isn't the type of rapper you'd expect to roll up with a 35 minute set.
After starting his career with a very brief and unproductive stint with Interscope, he has defined himself in part through a strong allergy to industry bullshit, releasing hard-edged gangsta rap mixtapes in direct contrast to the party drug and introspection fueled albums of many of his contemporaries. His 2013 "premiere" album, ESGN, was released on his own label of the same name. Everything about his career would lead one to think that the normal nonsense accompanying shows from big-name rappers would be largely absent.
The long slog of openers before Gangsta Gibbs had its bright spots. Highlights included a kid from Cottage Grove's Two Os who looked like he could still be in high school rapping "I eat pussy like noodle soup" with extreme confidence and southside rap crew M.D.E getting everyone involved with Chief Keef styled bangers like "Bang" and "California-Minnesota" (shout-out to Franklin Avenue).
Photo by Erik Hess M.D.E. Photo by Eric Hess Freddie Gibbs
DJ Ray Mills and host Dolo (a.k.a. Mr. Get it Poppin) kept things pretty lively during frequent breaks in the action. There's only so much you can do to keep a vibe going for that long, however, and by 12:30 a.m., people in the front row started resting their arms on the monitors, which is never a good sign. The nadir of the night came when D.G.B. Muzik Entertainment, the hosts of the showcase, came on just before 1:00.
Instead of the usual three songs and "buy our merch" set from show hosts, they played the longest and talkiest set of any opener, going for around half an hour and outstaying their welcome with most of the audience. When they ran through their keynote song, with the hook "If you don't fuck with us, then we don't fuck with y'all," it almost seemed like the words were directed at the crowd, which, to be fair, did not fuck with them by any reasonable interpretation.
After yet another opener (fellow Gary MC D-edge) Gibbs took the stage. His opener "BFK" immediately showcased his way of doing things: the lyrics are enticingly confrontational, and the beat is solely the background, serving to punch through the aggression inherent in the lines. Gibbs cut the beat completely off during a break and went a cappella, a technique he would return to throughout the set to place his flow front-and-center. His blisteringly fast cadence didn't compromise the body-blow lyrical content, ending with "What you know about that life in the mask? / Them Gary, Indiana, n*ggas gift wrap ya casket, how ya love that?"