Freddie Gibbs has nothing against rap artists who embrace catchy hooks to land on pop radio, but that's not his style. He didn't need a hit single to draw attention to both of his 2009 mixtapes, and he's about to delve deeper into hardcore street rap on his new EP, "Str8 Killa," due Aug. 3 on Decon Records.
"I'm not trying to obey the rules of radio," the MC says. "I'm trying to bring gangster rap back to the forefront, like in the early '90s."
Growing up in crime-ridden Gary, Ind., Gibbs was too preoccupied "in sports and in the streets" to consider a rap career until his early 20s, when a few friends brought him to a nearby studio. Gibbs started issuing mixtapes within his neighborhood, and in 2006 the rapper signed to Interscope and packed his bags for Southern California.
While Gibbs actively recorded throughout 2007, disagreements with Interscope forced him to leave the label before releasing any material. Gibbs saved his work from his Interscope tenure and self-released some of the material on a pair of 2009 mixtapes, "The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs" and "Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik."
The references to Lauryn Hill and OutKast in the mixtape titles suggest that Gibbs' gravelly flow is influenced by more than just genre touchstones like Dr. Dre and 2Pac. "My core thing is gangster rap, but a lot of my music is melodic and carries a message of survival," Gibbs says.
The eight-track "Str8 Killa" features appearances by Bun B, the Cool Kids' Chuck Inglish and the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach -- and that's just on one song, the head-knocking "Oil Money." Gibbs will release the album on Decon as a one-off and remains unsigned as an artist.
The rapper is currently hard at work on his debut full-length, "Baby Faced Killa," and hopes to find a label for a possible 2011 release. Following a July 17 set at Pitchfork Music Festival, Gibbs has lined up a handful of summer dates, including a set at SOB's in New York Aug. 3.
"I'll probably be doing be clubs and festivals," Gibbs says. "It doesn't really matter to me. Just give me a mic and I'll rock it."