Originally published on KDHX.org
The Indiana native takes his literal rap sheet and turns it into a lyrical one that works in complex twists and turns, juxtaposing his time both as a drug pusher and street rapper in the Midwest and Los Angeles. The rapper crafts demanding rhymes, celebrating the struggles of the gangster life, which somehow transform into damn-near motivational ballads about surviving and succeeding in the ghetto at all costs.
He plays his part like an original gangster, taking cues from the likes of Ol Dirty Bastard and Tupac, but conveys a more erudite version of man you really don’t want to mess with. Having lost a football scholarship in school, he dropped out and began selling drugs and rapping. He enjoyed a brief stint on Interscope records in 2006 before the label folded and put Gibbs back out on the streets. But that ordeal seemed to teach him not to take anything for granted — and to never stop hustling. In 2014, he partnered with producer MadLib to record “Pinata”, his most successful ‘street’ album to date.
Local hip-hop artist Chris Grindz opened the show with a dizzying display of verbal skills and accessible beats. At the beginning of his set, he took the stage while wearing an orange corrections uniform, while some of his closest allies danced and riled the crowd. He returned in regular attire and began to break down some of his best tracks. “We all part of the struggle,” he sang, waving his hands in the air. His lyrics raise the bar for rhymes that tell a story, not only reflecting the problems of the present world but also his place in it. “I am an honest man rapping,” he sings, before the beat dropped out and he began freestyling without music behind him. His rhymes hold up, even without beats.
Gibbs has had to dodge plenty of real-life bullets from enemies but few from critics. Like most rappers, he’s gone on record saying he thinks he’s the best at what he does. But in this case, he actually may be right. His DJ at the back of the stage introduced him, “When I say Gibbs, you say gangsta!” The crowd shouted “gangsta!” over and over again in response without missing a beat. More people arrived and fans packed shoulder to shoulder in front of the stage. Gibbs took the mic front and center, launching into “Deeper,” singing, “Keep an AK and the backup in the backroom.” Fans waved their hands in the air and sang every lyric Gibbs had to offer.
Unfortunately, the headcount was somewhat lacking for an artist of Gibbs’ caliber, with only a quarter of the crowd from last week’s Raekwon show. But fans showed enough enthusiasm to impress the performer. “I’m feelin’ the love, y’all,” he said, followed quickly by “Everybody say fuck police!” The crowd shouted vigorously. The phrase was chanted after every song, as though Gibbs wouldn’t play without hearing it. Hardcore enthusiasts packed-in tighter, hands held high, singing right along with Gibbs at every turn of phrase.
One fan was singled out for taking a hit from a pipe. After putting up a little bit of a fight, he was aggressively escorted out by the security team. “Still living like a dope dealer / whatcha know boy,” Gibbs sang, almost like he was serenading the man who was kicked out. Next came fan-favorite “Thuggin’,” rapping the third verse solo, before the DJ brought up the music to ignite the energy. His hard-hitting ode to thug life “Pronto” brought the fans and artist together, raising the spirit of the entire show to a new level, singing, “So bury me a mutherfuckin’ G,” standing over the crowd with a mic, controlling their excitement. “Everybody say fuck police!” he chanted and the room responded. Somehow, the crowd had gotten much louder.