Always possessing sympathy for the struggle from which he was able to emerge, Freddie Gibbs was particularly saddened when he heard his friend Dominic Newton, better known as the Jacka, was gunned down in East Oakland at age 37.
The loss hit Gibbs hard, who posted his condolences on social media and stated that his Mar. 6 performance at the New Parish in Oakland will be dedicated to the memory of Newton.
The Jacka may have been an unsung hip-hop figure nationally, but his output was widely respected among Bay Area fans, a point made clear by the outpouring of condolences that emerged on social media. He first gained notoriety as a member of the Mob Figaz, and later pursued a solo career that made him one of the Bay’s standout rappers.
“It feels like a part of you disappeared and is gone for no reason,” Gibbs explained to Noisey. “Jack wasn’t the type of guy you had a problem with. So to see somebody take his life is totally shocking and tragic.”
Hailing from Gary, Indiana, best known musically as the hometown of Michael Jackson and his family, Gibbs emerged from a place far removed from the hip-hop radar. To pursue a career, he moved to Los Angeles roughly a decade ago and began making mixtapes. In 2010, he was named one of the Top 10 Freshman by XXL magazine, a list that seems prophetic today; he shared the cover alongside new-school heavyweights J. Cole, Wiz Khalifa and Big Sean.
With an uncompromising perspective that speaks truth to the struggle of the streets, one might think Gibbs wouldn’t be universally enjoyed by hip-hop listeners. After all, his sound isn’t — and has never been — Top 40-friendly.
But accessibility has never been Gibbs’s aim. Instead, his catalog is filled with authentic tales of at-risk life and the challenge, despite such setbacks, to succeed.
After a continuous release of mixtapes in the ensuing years, including the 2012 collaboration The Devil’s Palace with L.A.-based producer the Alchemist, he recently connected with celebrated production icon Madlib. Their pairing led to his highest-profile release to date, 2014’s Piñata.
“The things I rap about are 100-percent real,” Gibbs said, in reference to his Gary upbringing, while speaking with Ali Shaheed Muhammad for NPR’s Microphone Check. “But at the same time, I don’t rap about those things to tear my city down. I give you the reality of what it is and what I been through and how it is living in those conditions in Gary, Ind. … I’m trying to shed light on it so that possibly… we can figure out something to reverse that deterioration process.”
Freddie Gibbs performs Friday, Mar. 6, at the New Parish in Oakland. For more information, visit thenewparish.com.