The Chicago rap scene nowadays is exposed like an overcoat-wearing flasher on the uptown A train, but I digress. Most media coverage focuses mainly on rapper Chief Keef, or his polar opposite, Chance The Rapper, which makes it seem like that’s all there is– drill or backpack rap.
Clearly that’s not the case, and no one proves it more clearly than 20-year-old Chicago rapper Lil Bibby. With last years Free Crack, he hit the Internet hard, and without warning. Coming into the game with imposing beats, a strong voice, and a story to tell, Bibby proved he belongs in the conversation too. He’s received co-signs from the likes of Drake and Kevin Durant, while showing that his smooth flow, mixed with the voice of James Earl Jones (you know, if he was a rapper), is an invigorating sound from the Chi.
Right now Lil Bibby is putting the final touches on his upcoming EP The Book, doing shows across the country, and going after his dream. His street hustle mentality, combined with his lyrical ability, is sure to get him to the top of Chicago’s rap scene. In the midst of the hustle we spoke to Lil Bibby about the violence he saw growing up, how Chicago rap is effecting the city, and how his fame has irked certain friends the wrong way.
Mass Appeal: I know you just performed in Brooklyn at the Smoker’s Club 4/20 show. How do you feel about New York crowds?
Lil Bibby: It was crazy in New York man. You know, New York mess with me tough. New York always accept me.
MA: Would you say New York is one of your favorite cities to perform in?
LB: Yeah, New York and Chicago. And the midwest, they mess with me hard. A lot of people say New York is the toughest crowd, but I don’t see that. That’s my favorite place.
MA: What do you think are the biggest differences between New York and Chicago?
LB: I don’t know, people in New York just always show a lot of love man. I don’t see as many people walking around with guns like they do in Chicago.
MA: That’s because if you get caught with a gun here it’s a minimum one year.
LB: Yeah, that’s what somebody told me. They said you could get like three to seven or something.
MA: Yeah, it’s crazy. Speaking of New York, what New York City rappers have influenced you?
LB: Jay Z, Jadakiss– I like Cam’ron too. You know Jay Z is a big influence. I look up to him, man. He street– he come from the element that I come from. It seems like he also did his thing in the streets and he made it to where he’s at. He’s got a lot of patience too. That’s what I’m trying to go for. It’s hard trying to be patient with all these guys, but I’m learning.
MA: What do you like about Cam’ron?
LB: Cam’ron is a funny guy. I like Purple Haze, where Ye did most of the beats. I don’t know, Cam’ron is a funny character and he a cool dude.
MA: You used that Cam’ron clip from “Killa Season” on Free Crack.
LB: Yeah, he influenced me to drop out of school. [Laughs]
MA: Everyone knows the violence that has been happening in Chicago the last few years. What was it like to grow up in that environment?
LB: I like Chicago. That’s my home and it made me who I am today. I think I’ve seen a lot of stuff a little bit too early man. A lot of stuff that a kid shouldn’t have seen. I kind of had to grow up way faster than a normal person.
MA: What kind of stuff are you talking about?
LB: Like, all together, I’ve lost like 30 of my friends to shootings and stuff. I done been shot at so many times. I been in a lot of crazy situations man. I just had to do everything on my own. My mom, she never really, I never really … I don’t know how to say this. I never really had no responsibility. I had my own responsibilities – I had to take care of myself. Doing my thing, hustle. Chicago makes you a man too early.
MA: Was your mom around? Was she working?
LB: No, she wasn’t working man. She was around, but she wasn’t really around like that neither, though. I was always outside. I never really had a curfew or anybody to tell me to not do something, or that I couldn’t do something.
MA: Everyone always talks about “Chiraq” and what not. Do you feel the attention on the city has caused more violence?
LB: Not really. It’s given us something to look forward to. A lot of kids look at the rap, me and Chief Keef and all these guys, like there’s something we can do to better our families and ourselves. But sometimes, some of the music that we make out of Chicago, it influences the kids to do the stuff that we rap about. Some of the rappers don’t even really do that. I try to motivate people to get money, you know. But yeah, if you run into a problem you got to deal with it. It’s best to try and avoid problems and get money. Problems ain’t going to lead to nothing but more people dying and in jail.
MA: As far as motivating people to get money, what’s the best way to get money out there?
LB: [Laughs] C’mon man. I don’t know, I used to hustle. You can get a job man. I never had a job and I never wanted one. I been offered a couple.
MA: You got a job now, though.
LB: I didn’t look at this as a job at first, but now I’m starting to realize this is a full time job. I’m on the phone with you, I’m at an airport, I got to do a show soon as I land, gotta record after that.
MA: I know you’re working on the new EP, The Book. What’s behind that title?
LB: I took it to Twitter and asked my fans what to name it. They came up with The Book Of Bibby. I just cut it short to The Book. I don’t know, it seems like it’s the best name because in all of my songs I’m just telling stories about what I go through anyway.
MA: Is this project going to get deeper into your life than Free Crack did?
LB: Yeah, we going to dig a little deeper. I’m going through other type stuff now. Make a little money people get to actin’ crazy. I’m just in different situations with different people, you know?
MA: Now that you have a little bit of rap money what type of problems are you encountering?
LB: A lot of my friends be actin’ funny around me, man. When I leave to go out of town and come back stuff just be getting fishy. A lot of people be acting different and looking at me different, like I’m a celebrity or something.
I probably am [Laughs]. I’m the same guy, ain’t nothing changed with me. I just be around different people, you know. I guess they just look at it like I’m not a regular person anymore. I’m not the same person I was just because I be around guys like Russell Simmons, Drake— all these A-list celebrities. People be looking at me different.
MA: But you’re still the same kid, right?
LB: One hundred percent. I can’t change.