Perhaps more so than any other genre, comedy has always had a discernible role in hip-hop. From the underground, all the way through to its highest peaks, the temptation to serve up a side of humor to your audience is something that the biggest artists can accommodate without ever being labeled “comedy rap.”
When Kendrick Lamar's not producing insightful ruminations on the lasting impact of a rough upbringing on Good Kid M.A.A.D City, the skits of his loved ones demanding to know, not only his whereabouts but that of his father's dominoes, provides much-needed comic relief. In a similar vein, Kanye West's iconic first two records are peppered with satirical takes on college life and the lack of prospects for some. While for Eminem, his affinity for juvenile antics was so pronounced that he would employ an accent for an entire song or delve into farfetched sordidness in pursuit of a laugh.
In other instances, rappers keep their musical output razor-sharp while using their downtime to indulge in all manner of amusing hijinks, and in this realm, there is one man that towers above the rest.
Where rappers such as 6ix9ine made their name off of maliciousness, Gary, Indiana’s Freddie Gibbs has come to be recognized as the high chief of trolling in hip-hop.
A master of online discourse, Gangsta Gibbs strikes a unique balance between not taking himself too seriously and yet still holding his own whenever he’s challenged. Where some artists would commit themselves to cracking jokes and being pigeonholed as a comedian from there on out, Freddie is an anomaly in the sense that his propensity for online antics has accidentally or otherwise, grown in tandem with his renown in the rap game.
Where the leader of the ESGN crew was always held in high esteem by hip-hop diehards, the man who was once the Baby Face Killa is now regarded as among the genre’s elite. With every top-tier producer in the game clamoring to come aboard the Kane Train, Freddie has looked increasingly unstoppable with each passing year.
Yet in spite of how in-demand he is, Freddie can’t and won’t relent when it comes to taking to Twitter and other associated social media platforms to post depraved videos, comment on cultural issues, and be a general nuisance to his fellow MCs.
And if the past few years have demonstrated anything, it’s that this trade-off between upper-echelon rhyming and hilarity has gone over well with audiences.
Although it was by no means his trademark at that time, Freddie first exhibited his comedic chops to the masses during his appearance on Odd Future’s Loiter Squad, most notably in their famed “Storage Wars” sketch, in which he performed what is potentially the biggest pimp slap in television history. But while this skit made the world aware of Freddie’s flair for the comedic, it would only increase with time.
Seen as a frivolous waste of time by some, Gibbs’ outlook on his screen time and social media use is the opposite. In March of this year, he suggested to GQ that trolling is part of his creative process. So much so, he’s made burner accounts with the specific purpose of undermining certain MCs.
"You’re never too old to learn. N****s become irrelevant because they stop learning and being sponges to the game. I eat, sleep, and breathe this shit, every day," he explained. "I’m looking at what everybody’s doing. I’m getting on fake Instagram pages leaving comments like, ‘That shit is wack.’ I’m doing all kinds of bullshit, taunting people.”
For a time, Freddie was the crown prince of hip-hop Instagram, practically becoming a one-man Worldstar with his endless procession of bizarre clips. Eventually, he became so revered as a regular source of hilarity that accounts were devoted to archiving his stories. His unrelenting behavior and penchant for particularly egregious content eventually caught up with him, and his IG account was banned.
"Look, they kicked me off the muthafuckin Gram," Freddie lamented to Desus and Mero following the incident. "They said I'm an excessive bully, they said I put too much nudity and sexual behavior, but really they say I'm bullying n****s, that's what I get flagged for everyday. So I'm like, who the fuck am I bullying?",I think the real people be writing letters to Instagram like 'Freddie Gibbs called me a bitch. Freddie Gibbs said I was fat in that goddamn video.'"
Despite the fact that he initially threatened to "do like these hoez and start a onlyfans" in order to keep providing his usual collage of content, he’s since accepted his expulsion from IG as the "end of an era."
Freddie is nonetheless still able to ignite the internet.
During his appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience alongside comedian Brian Moses, Freddie went viral for his assertion that 50 Cent looked like a “Nigerian Olympic runner” when he slimmed down for a role in Things Fall Apart. Before adding, of course, that "nobody watched that shit."
In the podcast’s most widely shared moment, the revelation that he shot "a crackhead nine times with a tech nine and he just kept running down the alley," not only left the usually verbose podcast host stumped, but furthered fans’ love of him and his ability to bemuse.
When he’s not wreaking havoc on podcasts, much of Freddie’s trolling is done on his trusty Twitter account. Just recently, he’s been all too happy to jab at his friends such as Big Sean and Wale.
"N****z get rich and bored and start doing dumb shit D’Fuck @BigSean," he said of a recent music video in which the Detroit rapper was covered in bees. "This n***a @BigSean think he candyman ... Man I gotta get so rich I let bees sting me in the dick."
In instances such as his playful sniping at Sean Don, it’s clear that Gibbs is simply amusing himself (and others), all in good fun. But even when there’s real animosity, the urge to make a joke at his foe’s expense appears to be overwhelming.
As well as intermittently checking in to remind Jeezy that the fallout from his time on CTE World is still simmering, the past year saw him verbally bludgeon DJ Akademiks from pillar to post. After they got into it online, Freddie committed hours and hours to burying him and even released a special merch collection including a mock-up of the media personality as a Teletubby, with "all proceeds go towards gettin this fuck n**a out the rap game."
While the feud has recently lurched back into life, the general consensus is that when it comes to insulting your enemy, not many, let alone Akademiks, can hang with Skinny Suge. In fact, the usually hardheaded Ak actually conceded that when it came time to battle with Freddie, he was thoroughly outwitted. In fact, Freddie's mastery of the online realm is so pronounced that after the media personality's Instagram account was abruptly taken down the other week, he purported the theory that it was Gibbs that had it pulled from the platform.
"From here on out..@FreddieGibbs I’m telling u .. u tweet at me it’s silence," Ak said via Twitter when he awoke to a disabled IG page. "u snitched on me to instagram.. u got it. U out internet me bro. Call J Prince .. cuz I don’t want no more smoke with u. U win. Just stop telling please."
Given the backhanded nature of this concession, it should be no surprise that Freddie has opted to keep his foot on Ak's neck at all times, with Freddie's fans even going out of their way to dredge up some ill-advised remarks from Ak's past in order to strengthen Gibbs' case against him.
No matter how much he cracks the hip-hop world up, what sets Freddie apart from many is that in no way has it made him a sideshow in the game. In reality, he’s actually parlayed the ability to troll into another aspect of his appeal.
Where he’ll spend his leisure time providing his own brand of ruthless commentary on cultural events, it’s a different story when it comes time for Freddie to put in the work. At this stage, all amusement is sidelined in favor of Freddie receiving glowing praise for what he’s capable of on the mic.
Since March of 2014 when he and Madlib first unleashed the expansive and hypnotizing Pinata, Freddie has been on one of the most illustrious streaks in modern hip-hop. Rather than taper off as his online presence grew, this prolific run of classics has coincided with him expanding his audience through that nonchalantly combative personality. Plus, this one-two punch has even guided him into a major label deal with Warner that he’s claimed will "take everything to another level for my day one fans as well as the people just now discovering me."
So, even when he lost Best Rap Album to Nas at this year’s Grammys, he can just drolly reply that “I might’ve lost today, but I’m undefeated in court” and suddenly, it still feels as though he’s coming out on top.