Skeptics questioned Freddie Gibbs’ decision to join Young Jeezy’s CTE imprint. They wondered why an established independent rapper with a modest but loyal fan base would link with a trap rapper who seemingly can’t get his album released. After all, rappers aligning themselves with already established imprints hasn’t worked well in the past — see Mobb Deep and MOP. But what’s missing from that argument is that those arrangements failed because the artists and labels were already on the decline. Admittedly, Jeezy’s days as a sales force might be numbered. But over the last half-decade, there’s no denying that he’s built a formidable infrastructure that extends from the Internet to parts of the hood that don’t think that 2 Dope Boyz is a blog reference. As Gibbs says on “Scottie Pippen,” “I’m trying to make a million dollars, fuck a million downloads.” All the NMC love in the world can’t translate into record sales. I believe historians refer to this as the Wale Theorem.
The challenge for artists who built an online fanbase is to each people who don’t read blogs. You know, the people that buy things. Beyond re-tracing Lil Boosie’s tour routes or compromising integrity for radio, the only legitimate options are to sign with a major or partner up with someone whose fanbase you want to reach. Unlike Slick Pulla and the rest of CTE, Gibbs’ can rap extraordinarily well and his aesthetic aligns nicely with Jeezy’s. Whether you like the Snowman or not (I’m generally mixed), it’s undeniable that he’s built a cult based on ideas of authenticity and realness. The sort of qualities that too-smart-for-their-own good critics scorn, but people value in real life. There’s no one out there who can match Gibbs’ legitimacy in that realm. The backstory is there. The skills are there. So are the songs. What’s missing is the ability to reach “the people” (forgive the cheap euphemism).
Interestingly enough, Curren$y’s one of the few artists who has been able to translate Internet fandom into tangible results. But even then, we’re talking about a guy who spent years earning prominent guest spots and co-signs from the most popular rapper of the moment. Plus, he benefited strongly from Dame Dash’s aegis. Not to mention, he still ended up signing with a major label. For Gibbs, who doesn’t have that native Southern base (read: most people who still buy plastic frisbees), working with Jeezy is win-win. He’ll still earn blog love and when his top-secret rapper/producer project drops later this year it’s bound to make underground heads explode (just wait). In the interim, he broadens his tent with strategy worthy of Lee Atwater — get as many votes as you can without compromising your core beliefs (let’s leave the Republican politics for a different rant). Plus, it’s a way to get back at their mutual bete noire, Rick Ross — who has been stockpiling blog rappers like Eskay was his A&R. Oh, and “Scottie Pippen.” What more do you want. It’s Curren$y and Freddie Gibbs, taking a hazy smoke break over some grimy keyboards and gritty drums. The song is great, but that went without saying.It’s not like it it’s called “Bill Wennington.”