No matter how glamorous the life of a musician may seem from the public perspective, the toil that comes with turning pipe dreams into reality is something most people can relate to. “I work all night from 10pm – 7am.” Azizi Gibson opens wearily. The time is currently 11am PST , meaning the California-based rapper left work a mere four hours ago.
He’d be forgiven for wishing to rest before beginning the interview, but Gibson diligently perseveres.
Gibson moved to LA to pursue a career in rap after being shifted around the globe as a result of his father’s military occupation. A chance meeting with producer Flying Lotus in a local gymnasium eventually led to Gibson signing with his current label Brainfeeder, the multi-genre music maestro’s own label. The pair share a lot of musical chemistry, thanks in part to a series of mutual interests. “We’re into a lot of the same things. When I go to FlyLo’s house, he’s gotta lot of animation, and a lot of manga and video games,” he tells. “I feel like when people are inspired by the same movies or inspired by the same music, you kind of all understand each other in some sort of fashion, and I feel like that’s where we me and FlyLo meet.”
Gibson is not sheepish about his adoration for anything within the realms of manga and video games, with his 2013 mixtape Ghost In The Shell taking its name directly from the popular anime film of the same name. “I’m really into it in a very nerdy and geeky way, but I’m not looking for something to talk about lyrically. I’m not like, ‘oh, Goku this, Goku that’, just so people can relate.” he puts bluntly.
Despite being musically content with Ghost In The Shell, seven months down the line Gibson looks back retrospectively with a hint of disappointment regarding its reception. “I just wish I had more people to promote it, I think it was a solid project and it could’ve done more for me,” he says with an admirable sense of honesty. “But the people who heard it were the ones who supported me, got me this interview and got me my next show, so there’s no point in me being ungrateful about it or anything.”
Indeed, the support for the Azizi Gibson name is of a notable stature, as the rapper found out during a recent show supporting El-P at the Troubador in LA. Although the show’s headliner remained elusive, another big-time rap name was on hand to give Gibson the thumbs up in the form of Killer Mike, Outkast collaborator and the other half of El-P’s Run The Jewels project.
“After I performed, Killer Mike walked up to me and was like, ‘I was asking everybody who you were, you got a dope sound, keep doing it because it’s gonna pay off one day’,” he speaks glowingly. “It was really dope to hear that he came out of his way, into my dressing room to smoke a joint and give me the tap on the shoulder, it made my night.”
High on the praise from an idol figure, Gibson ushered in the New Year with a track in collaboration with Flying Lotus, entitled ‘Libras Don’t Die’, an older song omitted from his last mixtape namely to prove he could deliver without being co-dependent on his producer pal. “As much as he’s done for me, I don’t wanna just ride the FlyLo surfboard to stardom, unless we’re going to do a full project,” he declares, determination in his voice. “Everything FlyLo releases opens up this box of crazy new music that people have never heard. If I’m gonna do something with FlyLo, then we gotta open up at least five new boxes.”
His musical output is not set to slow down in 2014 either, with an EP slated for release this year featuring the likes of Marvin Alexander and hip-hop extraordinaire Clams Casino, whose production graces tracks by rap aficionados A$AP Rocky and Mac Miller. “I know a few heavy-hitter producers and I wanted to let them have a time where they could make me something special,” he informs on the decision to branch out of his producer comfort zone. “These are just people I smoke blunts with, but sometimes we forget we’re musicians, and we could change the world with the resources around me.”
Conscious of the fatigue the rapper must be suffering by this point, the decision is made to end the interview there, however not before he signs off with the adamant gesture that 2014 is the year Azizi Gibson goes global. “I wanna do everything overseas. I was raised overseas and lived there for almost 11 years before I moved to America,” he reveals finally. “Now that I’m older, I just wanna get back over there and make a name for myself, and I feel like music is the most trill way to do it.”
Words by Joshua Pauley