Fusing worlds together always comes easy to Azizi Gibson. It started in childhood as a military brat, the youngest of four, growing up in countries like Zaire, Singapore and Thailand before he even had a taste of American cartoons when he moved to the U.S. at age 11. Today, the 25 year-old rapper resigns to always be a traveler, visiting new places both physically, mentally and with his music. That’s how you get gully, LA street rap mixed with astral G-funk, club banger bravado and sly references to the anime and manga. It’s why even after leaving Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder label, where he got his break, Gibson's momentum continues to mount toward a mainstream career.
“I was still struggling to build my name up,” the rapper says of his early days after moving to LA from Annapolis, Maryland at age 20. A sequence of economic ups and downs meant plenty of couch surfing and temporary residences as he tried to get himself together. At one point he was even living with friends in Costa Mesa and Anaheim as he went from job to job, all the while making music that would mold his trademark sound. “Music was always good. It’s always good as long as it moves forward. Like even right now it’s not enough for me, I want more. But as long as it’s moving forward I’m happy.”
Anyone following Gibson’s career is aware of his next-level collaborations with Waka Flocka (“Slave Ship”) or his latest “Bragging Rights” track with DJ Paul of Three-6 Mafia. In the last year or so, his unique flows have found a niche in a constellation of marquee rappers. Still, Gibson embodies a generation of young artists who are never allowed to rest on their laurels (or their features).
“We’re in a totally new, vicious era of music where the Internet can congratulate you or deceive you because anyone can take part in it,” he says.
It was a lesson he learned even as he was struggling to make ends meet as a Brainfeeder artist before leaving the label going independent as the leader of his collective PreHISTORIC brand. He’s now managed by Flock’s 36 Bickhouse.
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Early inspirations of Pharcyde and Eminem color his flows, mixed with a stoned, baritone delivery. It was unique bars that caught the attention of FlyLo, who Gibson met in the most unlikeliest of ways—on the treadmill at gym at the apartment of a temporary roommate. It’s been years since then, but still, the drive to make the most of his opportunities remains sharp as he uses the momentum of “Bragging Rights” to propel his mixtape A New Life, due out April 1, and align with artists like GoldLink and Big Krit on forthcoming tracks. As far as his own bragging rights are concerned, Gibson has already amassed quite a few as one of LA's most slept on rappers who is starting to see the fruits of his underground labor blossom in the mainstream.
“I feel like secretly I want to become hip-hop," Gibson says. "I know that’s a bold statement, but I’m 100 percent sure that’s going to happen because I have so many diverse worlds...We’re combining music secretly and subtly to the point where I do like to call it a gateway drug type of feel.”
Azizi Gibson performs this Sunday at the Constellation Room with Kamandi and ishDARR. 8 p.m., $15. For full details, click here.