One of Chicago’s brightest talents on growing up in the hood, getting his diploma and racism in America

Miles away from his hometown Chicago, rapper Lil Bibby sits as one of three on the celebrity judging panel at the 10th annual Battle of the Beat Makers (BBM) producer competition in Toronto, Canada. To his right are the 6ix’ hometown hero, Grammy award winning Boi-1da, and acclaimed Atlanta producer Southside.

Together they will decide the fate of the competition’s 32 finalists.

It was just over three years ago that 21-year-old Lil Bibby wasn’t sure of his own fate growing up in a city often compared to a warzone.

“My day to day was just standing on the street corner trying to make some money. Every day [we were] trying not to get killed,” he recalls.

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The NLMB/150 Roc Block rapper isn’t one to sugarcoat his past or present struggles and it comes through in his music, especially in his Free Crack mixtape series, the latest of which dropped in late November, just a few weeks before BBM.

Through Free Crack 3 Bibby invites listeners into the streets of Chicago through his eyes and reflects on everything from the life he lived in the hood to the success he’s achieved in the last few years – which also comes with its share of problems.

Everything the young artist has gone through is all just fuel to the fire.

Rocking a black hoodie with FC3 scrawled across the front, Lil Bibby narrates his journey through his rhymes as the headlining performer at the BBM event. He demonstrates to the up and comers in the audience what a track is supposed to look, sound and feel like when you work diligently at your craft.

Ladies in all corners of Toronto’s Opera House venue scream and mouth the words to tracks like “Ain’t Heard Nuthin Bout You”, while the dudes up front get possessed with energy bobbin’ their heads and rocking with Bibby’s vibe.

Though he performs on international stages with fans around the globe now, Lil Bibby still had to return to his hometown for inspiration as he wrapped up his Free Crack trilogy and shifted focus onto his debut album titled FC3: The Epilogue expected on January 22.

This one he says is just for the streets.

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WHAT WAS IT LIKE RETURNING TO CHICAGO AFTER SEEING MORE OF THE WORLD? Every time I come back it makes me recognize how much of a crazy place Chicago is … It’s just full of bad people and bad vibes man.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN YOU GO BACK? I really just stay in the house a lot, but sometimes I go kick with my brothers or homies, stuff like that, but I don’t go out too much. I think if you stay in Chicago for too long it just turns you evil. (laughs)

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST BREAK IN MUSIC? Probably when I dropped a song called “Killin’ Shit” with Lil Herb. It was just getting a lot of attention and the numbers were just picking up real quick.

When I got out [of lock up] it just pushed me to go harder. That’s not a place I need to be.

WHAT WAS YOUR MINDSET LIKE WHEN YOU FIRST GOT INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY? I was working hard. I used to look at it like man what the hell else am I going to do? I’m not working no job and really what pushed me is I got locked up one time. I was in the bull pen with like 90 dudes and I was just looking around … Two dudes were about to fight over some dumbass argument like whose block was getting the most money. I was like, ‘this isn’t a place for me; I’m too smart for this.’ When I got out it just pushed me to go harder. That’s not a place I need to be.

WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL REACTION TO ALL THE NEWS COVERAGE OF POLICE BRUTALITY AND KILLING OF BLACK PEOPLE OCCURING THROUGHOUT THE STATES, IN PLACES LIKE YOUR HOMETOWN, AND MOVEMENTS LIKE #BLACKLIVESMATTER? It’s just kind of sick. It’s bringing a lot of things to the light and I think a lot of people are still racist. I think it’ll take more than a hundred years to get over racism. I think it’s good for people to see the stuff that goes on because I think it needs to be seen.

HOW DO YOU BELIEVE #BLACKLIVESMATTER HAS MADE AN IMPACT? I think it made an impact across the world. Some people probably wouldn’t even think sh*t like that goes on, but people from the hood of course we know. This happens to us every day, we almost think it’s a regular thing. I think it’s good for regular people to see what’s going on every day in our neighbourhoods.

SEEING AS YOU DECIDED TO END THE FREE CRACK SERIES, WHAT CAN WE EXPECT TO COME AFTERWARD? I just want to start something new man. I just wanted to end it. Three solid projects just for the streets and I gave it out for free. It’s time to capitalize on everything.

I just want to tell my story of what I went through, what I been through and what I’m going through at the moment.

WHAT WERE YOUR FAVOURITE TRACKS OFF FREE CRACK 3? It would have to be “Killin’ Me” and “Speak to ’Em” with Common.

WHY? “Killin’ Me” I like everything about that song, it means a lot to me because that’s exactly how I was feeling at that time. I think it’s always good to express exactly how you feel and I was going through some stuff at that time and thinking about a lot of stuff. Everything clicked from the beat to the flow; it just matched I didn’t even have to write it down, it just flowed right off my head.

IN THE SONG “EBT TO BET” YOU SAY “F*CK I NEED WITH A GED?” BUT YOU GOT YOUR HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA EARLIER THIS YEAR. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO GO BACK AND GET ONE? One minute I’ll be thinking the f*ck I need with a GED because I don’t plan on going to nobody’s school anyway, but when I met Sway he was stressin’ it; he was like, “Man, education is this and that.” I just woke up one day like, ‘You know what, I’m just going to do it.’ I’m happy I did it because it made me feel like I accomplished something. I felt good after I did it for some reason.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE THROUGH YOUR MUSIC? Really, I just want to tell my story of what I went through, what I been through and what I’m going through at the moment. [I want to] try and inform people of the stuff that I learned so people can listen to it and maybe learn some stuff from the sh*t that I did and what I been through so they don’t have to go through it.

Performance Photos By. Chantal ‘Rose’ Gregory © Urbanology Magazine

Portrait Photos Supplied By. Tre Media