In 2012, Chicago received the unfortunate title of being the nation's murder capital, the majority involving the escalating homicides involving youth. For rapper LIL BIBBY, this is real life, a number of his friends have been killed in the last few years. The 19-year-old rap phenom is bred from the same streets as Kanye West and Common, though has witnessed much more in less than two decades. As Lil Bibby embarks on his journey to rap superstardom, his rhymes are documenting every step of the way.
"I think I grew up a little faster than most kids," Lil Bibby recalls. Being surrounded by crime on Chicago's East Side, Bibby had an atypical childhood. "It's probably the worst neighborhood in Chicago," the young rapper explains. He attended the first half of high school at Chicago's famed King College Prep, but feeling like an "outcast" amongst the middle class, predominantly White and Asian students. He transferred to a local public school, and by his junior year, he realized he was slick with the pen. "I first started writing rhymes with my friends, and we'd be playing instrumentals and stuff," Bibby recalls. "Then we'd break out our phones and record our voices over the instrumentals." They'd send the songs to their friends, who in turn would make them ringtones. Their popularity went widespread. "We decided to take it up a notch," he continues. "And went to a studio and recorded three songs."
One of the songs was "Kill Sh*t," where LIL BIBBY - flanked by crewmember Lil Herb - erupts on his threatening verse with a haunting crescendo. The track was turned into a lo-fi video and uploaded to YouTube (currently clocking in at over 4.2 million views). It reached the attention of Drake, who added a clip to his Instagram of him rapping along to the song. "We started getting a lot of attention after that," says Bibby.
In November of last year, LIL BIBBY dropped his solo critically acclaimed Free Crack mixtape, a 17-track adventure into the streets of Chiraq, hosted by MMG's DJ Scream. The mixtape showcased the burgeoning talent, described by XXL Magazine as having "a voice beyond his years." The project was as honest as it was aggressive, and Bibby was propelled to the forefront of rappers on the rise. Even peers like Mac Miller and Earl Sweatshirt reached out to show love, along with industry veterans like Juicy J. "They say I've got an old soul," Bibby states. "I'm proud of that."
It should come as no surprise that 2014 will be LIL BIBBY's year. While his next steps include remixing the Free Crack torch single "Water" (with a video as well), along with "Whole Crew," an EP is also in the works. Like most music newly signature to Bibby's style, it'll be filled with brutal honesty. "That's the only way I know how to make music," he admits. "I can't just talk about money, drugs or killing. I like to talk about what's really going on, or what I'm going through that day." He's learning some valuable lessons along the way. "Making music now, I sit back and think of all the shit I've been through that I didn't really notice before," he adds. "When you're so deep in it, you don't really pay attention. It's like an everyday thing. You just think it's normal, but when I'm traveling to places now and experiencing different environments and seeing how people move I've come to the conclusion that Chicago is really messed up."
His upcoming project will arrive with production from A-list beatsmiths (Boi-1da, Hit-Boy, and DJ Mustard have already thrown their beats into the ring), and Bibby has some wish-list collaborations in mind, including Drake, Pusha T, Juicy J, and the legendary Scarface. What's next? The world.
In the current rap landscape, few make it their mission to be a raconteur of sorts for their surroundings. While localized music scenes cater to the same area code, Lil Bibby aims to make his message universal. "I want to paint the real picture of Chicago," he expresses. "A lot of people go off what they see on TV or hear in rap, and I don't think some rappers really tell that story fluently. I want to be the one to tell it like it is."
He pauses. "I guess I've got a lot of work to do."