Azizi Gibson is looking to people for help. He’s looking to people the same way Tom Cruise looked at Cuba Gooding Jr. in “Jerry Maguire,” saying, “Help me help you.”
The young rapper and his team want his music to reach a bigger audience. “We’re trying to target more of just, like, the commercial world,” says Gibson, 25, on the phone as he drives to Seattle. “As far as, like, the indie, creative rap and all that stuff, I can definitely do it. And I love doing that, and I enjoy it myself. But not so many creative ideas are best heard on the radio. I’m trying to make catchier music for record sales.”
Born in Frankfurt, Germany, raised as a military brat and now residing in Los Angeles, Gibson is an artist out to gain a following by any means necessary. Early in the decade, he was signed to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder Records (the story goes he was signed after meeting Lotus at an apartment complex gym). He was there for more than three years before he parted ways with the label. After that, he released the self-distributed EP “The Last” in 2015. That same year, he also released the “preHISTORIC Till Death” album.
For Gibson, the term “preHISTORIC” (which he also calls himself on Twitter) means remembering your own personal history while still working towards a better future.
“‘preHISTORIC’ is just like something that’s since the beginning, you know,” he says. “Like me and the homies doing music together, you know, in the garage and recording and smoking weed together or in the woods somewhere. It was just, like, prehistoric. That was the thing we wanted to call ourselves.”
Gibson has been collaborating with people who he hopes will take him to the next level. The “preHISTORIC” album includes the track “Slave Ship,” where Gibson teams up with Waka Flocka Flame, who signed Gibson to his 36Brickhouse label. Gibson also got together with producer Southside (Jay-Z, Kanye West, 2 Chainz) for the “Grim Meets Evil” EP.
Earlier this year, Gibson released “A New Life,” an album which has him going forward with this new direction of dropping looser, more audience-friendly tracks.
“I was ready to make jams for people,” he says. “Like, not necessarily myself and the people around me. It was for the people that I wasn’t reaching. So, I tested it out with the (“Grim Meets Evil”) EP I dropped. It had a lot of good feedback, so I wanted to test it out again with this new project. And, then, kind of with this new project and hearing my fan base and hearing the songs that people have caught on to, I’ve kind of just realized what I need to be doing for this next album.”
Gibson has already gotten a lot of attention from “DJ Khaled,” which is one track on “Life.” The track has Gibson flossing and boasting, saying he’s living just as large as the mega-producer/Snapchat superstar.
“Oh man, ‘DJ Khaled’ was a crazy hit actually for me,” he says. “It was good. It was a little experiment for me, because I usually don’t make songs as – you know, I do make songs like that. But it was like I won’t talk about what the (expletive) is going on in the world – and some celebrity – like that. That’s not what I do… But I was like, you know what, let me make this one because this one was a little bit different, and I feel like no one is gonna make a song about DJ Khaled like me, on this level of slap. I don’t know – I just knew that I was gonna be, like, I was gonna take advantage of it.”
So, the obvious question now is, does he know if DJ Khaled has heard “DJ Khaled”?
“I never heard from DJ Khaled about it. But I’m almost positive he heard it.”
Nevertheless, Gibson is now out and about, doing live shows and attracting fans and novices. He’ll be at Kings in Raleigh Tuesday night.
“I’m just trying to make things more relatable and more simple and understandable to people,” he says.
In today’s mumble-mouthed hip-hop game, what Azizi Gibson is doing is kind of a godsend.
Who: Azizi Gibson, with Key Dot
When: 8:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Kings, 14 W. Martin St., Raleigh
Info: 919-833-1091 or kingsbarcade.com