Sound & Vision: Freddie Gibbs Stars in Down With the King

Sound and Vision
All photos courtesy of Sony Pictures

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Freddie Gibbs is known worldwide as one of hip-hop's greatest artists. With his quick wit and outsized charisma, there's no doubt that he'd manage to do well in acting if he chose to enter that world. Well, he has, in his first starring role in a feature film, titled Down With the King

In the movie, Gibbs stars as a rapper named Money Merc, who is sent by his management to a rural town in the middle of nowhere to regroup from the stress of being an international rap star. In between moments of pure boredom interacting with fans on Instagram and struggling to find inspiration in his work, he befriends a farmer named Bob and a few people from the small town he finds himself in. It would be considered a "fish out of water" story if Merc didn't take to farm duties (and chores like chainsawing a fallen tree into pieces) so naturally.

Down With the King is meditative and pastoral, unlike a good amount of Gibbs' visceral music. Here, KEXP Editorial contributors Martin Douglas and Dusty Henry break down the essentials.

Who is Freddie Gibbs?

"I would say one of the best rappers alive," Dusty says. "I feel like it's fair to say, in my opinion, humble opinion. Gibbs is he's just excellent at what he does. He's been rapping for, I don't know, one or two decades at this point, maybe."

"And he's had a wild career. You know, he's gone independent in recent years, had a lot of success. He raps a lot about his time in Gary, Indiana as you know, going from drug dealing to rapping. He is of my favorite artists in general."

What is Down With the King About?

Dusty notes, "So the movie is about Gibbs [who] plays a rapper Money Merc. And he's you know, he seems pretty, pretty established, pretty popular. And he goes kind of off the grid. We find him on a farm. He's kind of in this really rural area."

Martin adds, "The thing that struck me the most about it. Is that Down With the King finds Money Merc at sort of an impasse in his career. You can tell that maybe, perhaps his heart's not all the way into it."

And it's interesting in the movie," Dusty continues. "It's kind of posed as this like fish out of water scenario. But he is character seems much more at ease when he's, you know, slaughtering a cow. I mean, there's some pretty like gruesome, gruesome scenes in terms of like farm life, but, you know him like feeding pigs and like, you know, cutting trees. Like he in those scenes, he feels the most at peace. And then there are these scenes when he's, like, trying to write to a beat or, you know, going on Instagram live to promote whatever where or it feels so stressful and tense."

"He feels more comfortable, you know, slaughtering livestock, pulling the skin off of a pig than he does interacting with people on Instagram," Martin adds. "It's kind of wild."

Pivotal Scenes from the Movie

Dusty says, "The one big factor I loved about this movie, too, are the scenes where he's writing. On the farm, he's having a great time. Then it comes back home, like late at night playing these beats and you kind of just see him like with his pen or just sitting there, the glasses on and trying to write and like struggling to see that that insight into the writing process was really cool. And the struggle of it, like when I listen to Freddie Gibbs music – like he's so good that I just imagine it just comes out of him naturally, you know? He's so effortless. He feels like he can rap on anything. And to see him kind of emote that that writer's block and that that creative damn that you can't get through."

He adds, "You see all these scenes where he's by himself and he's really like he's getting really frustrated, you know because he can't get out what he wants to get out or can get inspiration. But there's a scene where he's teaching Farmer Bob how to rap."

The Emotional Resonance of Down With the King

"He goes to this farm, this farm town," Martin says. "And it is a very transformative experience for him. To the point where the industry politics and his manager trying to, you know, always trying to put him in the forefront. There's a there's very much a sense of the Money Merc character that he doesn't really want to be at the forefront anymore, that he kind of wants to hang back and, you know, have a nice, quiet space to himself."

Dusty says, "I appreciated that this wasn't a biopic and instead it was a fictional telling because I feel like. A lot of biopics kind of become this like superhero Marvel formula, you know, where it's like the rise, the fall, the comeback. And I feel like we got to learn a little bit about maybe Gibbs perspective through the character of Money Merc. You know, you get that level of insight, like that tension between art versus commerce, that management versus the artists like, you know, the managers like 'I've got kids like you have a mom you're buying a house for, you know, we got to, like, make this money.' And Gibbs is like, 'Well, I can't just be creative.'"

"We talk about this among each other all the time," Martin adds. "And so for Money Merc to have that revealed about himself, he's also having it revealed about every rapper, about every writer, every creative person. You don't you know, you can't turn it on and off like a faucet."

Takeaways from the Movie

"Oh, man. You know, I mean, one is I want to see Gibbs in more movies," Dusty says. "I think he's he's just so multitalented. And to see this extended into film, I think this was an incredible debut. I just wonder, like, I feel like maybe we've been saying that, but I want to say it directly. He has just a natural talent for this. Obviously, he's kind of playing elements of himself here. But I want to continue to see what he does and continue to stretch himself. This was a really smart choice for a first film. Excellent movie. If you're interested in Freddie Gibbs at all or the creative process, I can't recommend it enough."

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