Azizi Gibson will be releasing a new mixtape on June 15th named after the classic anime film Ghost in The Shell. The 1995 movie which is set in the distant future after we have all become globally interconnected, where cyberpunks are hacking into networking systems for their own gain in a setting which might’ve eerily described 2013. Although Azizi Gibson is no “cyberpunk,” the globetrotting rapper could easily be described as a modern-day punk, going against mainstream hip-hop conventions – he’s the young self-boasting MC newly signed to the famously unconventional electronic label, Brainfeeder.
Though the streets of L.A. may differ from the fantasy world of Ghost in the Shell, the mixtape’s songs resonate with us, providing the perfect set of summer jams to cruise to. We certainly would have no issues with Gibson hacking his way into our iTunes. Read below as we chat about Gibson’s roots, influences, and how he got into hip-hop.
Your bio on Alpha Pup starts with “Azizi Gibson doesn’t have a home,” can you elaborate?
Well, I was born in Frankfurt Germany but not because my family was living there. I’m a military brat, and my dad was stationed in Zaire, Africa. The hospitals over there were dirty, so they flew to Germany to have me. Then we flew back to Zaire. I lived in Africa for a little while. Then I moved to Thailand and then to Singapore, then back to Thailand. I moved to Cambodia for a little bit, and finally I moved to America by the time I was almost 11 (years old).
Where in America did you move to?
I moved to Maryland. I was moving around a lot in the DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) area.
So where did you find hip-hop? Did you find it abroad or over here?
I found it over there. I was just hearing what my sisters and brother were listening to. We didn’t really get a lot of rap on television, so we got a lot of mainstream stuff like Eminem. But Slim Shady was one of the biggest influences that made me want to become a rapper, even though I was already a fan of Outkast and The Pharcyde. And because there wasn’t a lot of rap, rock music was accepted overseas and MTV would play Linkin Park. The rapper from Linkin Park, the freestyler – I forget his name, also made want to freestyle. He’s the one that got me into freestyling.
What brought you to L.A.?
I was living in Maryland, I was doing my music, I had a little fan base but nothing to be proud of or speak about, I just knew my music was tight but I just didn’t have a way to get it out there. Honestly, I took a chance… I moved over here praying and hoping. I just never thought of anything else but doing music. I was like “shoot, California might happen. It has better opportunities.”
And it kind of worked out. I ended up meeting Flying Lotus randomly at a gym. I was living in this building, sleeping on a couch, and I went down to the gym one day, I saw Flying Lotus – told him I was a fan. He gave me his e-mail address but it didn’t work. It wasn’t a fake e-mail, it was just full.
Then I got laid off from my job and the same day I had brought everyone a CD copy of my mixtape, some people didn’t show up so I had some extras. Later I was at the gym, saw Flying Lotus, and I was like “Hey man, I tried to e-mail you, I think your email is full, here – take this mixtape.”
Apparently he listened to it right after he left the gym. I got on my twitter and he shouts me out. He DMs me to kick it with him. The day after I gave him my mixtape we were playing video games at his place. We built a relationship over three months. I’m was going to his shows and these dope events. He then wrote me an e-mail and said, “Let’s make it happen.” I had a Brainfeeder contract.
Did Flying Lotus influence you to sound west coast?
People say I sound “west coast,” but I don’t understand what that means. I’m not from here at all. I just love the lifestyle. People say I have an “LA Swagger,” I don’t know what that means! It’s a cool compliment though. Maybe California and him have influenced me a lot, because I’m definitely more laid back. I don’t try to worry too much. I don’t like the stress.
I think Flying Lotus inspired me the most, before and after I signed. I was just a big fan. He’s an African American producer that made really dope stuff, and I related to him immediately because I’m a producer myself.
You don’t collaborate with a lot of people, is there anyone you would love to collaborate with?
I would collaborate with anyone, but I just feel like you got do you first. I would love to do a song with Danny Brown, Schoolboy, or A$AP Rocky, but I don’t want to do a song with them first and then I’d be the guy who made it because I did that one big song with A-Trak. It’s cool and all, but then people would think you’re trying to hop-on just to get further.
I notice you follow Bjork on twitter, is there anyone else you listen to that we might find surprising?
I love Little Dragon, Gorillaz is still my favorite band, I’m listening to The Strokes, and I’m a super-duper Thundercat fan.
What’s the meaning behind the title Ghost in the Shell?
Well the reason why it’s called Ghost in The Shell is because the first anime that I ever watched was Ghost in The Shell. It was shown to me by my father. We were in Thailand, he told me to watch it. I got into it and It got me into animation.
Ghost in The Shell is my first solo mixtape on my favorite label. It’s me introducing myself to the world so that people who are into anime, who are into this type of music – this is kind of me saying to them “here, this is me getting you started.”
Do you think you’re going to be staying in L.A?
There’s a possible chance I might be moving to New York within the next 60 days. I really don’t have a home so traveling is the best thing to do. I try to meet people and spread my music like a nomad.