Lil Bibby's "Water" was an evident highlight from last year's celebrated Free Crack mixtape, and now the single has a video. Bibby, like his longtime rhyme partner and friend Lil Herb, represents a more lyrical street tradition that has gained attention in recent years, with a dense, East Coast-friendly rap style. For those who found Keef too brutal, or Chance too madcap, rappers like Bibby and Herb represented a tradition that was being neglected.

Hailing from Chicago's Terror Town neighborhood, Bibby started out playing basketball. He and Herb met on the court when he was 12 or 13. But Bibby found himself drawn to the streets at a young age: "I started getting into some crazy stuff. When you get bored in that neighbourhood, that action, that gets addictive. The adrenaline when you get away with something, there's nothing like it."

Bibby ditched basketball in the 9th grade, and started rapping soon after, at age 15. They would play instrumentals off one phone, and record themselves rapping on another. On a national level, he and his friends were into rappers like Gucci Mane and Lil Wayne. Locally, they hadn't heard too many artists until Lil Durk arrived: "Keef started popping a little bit after that. But Durk was the first guy I actually heard rap. L.E.P. was rapping first but I never could relate to them cause they were a lot older. I kinda thought L.E.P. was on a bigger scale, I thought they were already on, you feel me? The only person of my peers I listened to was Durk."

I've been shot at so many times. I'm so lucky I never got hit. But so much crazy stuff happened. I've been in a lot of situations where people lost their lives.

But Bibby was still in the streets himself. "Chicago is probably the craziest place. I think there's a lot of stuff going on, a lot of stuff to talk about...I've been shot at so many times. I'm so lucky I never got hit. But so much crazy stuff happened. I've been in a lot of situations where people lost their lives. You see it every day, it gets normal to you. Shit gets normal. I don't think I'm scared of nothing no more. Cause I've seen everything. I'm lucky to be where I'm at though, I can tell you that."

We spoke with Bibby about how much has changed for him since he got the attention of Drake, whether he was going to work again with his longtime friend Lil Herb, and how the "Water" video and song came together.

Interview by David Drake (@somanyshrimp)

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What were you trying to get across with that record?
I was just expressing a couple feelings, man. I really liked the beat from Black Metaphor. I think he's one of like the top 10 producers right now. One of my homies in Atlanta, he mess with Black Metaphor tough, so we was just in the studio and he was pulling up beats and then he just picked it. I freestyled the first half of the hook like, "I gotta keep my head above water," and then the second half I just put together. I just type the verses on my phone. Well, if I got the hook already done, the verse won't take me nothing but like 20 minutes. If that. In total the song probably took an hour. I think that same day I recorded "Water" and "Whole Crew" and "See Me Down" or something, off my mixtape.

What's the response been like to Free Crack? When we first talked, the mixtape was still new. What's the response been like since that time?
It's still going. I'm surprised people are still listening to my mixtape today cuz you know how music is these days. It's new music everyday, but people still—I still get a lot of tweets about it. It's still going strong so hopefully it can last at least a month or two so I can drop this other project called The Book. I'm like 5 songs in. Or 7 songs in. I'm waiting on [Jadakiss], I'm waiting on him to do the "Water" remix. I'm trying to get Jadakiss and Scarface on there.

What's been going with—are you and [Lil] Herb still cool? Have you been making music together lately? Yeah, that's like a little brother to me man. I've been so busy man. And he's been doing his thing, I've been doing my thing so we haven't had time to get in the studio together, you know? But I think i got a song for him. I'ma probably send it to him this week.

Who else have you been working with?
Man, I do everything myself [laughs]. I don't even like getting in the studio with people like that. My manager is telling me that I need to but, I really just like recording the hook and sending them over. You know? Or I really like to record the hook if I think somebody else sound better saying it, I would just tell them to say it or sing the hook for me and we can do it like that.

In Chicago, you wanna go anywhere, [you] gotta have guns and everything. I ain't trying to risk nothing.

Who have you been listening to lately?
I've been trying to get into some music lately. I really don't listen to music like that but I've been listening to a little bit of Rich Homie [Quan], Future, uh...I'm a little late on Pusha T. Like that "King Push," you know that song?

Yeah.
"I rap nigga, bout trap niggas/I don't sing hooks," that's it. Damn, the old Jay Z, that's all I been listening to.

Who are you listening to in Chicago right now?
I just like [Lil] Herb, [King] Louie's cool, Tink. They're some of my favs right there. [Lil] Durk's cool too. I get off with [Chief] Keef sometimes too.

What's the attitude towards him right now in Chicago? Are people still fucking with him pretty heavily?
Yeah, the streets listen to Keef pretty heavily [laughs]. But yeah, you don't see him a lot. Keef don't be around like that. But they still listen to him.

Where do you usually do most of your recording?
I used to record in my friend's closet. But now I'm recording in Atlanta. I'll probably go out to LA to finish my project. But I don't like to record in Chicago no more, cause man, it's ugly. In Chicago you wanna go anywhere, we gotta have guns and everything. I ain't trying to risk nothing. So...I'll just go out of state.

Do you think that'll keep Chicago from developing the way ATL or LA has?
Yeah I think it might. I won't even lie to you. Because in Atlanta everyone is just so cool you can go anywhere and everybody's cool with each other. Even if they don't like each other, they still get money together. But in Chicago man, I got people that wanna kill me. It's ugly, man. Ain't none of that in Chicago.

So it's been a while since we talked, what else has happened to you?
Just trying to finish up this project and recording as many songs as I can before I start moving. You know? I just came from the jewelry store too man, I just did something stupid. Well, I don't know if it's stupid.

What'd you do?
[Laughs] I just spent like $20,000 on a gold chain. And I bought my mom a car.

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