- Sean Jewell
- Gifted Gab
“I would say the music was an outlet,” Gabrielle Kadushin, aka Gifted Gab is stirring a latte in the low light of the afternoon on Capitol Hill, telling me about the the birth of her writing and the death of her mother. With a steady voice and a piercing gaze Gab—a 22 year old rapper from the Central District—spells it out like a song. "At the time it was hard because I was sent to live with my aunt in Oklahoma, so the whole time she was sick I didn’t really get to see her. I was there when she first got sick, she was able to come and visit me maybe like one time, then after that the next time I saw her she died that night, so I didn’t get to see my Mom the whole time. So it was kinda tough, but you know I guess writing was the only way to express myself. Coming from the city to such a rural, country area where everyone had a strict Christian background it became like ‘I can’t tell you how I’m feeling because you’re not gonna like it, so I’m gonna have to write this down and hide it because if you find it you’re gonna be hella mad’.”
Gifted Gab's cadence, her swagger, exists even outside the recording booth. She's funny, confident, and doesn't miss a beat when you ask a question, and like her rhymes, there is always a dose of common sense at the punch line.
Her first EP Queen La’Chiefah saw a quiet release on bandcamp a little over a year ago. Since then it’s been easy to direct people where to go when the subject of Seattle hip-hop comes up. Her music evokes memories of the oft talked about golden-era. The hooks and chorus’ in her work are her own “I do all the singing on my songs” she proudly tells me, and about the sound and structure of her first EP she says, “It’s kind of a feeling. I understand what you mean about the 90s but nowadays it usually sounds like people are forcing it. That’s just my writing style. It don’t take me too long to write like that once I get the inspiration. I thought since it was an EP, and my first project, I thought it would be cool to have a solid six or seven songs that one could play beginning to end. It’s thirty or forty-five minutes so it doesn’t overwhelm people. I had a plan there and it seems to be working out.”
The plan, when Gab tells it, rolls out like it was a foregone conclusion, something concrete, like there were constellations in place guiding her one night to the next. Gab credits the production work for Queen La’Chiefah to Starr Spazzin, Antwon Vison, and her Moor Gang brother Rob Skeetz. "Orange Skyline", a drug ballad full of swooning horns layered on a lazy R&B chorus stands out on the EP as a single.
“The funny thing about 'Orange Skyline' is that Skeets gave Jarv Dee that beat first, he wasn’t doing much with it, then he played it for me and I was like, we can get on this song together, but I gotta take this beat. He did the melody, and then I wrote the rest but let him tell the story to this day and he’ll tell you I stole that song from him!” (laughs)
And on recording the rest of Queen La'Chiefah:
“Um. I couldn't tell you what started it. It didn't take too long. I got in the studio at Parker's (The Flvr Blue, SotA) and we kind of threw it together. By the grace of the music gods it flowed perfectly, even 'Outro' was recorded literally that day, we needed one more song, I recorded it and we decided we were gonna throw that on there. I guess it was just a blessing. I didn't foresee it being that dope.”
But it is dope. From "Intro" to "Outro" Gab's rhymes are ridiculously deft and her EPs and singles are replete with tasteful beats. Gifted Gab (and her Moor Gang brethren) rock a sound that is unmistakably West Coast; no doubt due in part to the Mac Dre influence obvious in her music. She was able to get the deceased Mac Dre’s right hand man Coolio Da’Undadogg –an East Bay legend in his own right— to spit some of the best bars he has in years on her EP via a friend of a friend. On her song “Sprinkle” an organ phases in and out of consciousness as Gab trades verses in classic puff-puff-pass fashion with fellow youthful luminary Sam Lachow. Gab was caught on film laying down what might be the filthiest four bars of rap in Seattle history in Sam Lachow’s effort “Young Seattle”, covering everything from cocaine to Cobain, to Nacho Picasso to Kanye in fifteen seconds flat and absolutely destroying the perceived potential of Seattle rap.
Everyone at the table laughed when I asked about the wake of destruction she laid down on the track (seven months later in Sam Lachow’s "Young Seattle Part II", she moved up the lineup from last to first), but Gab stayed even keeled and talked a bit about Sam:
“I been knowing Sam for the last 3 or 4 years. That’s my boy. The first song we made together was actually “Dubs on Deck”. Now he has Skyler and B Skeez on that. (ed note: this explains why Sam is talking to Gab in his opening verses) But we recorded that on his mac book, and posted the video and everyone loved it. I wouldn’t say that started it, but that made me want to do more features with people and open up. Sam was like ‘you’re filthy’, and since he’d been around forever —like he had Shankbone before his thing now— he has loyal fans going back years, you know? We just really clicked. We’re such opposites we click really well together. It’s weird.”
And the list goes on and on. Gab did work on 2013 EMP Soundoff! winner Dave B’s Coffee EP, and was even featured on Thee Satisfactions latest album And That’s Your Time on a track titled "Queen County", with Jus Moni. She also performed with them live at this year’s Decibel Festival . Not to mention, Gifted Gab was recently highlighted by XXL magazine as one of 15 Female Rappers you should know.
“I woke up and was on twitter and had like seventy-five interactions. The first one was from Rich Kidz saying congrats to Gifted Gab on XXL and I was like, what? Then I click on it and there’s a big ol’ picture of me and I’m like, oh snap, that’s filthy!"
"It was kind of ironic to me, I just got through telling someone that I don’t care about lists, what’s a list mean? Then the next day I’m on a list and I was like Ahhhh!"
"At the end of the day, though, lists are cool, and I’m very proud of that, these lists are put together by people who don’t know me, making a list of what they think is best and I don’t really live my life by lists, I don’t live my life like that. Every once in a while I google my name and find out what people are writing like oh, this is cool, but I don’t feed into that.”
About the qualification “Female Rapper”, and being the First (and only) Lady of Moor Gang Gab had these gems to drop:
"I get that question a lot. It seems to appeal to more people than it does me. I grew up with boys all my life. I had a big brother. All my friends are boys; it’s just kind of…it’s pretty regular to me. And now, I’m still around boys all the time, but I don’t take any of that shit personal. Especially with like being called a “female” rapper, most females get bent out of shape, some people are like I’m a rapper. I really don’t care. You call me a female cause that’s what I am. I just try to stay in my own lane. I make my music and I don’t worry about that other shit, because you can get caught up in it. It doesn’t offend me, I’ve been around it too long, and if it did, I would let them know like “nah, I’m not feelin that”.
The words “I grew up with boys…” evince a feeling of clarity for me. I realize right there over coffee that we’re all just growing up together. Everyone is being inspired to create by someone else. There is no silver bullet or right thought that change hip hop to be all inclusive, and permanently positive, it’s not now, nor has it ever been an institution with set rules, it cannot be reduced to a transaction a consumer can make. Hip-hop reflects what can be observed, and reaching out, connecting with someone else on their journey, to get that beat, to make that track, to sit down together and talk, forms a community. For those growing up in the hip hop community the process is the point. As Gab talks preconceived notions are set free from the bondage of my brain. The tape loop that begs the unanswerable questions, that seeks a way of thinking —a wavelength we can all be on— breaks. Music, and what it’s about is at arm’s length.
Gab’s own musical learning goes way back. She sang in the church choir with her mother and cousins, and played piano until she decided basketball was more important, a decision she now regrets “I don’t play basketball or piano now”. She’s always studied hip hop though, even before she was old enough to buy it on her own. Gab tells me that her Dad helped her buy CDs with parental advisory stickers on them back in the days of physical music.
”I remember going for Ludacris’ Word O Mouf’ and all the Eminem CDs. He’d just take me there to get them. He’d take me to PG-13 movies. He probably corrupted me a little. He’s from New York, upstate, but he’s like the weirdest white guy ever. He fits in everywhere because he’s hella weird, like when we’d go to Blockbuster he’d make us rent hella old movies, like Casablanca, The Love Bug, Cool Hand Luke, and back then I was like why do we need to see these? But now I’m kind of thankful because I’ve seen those.”
It's fitting then, that her Moor Gang family shares some of those interests:
“We’re all movie buffs, Jesse (Nacho Picasso) has seen every movie ever made. He can tell you all about movies, books, pop culture.”
That really comes through in his music, I say,
“Yeah, you can clearly tell it’s his thing. I don’t know, we just like watching movies. Smoke. Watch movies.”
(Laughs)” Yeah, you know?”
For the coming year, Gifted Gab’s game remains the same. She’s called upon those she hoped would feature on her new album, due out soon:
“I’m ready to go, but some people I was going to work with aren't ready right now, so some of the things are going to be Gab featuring Gab. At this point when I finish things, I don’t need to promote it for a couple months, there’s anticipation and people getting at me every day asking when the hell the new stuff comes out, so at this point there’s a few artists I’m definitely going to feature, I’m going to keep that a secret though!”
She and Raz Simone will be opening for DJ Quik at the Crocodile January 24th, yet another West Coast influence, and progenitor of the G-funk sound that invades Moor Gang’s work:
“I’m hella pumped. I’ve got my outfit ready, and I know how it’s all gonna go down already. I told Josh at Reign City to put me down for that and played it by ear, and when he told me it was like, man. He was a huge influence for me, anything he’s done, as a producer, rapper, like to the point where –I have to go back and find this but, I actually did a report on DJ Quik once for Black History month. They had pictures on a wall at school and they were like, you have to pick one of these African Americans to do a history report on and I was like 'I don’t want to do any of these people, I’m a do DJ Quik'
I laughed, but I’m not surprised. Gifted Gab turns losses into gains, distant connections into collaborations, and preconceptions into post-production. She’s writing her own history, making her own lane.