The Central District's own Gifted Gab has begun interstellar flight as a top Seattle rapper. Stage one saw her suture components of Latifah and Biggie onto fuel tanks of Moor Gang cayenne. Her debut full-length, Girl Rap, has readied her for stage two and beyond. Gab is a fire-starter spitting sprinkler systems at will. She's a mouthpiece made of metronome who ties the vertices of her verses into knots. When asked where she wanted to do this interview, Gab said, "Mars." And since Mars is a nine-month trip, we were put into a cryogenic sleep and shown the following dream: The scene is a small greenroom at a filming of Soul Train, August 1982. Fab Five Freddy, Grandmaster Flash, Don Cornelius, and Grace Jones are enjoying fondue. Jones is hogging it, though. Freddy gets pissed, takes his shirt off, stands on a Naugahyde footstool, and starts singing Prince's "Controversy" way too loud. Then he puts his hand on Jones's slanted flattop. Jones turns around, takes her shirt off, pours the fondue cheese all over herself, and starts kicking the shit out Freddy, stuffing apple wedges in his mouth. Cornelius tries to stop it. Flash sits back eating broccoli and enjoying the show.
[At that point, our spacecraft hit turbulence from a meteor shower and the captain had to wake us up.] Damnit! How does it end, Gab?
Oh, that's when I walk in. In cryo-dreams, I lucid dream. You woulda seen Flash and I lock eyes and give each other the head-nod-of-approval. Then I ask him, "Why the fuck are you eating broccoli when you can smoke it?" And I pull out a quarter of some Blue Dream, and we get high as hell watching those crazy motherfuckers. I don't know what happens next, 'cause Flash and I leave to go on a Fear and Loathing–style adventure. Neither of us remembers shit after that. You ready for Mars, dog? We almost there.
What's your first memory of playing with words?
My dad used to do my hair in the mornings before school, and every day he'd tell me a word, and I'd say it back, giving him the definition. I think that formed my vocabulary and my understanding at a young age of the way words work. I'd tell my teachers, "Please don't condescend to me with your facetious attitude," and I'm all 7 years old, actually knowing what the fuck I'm talking about [laughs]. I've always been better at expressing myself through writing, so I think shit just came naturally. No real lightbulb moment.
Why the title Girl Rap? Do you see yourself as a feminist?
I named my project Girl Rap because if it makes sense for people to say, "Gab's good, for a girl," then it sounds like they need to rap more like a girl. And if you're not rapping like this, you're not doing shit. I'm not a feminist at all. I've been referred to as one several times, but I honestly think that's almost being disrespectful to actual feminists [laughs]. I'm just me. I grew up with nothing but boys, and the women in my family are all very strong and independent. People always think because I'm the only girl in a group of 12 other guys, that it's difficult. Not really. It's nothing that I'm not already used to. I'm competitive as fuck. I'm an asshole. I smoke, I curse, I rap, I fight, I like fast cars and gangster movies, but I'm a GODDAMN LADY. I can hang with the best of 'em, man or woman, it doesn't matter.
I commend any woman that seriously is in the game—not just, "Yeah, I be rapping and shit," but actually doing the damn thing. It's not easy, as far as the business goes, 'cause like everything else, it's male-dominated and you gotta overprove yourself, almost. It has its ups and plenty of downs, but shit, if you can't swim, you bound to drizz-own.
Andrew Jackson is finally being removed from the $20 bill? Not many people know this, but you're active with the Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Who's going to be on the new $20?
The decision was not an easy one. After many days of elimination, arguments, several fistfights, three trips to the ER, and 100 runs to the 7-Eleven, we decided that Tupac Shakur will be the new face for the $20, instead of that one white guy who looked like every slave master depicted in every history book ever made [laughs]. Tupac is the human embodiment of all that is great. Tupac's face on the bill will be a still from Poetic Justice, when Lucky and Justice were sitting on the hill overlooking the city. But instead of Janet's face, it's a picture of me cut out and taped onto hers. Sorry, Ms. Jackson. The bill will be fire-engine red, and all over the bill will be lyrics from "Thug Passion" and the words "In Pac We Trust," and it will be spelled and referred to officially as the "Tu-wenty Dolla Bill, Bitch." So when you're at the register, they'll say, "Okay, that'll be Tu-wenty Dolla Bill, Bitch, and seventy-three cents." [Laughs]
Maybe we should put Mike Brown on the new $20, too. Or Trayvon Martin. Or Edward Garner. And every time a bill is used, it donates $20 to a police force that protects African Americans from white cops. An agency that actually polices the police. It's time.
That would be dope. Yeah, special-edition $20s with Edward Garner on them.
And the $50 and $100 bills. Sorry, Ulysses S. Grant, your time is up. Bye-bye, Ben Franklin.
Queen Latifah for the $50, and Martin Lawrence as Sheneneh for the $100.
Talk about "Hit 'Em Up." How did that collab with Blvck Sinatra happen? What's the story in the lyrics? Are you mad? Or is a character you're portraying mad? Is it an offensive or defensive thing?
I met Blvck Sinatra over Twitter. He was just like, "Do your thang." In the lyrics, it's just me talking shit about everything and everybody I hate [laughs]. I'm a passionate person, so when I don't like something, I really don't like something, and vice versa. I tend to get in modes where I don't agree with or like anything that's going on around me, so I'll go on aggressive writing binges. All of 'em with the same message: "You're fuckin' weak, I don't like you, and I don't give a fuck." [Laughs] So classy.
Are you saying, "Solo amendola cujo in a coal mine. You can kiss my culo poppi chula you are too kind?"
Close: "Solo on my dolo, I'm like Cujo in a coal mine. You can kiss my culo, papi chulo, you are too kind." If I break it down in Rap Genius terms, it'd go like: "Gabby is saying that she likes to roll by herself, and that Cujo would maneuver by himself also, even in a coal mine. Then you can just kiss her ass, sir. You're a nice man." [Laughs] I just be saying shit, man.
What do you say to people who question why you use profane language in your songs?
I say my vulgarity all together comes from my family members [laughs]. I definitely got my potty mouth from my grandma, so if anything, they're to blame. No, my whole thing with writing started because I've always had a real dirty mouth. And when I'd get tired of getting whuppings and getting in trouble, I'd write down what I was feeling. And it was always a lot of profanity. Almost like I could still say what I wanted and not get in trouble for it.
It's like you rap in some cursive-knot font. Your lines tie the bars off in knots. I looked up a bunch of knots. You've got figure-eight knots and lariat loops. There's the slippery hitch, the bowline, the Beacon Hill moose buckler, and the Lynwood shipman's bacon-double kusher. Okay, I made those last two up.
I like the knot font—very complicated to the viewer, or listener, but to the one tying the knot, not so hard. I took a boating class once, not by choice, and we had to learn how to tie all these ridiculous knots before we could get on the water. So I'm pretty much a genius with that, too. Psych! I think I quit the second day. I get the knots from hell in the drawstring of my sweatpants, where you have to get surgical with every pointy object in your house to get it loose. I hate that shit [laughs]. On Mars, there are no drawstrings. All pants snap shut. It's the most modern type shit.