GET FAMILIAR: Jibba "The Gent"

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Jibba "The Gent" is rap entrepreneur from southern Vermont who is hard working, outgoing -- and increasingly successful. Here, we're talking shop about ... well, everything. Enjoy.

VTHH: What was your introduction to rap? Were you hooked immediately?

Jibba: My introduction to rap came from MTV in the early 90's. I remember artists like Dr. Dre, Cypress Hill, Snoop Dogg, B.I.G., Tupac, Queen Latifah, Onyx, LL Cool J, and Wu-Tang Clan being in heavy rotation. The baggy clothes, the attitudes, the gangster shit, the late night top ten count downs … growing up in Vermont, I had NEVER seen anything like it. Yeah, I was hooked immediately. As soon as I got one of those Columbia House ads with CD's for a penny each, I would be buying 10-15 CD's a month!

I remember my first actual album I absolutely loved was Warren G's Regulate G Funk Era album. From the skits to the smooth melodies and funky west coast production, I was a huge fan. I knew it word for word, cover to cover, probably still do. That album not only got me hooked on hip-hop, it got me focused on West Coast hip-hop.

VTHH: Did you have outlets and venues for your work, early on, or did you have to create your own scene?

Jibba: Ehh, not so much in Southern Vermont. I really started from the ground up out here. There was nobody really mentoring me and my friends that were vital to creating a scene there, but we did have acts to look up to. Like Rhythm Ruckus, I never did meet those guys, but I followed them closely in the days of Myspace. Also, the VT Union crew was super cool. I met Dakota first, then S.I.N.sizzle and DJ A-Dog, we worked a few shows together back in the early 2000's. It was really nice to get that love from up North, I always looked at them as the ones running the Vermont hip-hop scene. Them and The Aztext, though I never got to meet any of them until these last couple of years.

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VTHH: What do you think the most important change was, in terms of finally bridging that gap between the two Vermonts?

Jibba: For me, it was as simple as communication. Just reaching out to who I saw as the players up North. Once we started talking, I realized just how great these people are. Dakota, S.I.N.sizzle, Nastee, Learic, etc. I really look up to these artists and they were willing to work together on projects or shows or whatever. It was a really cool feeling to know that these artists are also really great people. The same goes for the old Vermont Hip Hop blog: all I had to do was reach out. I think it's important to say because a lot of people might be nervous to send an email or message through because of some preconceived notion. Communication seems to be the key to life!

VTHH: From the outside looking in, it seemed like 2017 was your best year ever, in terms of impact and reach. Does it seem that way to you? What keeps you motivated?

Jibba: I think that's true as a solo artist, it's the year I really started working on myself as an act. I finally learned a bit about the business side of music and was able to apply it. I started investing in myself and have seen great results so far, I'm finally peeking over these Green Mountains into other markets and gaining some attention by striking while the irons hot.

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VTHH: Dropping "The Broccoli Tree" has been a real breakthrough for you. What was the process behind that LP? Was it a long time coming?

Jibba: Phew! That one was a long time coming! I have been working on solo music for years and just kind of stockpiling it, doing test releases and performances locally. I had a really great run as one half of Causin' Effect, so I was really putting my all into the group effort and holding back from running as a solo act. The whole group thing slash studio venture from 2016 wasn't feeling right for me though, so I walked away from it. It actually ended kind of bitterly, I'm sure a lot of VT locals remember the social media drama for awhile...

In 2017, I really made a deal with myself to either stop making music all together or drop this music I've been holding onto. Give it a good push outside of Vermont and see what happens. Well, it has snowballed into some new ventures, collaborations, growth in my network and some great new features for my next album, which will be coming much quicker then The Broccoli Tree did.

VTHH: Do you think the next LP will be a 2018 thing? What has made the process easier this time around?

Jibba: Yes, 2018 for sure. I'm being a little more selfish this year. I really enjoy helping others, to the point I will put my own interests second, a lot. So this year I have been really focused on my own music. I still have been taking collabs, but people may tell you I'm pretty slow with them. I will be the first to admit I'm being selfish and putting my own music first. Opportunities come and go quick, so sometimes I strike while the irons hot and projects get pushed back. Well this next album is unapologetically put first, above all. I'm in a really good zone for solo music, I want to capitalize.

VTHH: What advice do you have for artists looking to do their first music video? You've got more experience in this department than most around here.

Jibba: Honestly, I've really lucked out with being friends with some super talented people. Like, Matthew Dean Russell, Matt Graham and Nick Deistler. It's also been great getting to know another great talent in Miles Goad of DVP Cinematography. Without these folks, my videos would never have been as great as they have been. I do have some advice beyond that, though.

My first bit of advice would be to plan ahead. Write a script, include scenes with places to shoot at. It doesn't have to be a certified Hollywood script but having an idea of what you want before it comes down to hitting that record button will really go a long way in saving time and also the outcome of the video will look more professional.

My second bit of advice might seem tough or out of reach to some but, get sponsorship! If you're going to wear a certain brand of clothes anyway, why not reach out to that brand? You would be surprised with the amount of clothing lines that will send you some threads to promote in your video. You could also ask for monetary sponsorship from local businesses looking to branch out and promote their brand in your video. Which is huge for your video budget. Just remember what would mesh well with your videos content. For example, a family restaurant may not want to sponsor a video promoting violence, drinking and blowing ungodly amounts of herbs. Find the right sponsors for your content.

My last bit of advice is to be creative. Think outside the box of just rapping into the camera with your homies behind you. I mean, that's cool and all, and works for some of us sometimes, but if you really are looking to stand out I suggest putting some thought into your video. That's pretty much what I've learned through trial and error. Plan ahead, get sponsorship before shooting the video and think outside the box.

VTHH: I've seen you play mentor for a lot of local artists online. Do you find yourself doing that locally now, too? Do you see a new scene coming together down south?

Jibba: I would really love to see the scene unite down south, it is a goal of mine for sure. If not people working together for a common goal in our area, at the very least help set people up with the tools to make the dream a profession instead of a hobby. I get really tired of wasted talent. It bothers me more then it should probably. I've actually branched out to helping young artists in different states with the business side of music. It's pretty fulfilling to watch someone take advice and run with it, watching them succeed and get wins. I like it just about as much as recording a song I'm proud of. I've been testing the waters of artist development inside the HLR camp, it's been fun and rewarding helping these guys put the work in to advance their careers. It seems I've naturally found a future in the music industry beyond just writing tunes, so that's exciting.

Justin Boland