Big Gerb in 002 Magazine
The Godfather of Lunch, the man with the hunger for poon-tang and Poppa Burger, the funkiest 420 pound pimp, has arrived….
Houston’s own Big Gerb, found himself as the recording feature in this months issue of 002 Magazine.
Gerb was interviewed by Lance Scott Walker (of Houston Rap Tapes fame) and photographed by Anthony Rathburn who said it was one of his greatest pieces of photography ever taken.
We’ve included the complete interview here for your reading please. Make sure to pick up that new Anti-Social by Big Gerb which is available on iTunes, Google Play, SoSouth.com and Amazon.
Support Gerb and Hongree Records, representin for the Latinos down in Texas!! #IfItAintLocalItAintLive
You can call him a Latino rapper, and you can call him a fat guy – he wears both of those on his sleeve proudly – but there’s no way to describe Big Gerb that accurately lays out for you the enormous heart that comes to life when you start talking to him. His crew, known as Hongree Records or Hongree Mob, came together in 2007, originally consisting of Gerb, his brother Swisha Man, and engineer and producer Spiktakula. Over the years, the crew has expanded to include rappers Surreal, U-Neek, Astrid, Young Dough 281 and DJ Meshak. Gerb and Spiktakula have further widened the crew’s reach with the radio show El Ram Y Los Beaners, which they co-host with local radio superstar Optimo Ram on Optimo Radio, and Gerb’s newest album, AntiSocial, is due out this month. With his brother Swisha Man currently serving in prison, Gerb wanted to make sure we gave him a shoutout, so that’s the first place we went.
When did your brother go to prison?
He went in, I wanna say it was 2010. August, 2010. He got sentenced to five and a half years, so if he doesn’t make parole, he should be out sometime next year.
Had you had anything like that in your family before, where somebody that close to you got locked up?
Yeah, man. All my uncles are in and out of prison. I had one uncle that did a couple of years in Tijuana prison for bringing cocaine over here – well, attempting to bring cocaine over here to the U.S. So crime is no stranger in my family. My mom’s side of the family, they’re no strangers to prison. On the other hand, my dad’s side of the family, they all went to law enforcement high school, they all went to U of H, took criminal justice classes, so it’s like … opposite ends, you know? My dad’s a bad boy, but all his family’s good. My mom’s a good girl; all her family’s bad.
Got that supreme balance.
Yeah, man. I like to think I fall in the middle, you know?
You grew up on the Northside, yeah?
Northside, yes, sir.
What was your neighborhood like, where you grew up? Where were you?
If I have to give you a general idea, like North Main and Quitman, like minutes from Downtown.
Close to Fifth Ward then, too.
Oh yeah, man. Fifth Ward is just over the train tracks. So, you know, I grew up listening to all the Geto Boys and all that local stuff. It was… we weren’t like bottom of the barrel poor, but we weren’t nowhere near rich or average. There were times when my mom had to go to like local churches and they would help us out with groceries, ’cause it was a family of five in a one-bedroom garage apartment, man. So, yeah, there was a lot of tension. You know, my mom and dad constantly at each other’s throats, me and my sister – my brother was a newborn baby. So my dad, finally, he was like, “Man, I gotta get us out of this.” In 2000, he purchased the home we’re in now, so we moved on up to the East Side, like The Jeffersons.
You’re not that far from where you grew up, I guess, but it’s a different feel over there, right?
It’s the same shit, dude. It’s actually a little nicer looking, but it’s an optical illusion, man, because there’s a lot of drugs bein’ moved around here. To the untrained eye, you’ll miss it, you know? But trouble’s everywhere, man. If you look for it, you’ll find it.
Were you rapping when you were still on the Northside or did you start on the East End?
I think I started on the East Side. When we moved over here, I was in my senior year of high school, and that’s about when I started fuckin’ around with it. My homeboy had a karaoke machine, and we would chill out in his little garage, drink MD 20/20 and just freestyle and shit. We were just joking about it, man. We weren’t taking it seriously back then. But that’s about the time I got introduced to picking up a mic or tryin’ to record. I used to be in a group, and we would save up our money – seven of us – enough to get an hour of studio time. That was a big deal, you know?
You started out freestyling, but do you remember the first time you took pen to paper and wrote something?
Yeah, a buddy of ours got killed back in 2000, and like I said, that was around the time I started rapping. Senior year of high school we lost a good buddy of ours. He was killed, and we made a little song in tribute to him, and I just let my feelings out, like, “I’ll see you again one day, buddy.” That was the realest shit I wrote back then.
How did you get the Hongree Records crew together?
That happened around 2007, when I was on the run. I was a fugitive, and my buddy, man, he lived in Humble, his name is Spiktakula, and my brother that’s currently in prison, his name is Swisha Man. We happened to all just be – at that time, I had just shot my way out of my little… I guess you could call it little record deal with the neighborhood drug dealer, so I was like, “You know what? We got ourself on the bottom, you know? I’ma put something together with my little weed money, without this big time money.” We were just joking around and we were like, “It could be a half-bitten cheeseburger, man, and we’ll just call it Hongree, and we’ll spell ‘hongree’ with a ‘o’ because we’re from the South.” So it started kind of as a joke, to pay homage to fat people. Like you know you got the Apple® logo, it’s a little apple, well this is a silhouette of a cheeseburger with a bite mark.
Were you a big guy when you were younger?
My whole life, bro. My whole life, man. Ever since I was a baby. I got some old-ass pictures, man. I been big my whole life. You know what’s funny, man? I never see myself. Recently, just recently, man, just the last few days I realized how big I was. I never realized that I was that massive of a guy. I always knew that I was bigger than a lot of people, but when I saw 8Ball perform, and I got real close to him – and 8Ball’s a big guy, man – he’s a big dude, but when I got next to him, man, he looked small. Compared to me. So, I was like, “Damn, Big Gerb, you’re a pretty big guy, you know. If you make 8Ball look little, you’re a pretty big guy.” It was a humbling experience, you know?
What would you say it means to be a Latino rapper in Houston in 2014?
I feel like we go unnoticed a lot, man. You know, back in the SPM [South Park Mexican] heyday, there was a whole little Latino craze for a little while when I was growing up in high school, man, you had Dope House, you had Salty Water Records, you know, there was a couple of local cats that were makin’ a buzz, and then it all just fell off, man. When SPM went away, it was like a whole Latino rap culture died with him, you know, got locked up with him. We just need somebody to speak for the people. I don’t know that I’m ready to carry that burden, but I’m up for the challenge. I don’t wanna be famous, man. I wanna be a voice for my people, because too many times we go unnoticed, man. We go unrecognized for our work, man. And that’s what I wanna do. Black people have Quanell X ready to stand up for them. Mexicans – we don’t have somebody like Quanell X that we can call for help, and I feel a lot of it has to do with the language barrier. I don’t even speak the best Spanish, bro. I’ve never been to Mexico. But these are still my people.
Interview by Lance Scott Walker | Photography by Anthony Rathbun