It's nearing 10:00 pm. He's getting ready to perform his set at an event at a creative studio in Philadelphia known for hosting local art and music shows. After originally being told that he was supposed to perform an hour and a half earlier, the rapper found himself in the crowd still waiting. At this point, the event is close to ending and only a couple artists and event-goers remained. Instead of waiting, he leaves.
Outside the venue, one of the event's organizers asks him to come back to perform his set, even repeatedly offering to pay him. And yet, he refuses and goes home. In that moment, the essence of Free Jacob could not be more apparent.
"I really care about my music. I don't do it to get attention. I don't do it because I think it will make anybody look at me differently. I genuinely like making rap music."
Hailing from Washington, D.C. - more specifically, "Uptown" - Jacob "Free Jacob" Garibay is a 20 year old rap aficionado. Some of his earliest recordings occurred at the age of 14 in his freshmen year of high school, including his freestyles over the "Make It Rain" and "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)" beats.
The rapper released his first mixtape, the eponymous Free Jacob, when he was 16 years old, using beats from popular rap songs such as Kanye West's "Touch the Sky" and Jay-Z's "Ignorant Sh*t" among others as well as beats from YouTube. Accumulating nearly 20,000 views and being the 8th most popular mixtape at the time on DatPiff, Free Jacob was showing huge signs of potential. Despite its achievements, the rapper doesn't consider his first mixtape as his best effort and took some time to perfect his craft.
"I'm just glad that [D.C. rappers] are getting more recognition than we were five years ago. Back then, there was Wale and Fat Trel and Glizzy were just starting. But now, you have 40, 50 different rappers with real potential to Ido something more than just be local."
Since then, Free Jacob has been featured on fellow D.C. rapper's Ras Nebyu's "Urgent" remix and the sorrowful yet optimistic track "Gilbert Arenas" alongside Lightshow (with the latter track gaining nearly 200,000 plays on SoundCloud since it's release in 2015).
Aside from his impressive catalog of collabs, he also released solo efforts during this period, including the infectious "Shot U Down," his spin on Isaiah Rashad's track.
Beginning with a quote by Eminem describing how rap was a saving force in his life, the track showcases Free Jacob's charismatic spirit through his figurative (and maybe literal?) allusion to having a plateful of a female sexual organ as well as his genuine side as he ponders on the complexities of his family life.
His first major release since his mixtape proved to be successful. Not only did the track receive positive reception from listeners and amassed over 10,000 plays on SoundCloud but Terrence "Punch" Henderson - the president of Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) - reached out to Jacob and commended him on the track. This was a major moment for the former 16 year old recording songs in his basement who now was gaining recognition from majors in the industry.
"Live free' just means be yourself. I'm always myself 24/7. Don't be afraid to do what you wanna do no matter who is watching. I know a lot of people may not be that confident but you just gotta do you."
After a period of not being active musically, a high school classmate urged Jacob to release something new. He decided to revamp his previously released song "U Drinking Now?;" self-engineered and recorded, Jacob's interpolation of Michael Jackson's vocals from "Somebody's Watching Me" and Eestbound's "Line 6" resulted in his most recent offering, "Reprise."
The two different sections in the song (including the hard-hitting first half and the more mellow latter part) represents a sharp contrast. While the beginning is more boastful and aggressive, he transitions into a more observant attitude, rapping "I'm tryna find balance when it gets tough so I find it in the bottom of a double red cup." Carefully regarding intricacies such as tone and delivery is a strong testament to the rapper's growth and evolution over the years.
"Hopefully, I just build up and get some more recognition and spotlight on my name."
So, what's next for Free Jacob? The rapper is planning on growing his brand and releasing an EP with roughly 5 songs by the spring of 2017. Currently lacking strong visuals or imagery at the moment, Jacob is looking towards filming his first music video as well so people can "finally put a face to [his] music." Free Jacob is establishing the basic foundation for a very promising future. Keep an eye out!