Grammy-nominated hip hop artist Freddie Gibbs has made his movie debut at the Cannes film festival playing a rapper who finds more meaning in country living than in music fame.
"Down with the King" stars the 39-year-old American as "Money Merc", a rapper who goes to rural Massachusetts to produce a new album, but instead befriends a local farmer who teaches him how to skin pigs and herd cattle.
Written and directed by Frenchman Diego Ongaro, the film and its improbable plot allowed Gibbs to avoid the cliche rags-to-riches role of an urban rapper who makes it big.
"I didn't want to do that shit, because people typecast you," Gibbs told AFP in an interview. "I never wanted to play a rapper in a movie, but this was far more significant than just a rapper movie."
Gibbs and his character are alike in many ways, he said, but "Money Merc is an emotional kind of guy. He kind of wears it on his sleeve a little bit more than I do," he said.
Director Ongaro, who lives in western Massachusetts, told AFP that "I wanted to make a film with an outsider coming to this place. And I thought it could be a rapper, if possible a real one."
Gibbs accepted the role although he acknowledged that rappers and the countryside "don't match at all" and that he wasn't sure the plot would work, but Ongaro "made it happen", he said.
- He doesn't do modesty -
"I was doing the thing on the farm and I went, 'OK this shit is real.' And as we went along it just became more real," Gibbs said. "Diego laid this shit out on a platter for me, and all I had to do was bring some rap elements to this character."
The film's music is by Gibbs, most improvised during shooting over soul-inspired samples and loops.
Gibbs said rapping had always helped him deal with a checkered past -- which includes brushes with the law for theft and drug offences -- and "Down with the King" turned out to be yet another outlet. "This film was definitely therapeutic for me."
Director Ongaro agreed. "He brought things from his own experience to the table, his upbringing, his past as a dealer, and that all strengthens the authenticity."
Next the rapper, who is releasing a new album in the autumn ("probably my best"), plans to play a gangster in a television show. "I can slide into that role kind of easily," he laughed.
But he could also see himself as a banker, "or a cop or a lawyer. I can do it all."
In the meantime Gibbs said he was not only "the freshest motherfucker on the red carpet" at Cannes, but also the leading rapper in town. "I'm the only good rapper in Cannes. If there's a rapper here he ain't as good as me," he said.
"Down with the King" premiered at the festival's ACID sidebar event.