Last year, Chicago rapper Receo Gibson dropped a mixtape, a compilation of singles, and an EP, but he couldn’t shake the feeling he’d lost the thread. Now 26, he’d been rapping since age 18, and he’d built a promising career under the name Sage, the 64th Wonder. In 2016 local multimedia outlet 119 Productions put Sage’s “Purple Scope,” recorded with Pivot Gang cofounder MFn Melo, on Countdown 2 Midnight, a compilation that also features some of the biggest names in contemporary Chicago hip-hop—including Noname, Mick Jenkins, Saba, and King Louie.
Being part of Chicago’s fertile hip-hop scene wasn’t all positives for Gibson, though—he felt pressure to succeed and keep up with the rappers who seemed to be getting famous all around him. It wore him out, and he panicked about his own direction. Instead of surrendering to that fear, though, Gibson saw a moment and made a change. He traded his old stage name in for “Lunxch” (pronounced “lunch”), and last week he dropped his first single in this new identity, “Breathe.” Though his voice is gruff, he raps about creating peace of mind.
Gibson seems to be taking his own advice—at least when I talked to him on the phone for this piece, he sounded calm and relaxed. He’s got a new direction and a newish group with three other members of the SlumpGang777 collective he cofounded—the Terra Godz are Lunxch, Vagabond Maurice, Father Kari, and Uymitsu. Gibson talked to me about “Breathe,” his creative life, and how performing for apathetic open-mike audiences helped him become a better performer.
Lunxch: I changed it from Sage to Lunxch ’cause I recently got back into illustration. With the new style of art that I’ve been drawing, I felt like it called for a new moniker/aesthetic change. I just wanted to [move] into the new year with a more focused and cohesive brand.
What does “Lunxch” say to you that “Sage” didn’t? And what does it say about your new style?
Basically just have fun and not everything has to be perfect. It’s saying “constantly working and not trying to be a perfectionist.” In terms of drawing and stuff, it doesn’t have to look perfect. In terms of music, it doesn’t have to sound a certain way—I just gotta have fun with it. That’s what I’m trying to make clear in the message with Lunxch that Sage couldn’t convey.
Is that also what you’re trying to convey with “Breathe”?
Is that the reason you decided to use that single to debut your new name?
Yeah. Because when I was under the moniker Sage, I felt, like, clustered. I didn’t know what to do musically. I didn’t have no direction. It drove me into a panic, a mental panic. And I’m just like, “It’s cool, there are still people that are listening, there are still people that believe in you, no matter what. Don’t let none of that negative stuff get to you.” That’s what I was telling myself while I was writing that song. I just wanna provide a light at the end of the tunnel for myself and others who can relate to the situations that I endure.
What got you into that state of panic in the first place?
The spotlight has been on the Chicago music scene for a while now. I’ve been listening to homies and friends—they’ve been doing their thing, and I feel like I haven’t been doing as much, doing as good as them. It’s that stuff you feel when you see your friends doing wonders and you know that you can do it too, but it’s like, “What am I not doing?” And just not knowing what to do sends me into a panic. That’s why I always just try to explore options. Rebranding was my last option.
MFnMelo of Pivot Gang. I hang out with him a lot—like a lot a lot. I know everything that goes on with him, and I see things before they happen. I’m like, “Man, dude, you’re doing crazy things.” And he tells me the same thing. And I’m just like, “Man, I don’t know, bro. You’re doing this.” Melo is like the main one, because I hang out with him more frequently, on a casual basis, so I get to see his growth and development right then and there.
How do the people you surround yourself with help you grow as an individual and as an artist?
They tell me to stop overthinking, a lot. I’m not one to hide my emotions; I’m pretty up-front with everything. I have a big collective, so when you’re dealing with so many colliding minds and alpha males, you gotta always voice your opinion and voice when something’s wrong. So I always do that. Like, if something’s bothering me, I let them know. They just tell me, “All right, bro. There’s nothing to worry about, G. Get your head up—just do what you gotta do.” And I’ll be like, “Yeah, you’re right, you’re right, you’re right.” Gotta bring myself back down to earth and not just drift in my mental all the time. That’s usually what my collective do—keep me grounded.
Your collective is SlumpGang?
Yeah, yeah. Naturally we all uplift each other on the daily, cause everybody got they problems.
How’d you all find each other?
I went to Columbia [College]. And that started it off—because, like, being at Columbia and going to open mikes and stuff, you run into people. That’s how I met my guy Vagabond Maurice, he was a fiction-writing major there when I was doing fiction writing there for a little bit. I met everyone through Columbia—damn near, man, now that I think about it. It was either a Columbia event or moving around while I was at Columbia.
Were those Columbia open mikes?
Tell me about that. A lot of open mikes that tend to get attention these days are Young Chicago Authors or YouMedia.
The reception for me and my collective was actually pretty bad. People didn’t really react to what we was doing. There would be some times where we would rap and people would just look at us—not even clap, not even wince, nothin’. That conditioned us to just be able to perform in front of anybody. I can perform in front of a crowd of three people like it was a crowd of 300, you know?
I can do that just because of those open mikes where people give you those stone-cold—like, “What the hell is this? What is he talking about? Why?” There were times I’d be onstage and I’d be like, “Ooh, well, tough crowd.” If you get awkward with me, I’ma get awkward with you. “Damn, all right, well, see you guys later,” and just walk offstage. Open mikes were like that because they would be used to acoustic sets and everything. They weren’t ready.