AFROPUNK Interview: Your Favorite Rapper’s Favorite Guitarist Rob ” Freaky Rob” Gueringer
By Ian Freeman
March 3, 2022
For years, Rob Gueringer has been the lead guitarist for some of the biggest acts in Hip Hop and R&B. Doing session work and sharing the stage with a list that includes Stephanie Mills, Lil Wayne, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar and more, his awe-inspiring skills with the guitar has earned him the nickname Freaky Rob. But while on speed dial for your favorite music Afropunk, if you weren’t a guitarist you might not have known who he was. That is until this year’s Super Bowl and a Chrome-plated PRS put him on everyone’s lips. We had the chance to speak to him about the Super Bowl, those Fender videos, and his gear.
Afropunk: Dude, that Super Bowl was definitely one for the ages. You stole the show.
Freaky Rob: Oh man, you’re going to get me in trouble. Here we go. Look bro, let me tell you how it happened.
Look. I’m just really called to play guitar in that situation. Of course, I do more. We started rehearsal probably back in December, but to me, I treated it like a normal gig. Let’s go in, let’s be focused. Let’s do what we do. Let’s just do everything 10 times better. It’s the Super Bowl, you know what I mean? Dude, I looked up, I glanced up for a quick second. You can almost see it in the actual Super Bowl footage. I glanced up at the jumbotron for a quick second. I literally was like, “What the fuck?”
Like, “Whoa.” At the same time, dude, I had one of my phones in my pocket while I was performing. Bro, my leg literally just started vibrating. My phone started going crazy while we were performing. “Yo, it’s crazy. This is different.”
Afropunk: I guess I wanted to even go from there. How did you get the Super Bowl gig?
Freaky Rob: The music director, the guy that was playing bass next to me in the videos, Adam Blackstone. Definitely a legend, a great himself. He actually hit me to do it. The band is a mix-up of all the artists you’re seeing on stage. He took a couple of components from everyone’s band or a piece from everyone’s band.
I do Kendrick Lamar already. I’ve been playing with him since 2015. That’s my brother. I do him already and I’ve done him and then with Adam a couple times too. He hit me up and asked me to do the Super Bowl. I was shocked honestly, because Kendrick’s team had let us know that he was doing the Super Bowl, but they were saying we probably wouldn’t be needed. It was going to be a house band. The fact that I still got the call to be a part of it, I was like, “Whoa. ” Do you know what I’m saying?
It was just crazy.
Afropunk: What was the lead-up to that like? I know you were saying sometimes you’re just like, “Hey, let’s just do it. I treat it like any other gig.” but really, the Super Bowl?
Freaky Rob: Honestly man, it was so crazy. When we started the Super Bowl rehearsals, we had a version for print one. By the end of the show, we were on version 37. We went through 37 different versions. Even the sketch that they sent us to learn before we started rehearsal, wasn’t fully sketched out. We didn’t even know what songs Eminem and Mary were doing yet. We were just taking what we had and going on with it.
Again, hats off to Adam. He’s such a professional and he’s been doing this so long that the artist got a different trust within him than they would just, a regular backing band or something like that. We just really put all our heads together and just really made the best out of what we had and they loved it. Everybody fell in love with it even more over the weeks as we rehearsed it and got the moves together, the planning, every set, everything. It just all molded together very well.
Afropunk: Nice. Now I know the big thing was the Chrome PRS. I know everyone’s been talking about that, so I don’t really care about that. You didn’t start out with that guitar. You started out with- it looked like an offset Fender, but I wasn’t sure which one it was.
Freaky Rob: One of the best. It was the Jazzmaster custom joint. A huge shout-out to Moya and to my Uncle Ed over at Fender. That was a project that we did a while ago that it actually came in really handy. I love the way it sounded, but they made that change to all-white last minute for the Snoop Dogg set. It just happened to work out in my favor.
Afropunk: Is that one of the guitars that’s in your rig? I’ve seen some of the stuff that you’ve done with Kendrick and I know that there’s a few guitars that you keep in your circle. It’s also one of your favorites right?
Freaky Rob: Yes, definitely. Jazzmaster is something that you can definitely spot me with on the regular or more frequently than some of the other guitars, for sure. I like the way they feel and I love warmth in my tone. I feel like the Jazzmaster, it can get in and fit in anywhere on anything.
Afropunk: Speaking of guitars, so you picked up a guitar at– I think it was 12 or 13?
Freaky Rob: Correct. I am originally a drummer. I’ve been playing drums since the age of two. My grandfather played bass and guitar. Rest in peace, but that was my best friend, dude. I think still, that’s why I’m an old soul at heart. What kid you know would give up, going to Six Flags, the beach or the waterpark and any of that stuff in the summer to stay in the crib and listen to the Bee Gees and Frankie Beverly and Maze with his grandpa.
That was lit for me. Lit to everybody else is going out, doing this, doing that. That was lit for me. I got to have my grandfather to myself. I grew up with a lot of cousins and brothers and just family overall. When it was just me and him, we were having concerts in there.
Afropunk: I had that. I was raised by my grandparents too. What made you make the transition from drum to guitar?
Freaky Rob: Dude, if I can be completely honest, I had a drum set at home, but I also had that mama that was, “I just got off of work. I don’t want to hear that right now.”
I was like, “Man.” I knew that because my granddad played guitar and bass, it was something I definitely wanted to get into. I just thought he was the coolest guy ever anyways. Fast forward to fourth, fifth grade, I got in the actual school band, which as I met this guy named Mario Moody I call him up to this day. Probably, I would say for sure, for sure somebody crucial to my story. He was the first music director I had, but not only did he read and he was classically trained and all that, but he played in church every Sunday.
As time went by, he knew I could play drums. Honestly, he saw my gifts and he saw that they were stronger than everybody else in my class. Dude, I was getting 100%. Not even just a regular A, like a 90 or 95. I was getting 100% in band in every quarter. He decided to test me. He had this jazz band and it was called the Sounds Of Soul Jazz band. It was mixed between sixth-graders all the way through eighth-graders. I was in fourth grade, I’m not even supposed to be in this thing. My mom and them got me a guitar for Christmas. I remember listening to them, to his jazz band. I would be supposed to be at recess, but be outside the door listening to the arrangements and stuff.
I just started fiddling around, not knowing anything in the theory sense, as far as notes or chords or just literally with my ear. He got a hold of that. Then from there, it was like I was gone with the wind.
Afropunk: You learned guitar by listening? Not by you didn’t take classes?
Freaky Rob: No, I learned by ear and props out to my gym teacher, actually, Mr. Kevin Van Solus. Him and Mario were super, super cool, but he was really the gym teacher, but he played bass. He was Mario’s hidden gem. He would come help kids. If we had tutoring sessions, he would come by and just help people with the music in that sense. Not necessarily he was a higher instructor, but he would sit with me during recess sometimes too. Mario would have me go with him just as far as learning the actual notes on the guitar. This is this quarter. This is this shape, because I didn’t know. I just could play it by ear.
Afropunk: That was great. I think they said Prince learned by ear too, right? Prince didn’t take lessons.
Freaky Rob: Honestly, I tell people that’s the best way. If you’re going to learn how to play, I feel like that’s the best way to learn still. Of course, now knowing what I know about music, I would definitely say get you some theory in there where you can, but if you can hear it and you can play it, that’s half the battle. For the Super Bowl, they didn’t give me a four-page arrangement or something with sheet music at all. It was like, “Yo, you’re going to do these songs and we’re going to do them this way.” You know what I’m saying? From there, that’s all ear.
Afropunk: My teacher was like, “Oh yes, there’s a lot of that. That’s just you’re going to have to feel your way around a lot of this.” Ok, so 12, 13, the family bought you a guitar. What was your first guitar?
Freaky Rob: Dude, it was actually a Squier Strat. Black and white Squier Strat. Then six months after that, well not six months because Christmas is December 25th and my birthday is April 29th, so my birthday that same year, they got me my Squier Precision bass too.
Afropunk: You just been Fender most of your life because every–I see when I watch the Fender videos, and like, “Wow, there’s Rob again. Oh, the Acoustasonic, there’s Rob again. There’s Rob again.” [laughs]
Freaky Rob: Dude, honestly, I tell people that man, if I could be real, bro, that is surreal to me. I used to sit there, those same demos and videos that I’m doing for them, I used to sit and watch all day long just even trying to understand the guitars, but it used to be some really good demos. Whereas I still study people till this day and I used to take stuff from those demos. People get on there and go crazy and so I was like, “Man, I would love to do that one day as a kid or just even being able to be showcased that.” Now, speed it up 10 years down the line or whatever. It’s crazy to me man.
Afropunk: Well, speaking of that, there’s one person, I’ve seen some interviews, watch them, read them and we share an inspiration, I think, just be that Isaiah Sharkey.
Freaky Rob: Oh man. That’s my big brother, man.
Afropunk: How did you meet Isaiah?
Freaky Rob: We both are from Chicago. The city of Chicago. Isaiah’s from the west side and I’m from the south side. I will never forget how I met him. I had one of my homies that I gig with. He hit me up randomly like, “I’m going to this live session. I think you should come. Isaiah’s playing.” Now, Isaiah had just been the man, the myth, the mystery. I just knew he was this cold dude that I just could never bump into around Chicago. Dude, I went and I met with him at that session for one changed my whole outlook on playing that same night. I will never forget. I changed the whole way I even think of a guitar, dude.
I say, he made that session his session. It was a gospel concert. They did 12 songs, but it was a live concert. Dude, even that night when I got home, because the session, they probably didn’t finish until 11:00 PM. I guarantee you, when I got home that night, I stayed up and I played guitar till 3:00, 4:00 AM. I wanted to mimic that or just even try to tap into what he was doing. Even then, leaving directly from the concert. It was just crazy. He inspired me also that night because he was cool, dude. We got there a couple of minutes before they started, he let me come up, check his guitar. He gave me some strings. It really felt like man, he was not necessarily passing the torch, but he was definitely taking me under his wing.
From there, we just stayed cool. Probably, that was around when I was 14 and I talk to him at least once every couple of weeks, if not twice in the same week.
Afropunk: Dude, the stuff that he did on Voodoo with the D’Angelo, dude, that was crazy.
Freaky Rob: When I met him that night, he was only in town for that weekend. He had just got the D’Angelo gig. That’s why we hadn’t seen him around. He couldn’t say anything yet. He was just literally MIA and popped up out of nowhere. Like, “Yo, I’m about to go out with D’Angelo.” We were like, “Whoa.”
Afropunk: Crazy man. Who else inspires you aside Isaiah?
Freaky Rob: Oh man, Isaiah. This other guy, Jairus Mozee love him. I’ve probably been hip to him and Isaiah about the same amount of time. I love Django Reinhardt, Al Di Meola, dude, I can go on forever. As many guitar players as I love, I also love saxophone players and key players, piano players.
Afropunk: I know you learned by ear, so is that where some of the style that you bring to things, is that where you get that from, it’s from other instruments?
Freaky Rob: Yes, for sure. I think for real, for real, it’s like playing multiple instruments. I can always hear what I would be doing on certain instruments or what I would want them to do. Especially in hip hop, I feel like that’s how I approach the guitar. We all know, especially in music nowadays, I feel like it’s starting to come back, but guitar is not on a lot of hip hop. It’s not on a lot of Drake or Kendrick. I feel like that’s the beauty of doing what I do. You have to make it, so you got to make room for it, but it also has to be you want it to be in the right spaces and not forced necessarily, if that makes sense.
Afropunk: That brings me to a good point. You got your start with Lil Wayne, Lamar, and you’ve been basically playing with everyone, and it’s like this known thing that you’re like the hip hop session guitarist. If you’re in hip hop, you want a guitar played, grab Rob. There’s never been really a lot of guitar in hip hop. When you took up the guitar, was that the plan? Was it to go in to be this hip-hop guitarist or was that just what ended up happening?
Freaky Rob: No, man. I think it just tagged along with me during this journey. Honestly, my first gig when I moved to LA- I moved to LA from Chicago right out of high school in 2014 and I was going to Musician’sInstitute here. I landed this gig with an artist Quincy Jones had under his label at the time named Tommy Ward. We did a residency in Vegas at the Wynn for two months that ended up going bad. I came back home, I kicked it here around for a month, and then I ended up getting calls to do Stephanie Mills. I was with the OG. I was with her for a while, at least that whole summer. That was summer 2015.
Then I got calls from my other homie, Eric Ingram. That’s when I got hit up probably around August 2015 to go do the first-ever Weezyana Fest. When I went to do that, I feel like that’s when it shifted over to hip hop because my musical background, like I said, I got granddad, I told you what he would be on his spectrum was very wide. I also had granny with all the RnB and the solo joints. Then my pops was Crucial Conflict, Kanye, Wayne, Hot Boys, Snoop Dogg, Devin The Dude, Run-DMC. He was everything rap, everything hip hop.
My dad is a legendary barber in Chicago. All-day long, I’m hearing his stuff while he cutting hair or while he cutting my hair, but he also was the first person I’ve seen with my own two eyes to have an in-home studio. I grew up with an in-home studio, but it wasn’t equipped for live musicians, if that makes sense. I could plug up and play guitar in there, but it was way more like NPCs and keyboards and all of that stuff in there. I didn’t realize it, but I grew up with that. It’s been around me my whole life. Even for that Lil Wayne concert, I had a day and a half to learn the whole show. They had a guitarist at the time, but he ended up venturing off to do other things. I had a day and a half to learn the show.
That wasn’t nothing but a reunion for me, bro. They started the show, “Hey, Mr. Carter”, I’m right in. I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” It felt like I was riding in my dad’s car again. Do you know what I’m saying? Kendrick was the same thing, but that was cool because he didn’t really have- these are legendary records I’m talking about as far as Wayne. With Kendrick, he’s newer. I feel like he is the new Wayne or that new better or that new great lyrical person that not only had the swagger and the approach but also the music to go along with it.
When I met him, that was– Bro, he gave me the lane. That’s how I got the name, Freaky Rob. That’s from Kendrick. He had never really seen anybody doing something that I was doing with the guitar. He like, “What? Bro? You got that guitar? It sounded like a violin or something. It sounds like a pad now. You got to sound like a keyboard.” I’m like, “Bro, guitars can do all of this. People have to be willing to give them a chance.” I say guitar died off around the late ’90s, and it was around, but it wasn’t getting that same love and attention in the studio or on stage as it was Nirvana times.
I feel like with the greats, like MJ and Prince, guitar, it was not only important, but it was crucial to what they were doing. Now, I feel like it’s that piece that’s in the room that’s dusty. At anybody’s studio, the guitar you get off the wall is dusty, you got a little guitar print on your shirt now with dust.
Afropunk: I think the guitars have been making a huge comeback now, though, with H.E.R. I think this wave of neo-soul, not even this wave. Neo-soul brought it back. Then it went underground again, but now you have musicality really become really important. Even with Kendrick, even a lot of Kendrick stuff, you can hear the instrumentation in it where traditionally, like you said, it’s mostly for hip hop. There’s a lot of synthesized instruments and stuff.
Freaky Rob: Yes, man, for sure, and Kendrick is really musical. I tell people, he may not be a musicAfropunk, but he is. He’s musical. He might not be able to play it, but he knows exactly what he’s looking for. He has a great musical ear. It’s very impressive.
Afropunk: I know you’re a guitarist and session guitarist. I’ve heard that you are also an artist yourself, or you like, considering yourself an artist yourself. What are some of the things that you’re working on? I heard recently there’s something that dropped The Doctors?
Freaky Rob: Yes. That’s my band. That’s my group. The DRs is something that I grew up with, believe it or not. The DRs, literally, people think it’s like a super, super deep meaning when it’s funny. The DRs, literally., D is for David, R is for Rob. You put our initials together you got The DRs, you feel me? If you want to look at it in the musical, scientifical sense, it’s like we want to bring, not necessarily real music back, not throwing shades to anybody’s stuff, but yes, we want to put pAfropunkos and guitars and all this stuff back on the radio, but we’re doing it in the forums where I feel like Don Oliver going to be on this stuff, Ye going to be on this stuff or even like the H.E.R.S.
I’m trying to make it to where not only we bring real music back, but even with our samples and stuff, a lot of this stuff, we’re creating from scratch. It’s just me and David have been collaborating since we were kids. I met David again around that age. I had just started playing guitar. Maybe it’s been I would say two years in. I met David when I was 14, but he grew up in Olympia Fields, I’m from Harvey. Those are 15 minutes away from each other, and this wasn’t even our first band attempt. We had another band way back in the day called Music Has No Color. That faded away, but me and bro just always been tapped in as far as chemistry and on the music side and just even on the kicking it side.
The music, I feel is a straight reflection of that, and it’s cool. It’s super good stuff. I’m excited we’re going to be releasing that more. Then I do go as a standalone artist too, of course, under Freaky Rob. That stuff will be coming, too., but I’ll probably say a little bit later in the year, like towards the summer.
Afropunk: Nice. All right. Jump into some gear question real quick because I don’t want to keep you too long. I know your favorite guitars. Jazzmaster. First guitar was a Strat, was a Squier Strat. Do you have a dream guitar?
Freaky Rob: Yes, sure I got a couple, but I need two. First one, 1959 Strat.
I want the original thing. I want the real deal. Depending on the condition, we’re talking about a $50,000 to $80,000 guitar. Then the other one would be the same year, but a different brand. ’59 Les Paul. Got to have it. Now we talking about a house. The other day, those are going $150, 000, $200,000. Got some work to do, but it’s doable, man. I know people that have them sitting around like pencils, or pins, or something. It’s crazy.
Afropunk: Now we go off the dream guitar to your current stuff. What’s on the rig now? What are you playing right now? What are you loving right now?
Freaky Rob: Man, actually. Right now, I am loving this Fender custom shop I got. Shout out to Moya, Uncle Ed, also Carlos Lopez, who was a master builder at Fender who is actually not there anymore. He just left at the top of this year. I think that makes the guitar even that much more special to me. While I’m growing up, I was a Fender and a Gibson guy like you. See, Fender was in my life since the beginning, and then I got a 335, I’d probably say halfway through high school.
I just ran with those for real. Carlos knows that I like 335s, but he knows I like Fender necks. I love Fenders in general, but 335 is just a different feel. This crazy man himself, he made me a Fender Starcaster, but with 335 specs. It’s like a gold sparkle, man. I got to send you a picture of it. The prettiest guitar ever. It was actually part of the Super Bowl as well too. I hopped on it for a quick second, but they didn’t pan in on us. I really can’t even explain it, bro. This dude is– For one, he’s an awesome, awesome builder. He pays the best attention to detail. Right out of the case, this thing was butter. Never have I owned anything like it, or played anything like it. It was just super, super cool, yo.
Afropunk: How did you get connected with Fender? How did that whole relationship start outside of just you been playing Fenders forever?
Freaky Rob: Man, my Fender connection, and shout out to my big brother forever, Tony Russell. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him? Little Tony Chicago, one of the baddest bass players ever, bro. This dude is how I also got on Kendrick. Him and my brother, Rico the drummer, literally took a chance on me. I was this young kid from Chicago. I grew up with Rico. Tony knew of me, but he didn’t really know me, know me at the time. Bro, I’ve been studying little Tony since I picked up a bass.
Even without even knowing I was playing– Some of my favorite records to play to, he was playing bass on them, and I didn’t even know it was him. He’s been in my life for a while, but Tony really took that chance with me, man. With the Kendrick gig, when I got to Kendrick, I didn’t have nothing, bro. I was still paying for everything. My guitars, my strings, all of that. Then he just showed me how to connect with people, and build those relationships. He’s not our rep now, but we had this guy named Mike Schultz from Fender. Super, super cool guy. Still one of my good friends still today. They took a chance on this kid, on this young 19-year-old, at the time, from Chicago.
Afropunk: Nice. What is coming up for you? I definitely want to try to catch you when you come to NYC.
Freaky Rob: Yes man. Right now, I’m actually doing a lot of live session work. I got some cool stuff in the works. I don’t even really want to name-drop. I’m in the studio I’d say the next couple of weeks. Definitely got a couple of tours on the table. I just got to see what’s what. Honestly, bro, I just got my own studio out here in California a year ago. It’s so funny to me, man. I find myself literally like a little kid who wants to go home and see his mom when I’ve been away from my studio for too long. As far as touring, I’ll do it, but now it just has to really be worth it. This marks either my eighth or ninth year touring. When I do go out, I’m just trying to make sure not only is it something that I want to do, but I still want to be in my comfort zone. I want to be able to produce, and still make heat, and do all that stuff.
Afropunk: Got you. Last question. When you aren’t making music, what are you into? Do you like sports or video games, comics?
Freaky Rob: I’m going shopping. We going shopping. Let’s go. We gone. No man. For real, I feel my love for music, it still remains the highest, but I would say literally, eyebrow hair, right up under that is fashion. For sure. I love fashion, bro. I’m from Chicago. You know we be dressing. Know that. That’s something serious. We took that seriously. That was just as serious as your grades or your homework, anything. I definitely want to break the barrier now. I’m telling you. You’re hearing it here. Right here, first on Afropunk, Freaky Rob is going to have that Louis V guitar case. You feel?
I’m not going to lie. Actually had a couple of heavy losses last year, and I needed something that wasn’t music, that wasn’t necessarily me going out and being like– I wanted something that just tapped me back into having some fun amongst myself. I got a PS5, but man, I suck now. I ain’t even going to lie, dude. This new generation, they crazy bro. Soon as you start the game, you die as soon as you turn it on.
Afropunk: I don’t play anything online, bro. All the games I get are mainly just Assassin’s Creed, Horizon Forbidden Dawn. Stuff that’s just me, story-driven, can play, don’t got to worry about people bothering me, shooting at me, cursing me out.
Freaky Rob: Bro, it’s crazy. I feel like it’s an online cult or something we don’t know about. You got to pay a couple of hundred dollars to get in, and you just run.
Make sure to check out Freaky Rob
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