17 June 2014

[Interview] G-Eazy: “This Is Where It All Starts”

posted by: Arjun Artists' Choices and Voices | Interviews
New G-Eazy Interview!

From an outsider’s perspective (no pun intended), it could be easy to discredit G-Eazy‘s success, saying that his brand is “manufactured.” It could be easy to say that this faux-retro brand he has built from nothing is just a shtick to set him apart in an over-saturated hip-hop market. Once you witness his “shtick” firsthand, you realize that maybe his brand is manufactured to set him apart in this crazy game. It doesn’t matter. G-Eazy is a smart guy–a graduate of Loyola University’s Music Industry Studies program. He knows what he’s doing, and maybe his image is a calculated attempt at monetizing nostalgia.

But image only gets you so far.

These Things Happen will be G’s first commercial album. The man is treading into the deep waters of actually asking his fans to purchase his music! But what I saw when I interviewed young Gerald was an experienced yet still hungry rapper with a smart style, a loyal fan base, and an unending supply of good music and ideas–not to mention, he is one of the most genuine artists I have ever met. Like, he lives exactly what he raps. In our interview, the Bay Area rapper talked candidly about the challenges of tour life, the details of his come up, rap disses, his favorite brands of whiskey, and of course, the making of These Things Happen. Pre-order the album on iTunes now or buy a physical copy on June 23rd.

UPDATE: You can now stream the album in its entirety below.


How’s the tour going?

The tour has been insane. I mean, this is like, real. It finally feels real. The whole “fake it ’til you make it” thing like, we faked it for a really long time. We’ve opened up a ton of tours, and then when I started to finally go out and headline my own tours, it obviously started small–you know, you start in the tiny rooms. A year ago we were here, and we were playing the underground room. I think they call it “Hell” (Ed. note: They do.), and every soundcheck on that tour, I would walk around, and I would take a peek at the bigger rooms, and I’d be like, you know, it’d be cool to eventually play here one day. So to be here, it’s an honor; it’s a blessing. It’s just the beginning. This is where it all starts.

Before this tour you were on Lil Wayne’s “America’s Most Wanted” tour. How was that different or comparable to this tour?

Different as fuck.

[Laughs] I know the venues were a lot bigger, and you were opening.

It’s strange, yeah, the venues were obviously were huge amphitheaters and arenas, which were much bigger. But since I was the opener, there weren’t many people there every day, you know? So it was maybe a thousand people in there.

And then not as many songs.

Yeah, and then I’m playing a shorter set. And no one that is there is really there for me, so I’m trying to convince a thousand Lil Wayne fans that are all sitting down. It’s early, so the sun’s still out. I’m trying to convince them that they should be into my shit, and it’s tough. But that’s where you get your chops up. That’s where you learn how to perform, and it was a good learning experience.

I was wondering, have we heard any songs from These Things Happen? “Far Alone” will be on it?

Yeah, “Far Alone” will be on the album.

With E-40?

Yup, and “Almost Famous” and “Been On.” [Ed. note: The track list is now up on iTunes.]

Not “I Don’t Believe You?”

No, [Laughs]. That one’s gone.

Ah, alright. Take us through a day on tour. Because it seems to be a lot of waiting to get to the performance. I don’t know if people realize that.

Yeah, there’s some anxiety there. Well, I’ll start with: wake up around noon. My tour manager will wake us all up and say, “Hey, we’re at the venue. We have an hour until we load in. Do you want to come with us to get food?” If I’m really hungover, I’ll stay in and sleep. Most days, I’ll usually go and eat and regret it later. I roll out of bed super grumpy. Go get coffee. Eat breakfast. And then come back just in time to start unloading the trailer and loading the stage: the neon sign and the drums and the keys and all that into the venue. Then, that’s where you kinda have an hour window. Like, this is that window where I either try to get some time to myself and just chill–like my “zen,” focused relaxation. Or I’ll call my mom and, you know, whatever… talk to people. And then you go into soundcheck, and then after soundcheck you get ready to do the pre-show meet and greet. And then you do the meet and greet… you meet the fans, and then you have dinner. And then after dinner, I do stuff like this. I’ll do interviews and stuff, and then we’ll cap that off an hour before my show. And that’s the “zen” return. It’s just like sit back here in this room by myself, and try to just mentally prepare for the show, you know? It’s so much wildness on stage that you kinda have to have the “calm before the storm” or whatever. It helps for me to just be alone and drink my whiskey and get in the zone. So then I play the show for an hour. And then I get off stage, and I’m tired as fuck–ready to collapse from jumping on stage for an hour, running around. And I get off stage, and I get to collapse for fifteen minutes. And then I get to do the post-show meet and greet. I meet fans and talk to them. And then after that is when the madness really starts. I come back to the bus, and we just drink whiskey into oblivion. And pass out at like 3 or 4.

Every night?

Yeah, every night pass out at 3 or 4. And then we get up by noon and do it all over again.

That sounds amazing. But it must be so tiring?

It is kinda of tiring, to be honest. Like, you just can’t have that many Saturdays in a row. But more than physically tiring, it’s become mentally tiring. When you’re touring like this, it’s kinda like the circus. It’s like you’re putting on a show everyday, and it’s more or less the same show. And you’ve gotta find a way to sell it, authentically, and when you talk to the crowd, you know–make it feel like this is the one Saturday of the month that you’re really partying, knowing that you’ve been doing this every night for the last seven weeks. And you have to sell it, and you know this is me. This is me on stage. This is my face… this is my brand… this is my story… these are my fans. And I care that they get a good show every night, you know? Because I only come to Atlanta maybe once a year. They don’t care if I killed it in North Carolina or Florida or whatever. That’s irrelevant. This is their one impression, so you can’t have an off-night, you know? So the mental toughness of, like, putting on that show and being excited and selling it every night. The thing is my team–my management and my booking agents–don’t believe in off-days, so we’ll play for like 25 days in a row, you know? And it’s good. This is the dream. This is what we all worked for. But it’s finally starting to wear on me towards the end of the tour. But nobody can know.

[Laughs] Take me back to when you first graduated college, and you had this dream. You didn’t have classes anymore.

Oh, yeah. It was like, “What?! I don’t have to make beats in between classes? I just get to wake up, make coffee, and then make music?”

What were the first few moves towards making the dream happen?

Well, music. It all comes back there. Like, you could tour your ass off, but without the right music behind it, it may not ever click. I just wanted to make the content that would hopefully help get me on: music and music videos. In hoping that that would lead to a booking agent, which could hopefully lead to getting me on a tour, which could lead to me opening up for somebody and stealing their fans, which could lead to me coming back on another tour and stealing more fans, which could lead to me eventually headlining. But all the while, continuing to make the music that puts you there.

For most of your career, you have produced almost all of your own music. Now, you’re working a lot with Christoph Andersson–

Who’s a beast. He’s a genius. It’s unfair. We’ll be working on a beat together, and it’s like, “What the fuck?! How did you just like figure out those chords so quickly?”

So you kinda discovered him? Or how did that happen?

Nah, we’ve been friends for years. He went to the same school I went to in New Orleans, and he was a DJ. He was into EDM. He was doing like nu-disco and stuff. Him and another one of my best friends at that school threw this monthly party in New Orleans. It was like “the hip EDM party” to go to, and it was always hella poppin’. And we were just all like crew. We were just all homies, and he’s a really big Drake  fan and like, 40. He’s really into hip-hop, but his world was always EDM. So I always kinda wanted to pull him away from that and make a rap album with him, you know? But–I was a fan of him! So it was like how can I convince him to say, “Fuck this world that I’m totally a part of,” to come be apart of my world and make a rap album. And we finally like clicked and worked on some music, and it was just like, “Okay, this works.” And I invited him on the Wayne tour, and we just made the album, basically.

Does he sing, too?

Yeah, he sings. Primarily, he’s a producer.

Will he be on stage today?

Yeah, he plays keys, and he sings the end of “Tumblr Girls.” He sings that live. He gets his Justin Bieber on and sings to the girls.

I didn’t recognize him. I think he took our picture earlier. What is one song that you’re jealous that you didn’t write?

Oh, man! A song that I’m jealous I didn’t write? Fuck! Ah, man. That’s tough, dude.

Do you get like angry listening to other music sometimes, like “Aw, come on, I was just thinking that?”

I get so jealous, man! I’m like, “Fuck! Drake is so fucking good!” Or like, fucking Big Sean or Kendrick–they’re so fucking good at rapping, you know? But that’s what drives you to want to be better. When other people set the bar high, you have to want to push yourself to run faster and keep up. It’s all good; it’s important.

Have you heard “Draft Day?”

Yeah, I love it. I didn’t hear the other one yet.

I don’t think it’s as good. But it’s different; like, Drake is just like so inspired right now. Maybe it’s because he got with Rihanna again.

Yeah, he feels like the fucking man of the hour… on top of the world. “Draft Day” is raw as fuck. I love that.

You seem really inspired by movies and cinema. What movies do you think inspired These Things Happen?

Wolf of Wall Street, um… Gatsby.

Can you tell us about features on the album?

I got E-40 on the album, which is obviously for me a huge deal. That’s just like such a moment. And A$AP Ferg. Other than that, it’s real organic. It’s not like reaching. I haven’t got someone who totally should not be on my album, like “how the fuck did you get Drake?” You know what I mean?

[Laughs] Yeah, what is your relationship with Drake?

He’s the homie! Yeah, he’s cool as fuck. We’ll do a song eventually. We’ve talked about it.

Have you known him for awhile?

Well, okay so part of my management team is Jamil Davis, who tour manages Drake. So you know that’s been the bridge. That’s why if I’m at a party–totally not where I’m supposed to be–like in Drake’s section. That’s why I’m there [Laughs]. But no, he’s a real cool dude. He’s real genuine. He’s always like, “What’s up, Gerald?! What’s poppin’?!”

And there’s a picture of Drake and your mom? How did that happen?

Yeah. They love each other. They’re homies. He was like, “Your jacket is so fucking cool. Like, I wish I could pull that off.”

What do you think about his subliminal disses on “Draft Day” and just rap beefs in general in 2014?

I love it. ‘Cause to me like ten years ago when dissing was the shit. Like, you know, like full on diss songs… like Jadakiss and 50, you know what I mean? I love that shit. I think it’s hella cool. So we were geekin’ out on the bus the other day: me, Kyle, and his manager Nolan were back here listening to “Draft Day” and trying to decipher the subliminal jabs. And it was so cool, like I feel like it’s coming back. I don’t know. I always love that shit. You know, the fact that you have Jay-Z throw a shot at Drake and then Drake throw shots in the same week is like, “Oh, it’s definitely back.” Rap disses are back.

But it seems so fake. They just did a song together. And their beef is about art?

Yeah but then again, I don’t know what’s cornier: subtle friendly jabs or the gun talk of ten years ago. Like, “I’m going to have your whole family murdered”–no, you’re not.

[Laughs] What did you think of Because the Internet?

Oh, Because the Internet is raw as fuck. I’m a huge fan of Childish. I think he’s amazing, and I think his “world” is so cool.

What’s your favorite emoji?

Aw, [claps hands together] the “Thank You Based God” emoji. Deal.

What’s your drink of choice?

Whiskey, neat.

Brand?

Oh, brand: Bulleit Bourbon.

Is that super expensive?

Nah, it’s like the nicest stuff you’ll get at a regular liquor store. Bulleit is like a Lexus or like a Cadillac. It’s not necessarily a Mercedes Benz; it’s certainly not a Ferrari. But it’s a nice bourbon.

What would you recommend for a college student on a budget?

Jack, Jim Beam. Well, the next step up is a Maker’s Mark. You know, Bulleit is kinda in that family. It’s like if Maker’s is a Cadillac then Bulleit’s like a–I don’t know. But yeah, Maker’s, Knob Creek, uh… Buffalo Trace is a good bourbon that’s above a Jack but not much more expensive. It has a much better taste.

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