G-Eazy Bared His Soul on His Latest Album, & He’s Got More to Say (Interview)
On December 4, Oakland, California MC G-Eazy released his sophomore album for RCA Records called When It’s Dark Out, and with it he continued the chart-topping success he found with his 2014 major label debut, These Things Happen. The 26 year-old has already worked with giants like E-40, Big Sean, Chris Brown, Keyshia Cole, and Too Short, but he is also a champion for the lesser known, grassroots artists like Gizzle, Jay Ant, and Cashmere Cat. With mixtapes dating back to his high-school days, the artist born Gerald Gillum has been putting in serious work for nearly a decade and began to enjoy considerable attention in 2011, when he released the mixtape The Endless Summer. A year later, fans received his independently released Must Be Nice, and it’s been a steady climb to acclaim for him ever since. With both These Things Happen and When It’s Dark Out debuting at number one on the U.S. Rap charts, he has become a leading voice in 2015’s rash of non-mainstream Hip-Hop juggernauts, also embodied by number-one albums from Logic and Lil Dicky this year. With a massive international tour set to kick off stateside on New Year’s Eve, G-Eazy is once again gearing up for worldwide dominance while still enjoying a relative low profile before his name recognition reaches the next plane. Before then, he spoke with Ambrosia for Heads about where he’s coming from, where he is now, and where he hopes to be.
Ambrosia for Heads: Oakland and much of California’s Bay Area has a rich history in Hip-Hop, and has always prided itself on being a place filled with original artists who aim to look and sound different. Do you feel pressure to carry on that tradition, or does it come naturally?
G-Eazy: The Bay Area is a weird kinda place. I don’t think there’s any other place in the world quite like it. We’re kind of a bubble, and we take pride in that, in being different. I think it’s just something that comes with the territory, I guess.
Ambrosia for Heads: What are some of the most influential musical movements from there that you feel are really a part of you and the rest of this generation of Hip-Hop artists from the area?
G-Eazy: Well the Hyphy movement was what I grew up on. That time period, 2004-2006 was when I was really coming of age and falling in love with music, so that was definitely the most influential era in my upbringing. So now, it’s a generation of kids who grew up on Hyphy, and now that we’re coming of age, it’s our chance to try and take that to the next level.
Ambrosia for Heads: The cover art for When It’s Dark Out is really striking. Could you talk about that the last two album titles (“These Things Happen When It’s Dark Out”) being emblazoned on your jacket and what you hoped to convey conceptually?
G-Eazy: Well that jacket has been like a second layer of skin, I never took it off. It was a staple of my wardrobe for a couple years and my good friend Reggie, who’s an artist, told me he really wanted to paint my jacket. So I gave it to him and told him the new album’s title was When It’s Dark Out and let him do his thing. I love what he did to it, and I just felt like it would be bold for the album art, you know what I mean, to have my back turned and just let the jacket be the cover of the album.
Ambrosia for Heads: The new album’s closing track, “Everything Will Be OK” is really personal, tragic song about loss. What gave you the courage to sing about the death of your mother’s partner and share such vulnerability?
G-Eazy: It’s a really honest song. It’s about channeling my demons and just opening up fully. It’s kind of dark, but it’s just…real. And that’s what this album was all about, just opening up and you know, going there. I just decided that it would be powerful to do the song.
Ambrosia for Heads: Are you looking forward to performing it live? It’s such a moving song, so are you nervous about sharing it with people in a live setting?
G-Eazy: Absolutely. It’s kind of a weird situation, honestly. I’m not really sure how I’m gonna play it. ‘Cause that song is going to end up being the biggest song on the album, not in a commercial sense, but just like…impacting people. I think that song and its message are gonna like, outgrow the rest of the album in a sense. But it’s one of those songs where I don’t even know if I can perform it live.
Ambrosia for Heads: To bring it back to the whole album in general, I wanted to touch upon the curating of guest artists this time around. You’ve got some pretty major artists on it, but also some who folks will likely be unfamiliar with. Can you speak to the importance of that kind of balance for you, between cohesiveness in sound and star power?
G-Eazy: Well cohesiveness of sound matters more to me than star power, like all the way. A great song can come from anybody. A great performance can come from anybody. It doesn’t matter who you are, and that’s truly what I believe. I mean, I’ve got friends of mine on the album who might not have a big following or whatever, but they make great music. I feel blessed to have the Chris Brown’s and the Big Sean’s, you know what I mean? But they’re on there ’cause they sound great on those songs. Just like my friends sound great on the songs they’re on, and that’s why they’re on the album. I just think great music is great music and it doesn’t matter who wrote it or where it came from. At the end of the day, I’m all about the cohesiveness of an album and how it plays from top to bottom and the sequencing and all that goes into it. You know, to me, that matters more than the list of people who are on it.
Ambrosia for Heads: Is creating a cohesive album something you already knew how to do, or was it something you learned along the way as your success grew?
G-Eazy: Nah, this is something I’ve always believed in. I’ve always been drawn to albums like [Dr. Dre’s] 2001, [A Tribe Called Quest’s] Midnight Marauders, [and Nas’] Illmatic that play top to bottom. I like to let it happen organically when it comes to my albums. I’ll figure out where I go from here, but in general I just believe in the idea of an album.
Ambrosia for Heads: It’s a dying art.
G-Eazy: [Laughs] It is a dying art. It’s bad. We’re the generation of Snapchat and our attention spans are so short they don’t allow us to actually sit down and listen to something from top to bottom but I guess I’m a dreamer. I believe in that.
Ambrosia for Heads: In the song “What If,” you ask a series of questions of the listener, including “what if the game didn’t care I was White? Would I still be selling out shows” What was your goal with this song?
G-Eazy: On that song I just wanted to pose a bunch of questions, make people think. Some of them are more obvious than others, some of them are more of a conversation than others.
Ambrosia for Heads: Have there been any lessons carried over into the recording and promotional process for When It’s Dark Out that you learned while working on These Things Happen?
G-Eazy: Just to push yourself. It’s not done until it’s done, so it can never hurt to just keep recording and keep recording. If you end up with too much music and you’re having trouble cutting it down, that’s usually a good problem.