Oakland Rapper G-Eazy Talks Kendrick Lamar, Learning the Hustle, and Fresh Style

G-Eazy photos courtesy of Farfetch

Gerald Earl Gillum, better known as G-Eazy, has had quite a busy year, arching from his last year’s debut album These Things Happen peaking on Billboard charts to the sold out shows that have followed such success. The Oakland native had been releasing numerous mix tapes online years before the studio album dropped just last year. It was through the Internet that G-Eazy really reached fans, allowing him to eventually open for renowned performers such as Snoop Dogg, Lil Wayne, and Drake.

I had the chance to sit down with G at Lightbox Studios in the Bronx as he prepared for a photo shoot with Farfetch, just arriving the previous night from Austin, Texas where he had performed for the massive SXSW Music Festival; thus, closing his worldwide tour.

I know that the hyphy movements and Bay Area movements have greatly influenced you. What’s influencing you right now and perhaps hip-hop itself?

Man, well…Kendrick [Lamar’s] album just pushed the whoooole thing forward. I don’t think we’ve seen anything that powerful, just as a body of work. That’s the most sophisticated hip-hop album anyone’s heard and the most important album in my lifetime almost. It’s so early to tell. It’s just an album that tackles so many things. It pushes the envelope in terms of what a rapper is capable of and what a force hip-hop can be.

The first track I ever listened to by you was “Tumblr Girls”, which for me captured such a generational feel and actually moved me.

Thank you.

 

Through your music, there’s definitely a thread of women in these certain neighborhoods and situations.

I’m very observant, you know? I love people watching and I love stories. I take in things around me and the interesting stuff finds its way back into my music, I guess. It’s kind-of an algorithm of people I’ve met. Just people I’ve seen and been around. [Laughs.] I dream of living in New York, every time I come here, I fall more and more in love with it. It’s just so rich with culture and energy and style. I love to just drink coffee and people watch.

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You dropped mixtapes earlier on, yeah? Circa MySpace…? 

That was like ‘06. That’s what kids my age were doing, you know, in my area… Hip-hop was our outlet. You were either into music or sports. I guess I probably got into music because I just wasn’t good at sports. I was more passionate about that. That was our outlet and our hope.

We were in a group. Those were the practice years. It takes years of practice and work and dedication to your craft. The only difference, in my case, is that my practice years were documented because of recording technology. That’s how we got our chops. Mix tape after mix tape…Learning the hustle. Try and climb.

Since you began with uploading music on the Internet, and social media today has changed so drastically, how has it affected you as an artist?

You’re more connected to your audience. I think that connection’s important in terms of keeping in touch with the fans and what they think. It’s kind of easy in this business to slip out of touch and get removed from the real world. I mean…My lifestyle isn’t necessarily the same lifestyle as those who are listening to it. It can be hard maintaining your sanity and it’s important to stay in touch with reality…but also not let them get too close.

What’s going on now for you? The tour is over? 

We just finished the tour. We got back from Australia two or three weeks ago? I don’t know what month it is. Australia was amazing. To get to travel around the world and go to a country I’ve never been to and perform before a sold-out crowd who know all the words. It’s not like they play me on the radio down there. So, in that case, the Internet is a beautiful thing. To give music the chance to spread… It was beautiful.

I’m also excited to be done with tour and go back into the creative process. I record some on the road but there are a lot of distractions. Now, I’m going back to a hibernating place. I just spent a week in Atlanta in the studio. When I shut off the outside world, I can really dive in creatively and get things done. I’m about to start the same thing here in New York. We just got a studio. So, it’s back to starting over.

It sounds like your traveling has really become part of that creative process. So many cities, so many studios… 

Hell yeah. The cities all have different energies that bring different inspirations. It’s from all those long nights in these cities…

I pay rent somewhere but it’s not like home. But, naturally, for music you’re in L.A. and New York a lot.

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When I see your music videos I’m really drawn into the concepts and I’m curious about your creative input. The creative aesthetics are on point and for “Tumblr Girls” you even incorporated photography. 

I think visuals are important. You can get so much from one song but you can get more from the whole album and the artwork attached to it and the music videos to give you the whole wide experience behind the concepts. As far as the music videos, we have a tight-knit team. Javi, our tour videographer, did the “Tumblr Girls” video. Bobby directed the “Downtown Love” music video. He’s been on tour with us as well.

They brought those original ideas to the table and then we all kind of dive in. Like the “I Mean It” video came to me one night and I said I want to do this satirical Anchorman approach to this song that’s a bit more serious and direct to give it this juxtaposition. We all sit around the ideas and work on it together. We’re very big on quality control and anything we put out has to be top-notch. It has to make sense and it has to work.

You’ve been called the James Dean of hip-hop. In terms of style what do you like?

In terms of style, I want it to be timeless. There’s some contemporary influence of street wear in hip-hop. Leather jackets…Motorcycle jackets…Bombers… Very simple and clean. Saint Laurent —

I love your shoes.

[Ed note: They’re Saint Laurent sneakers, the ones with pineapples.]

Thank you. A.P.C. Phillip Lim. Acne. Brands that take a minimal approach to design but just execute very well. But then mix it up with Supreme or Jordans to keep that juxtaposition and those elements of street wear culture with high fashion. “I spent $5,000 for this jacket and I spent $150 on my shoes…” something like that.

[Shop G-Eazy’s look here.]

When you were growing up in Oakland what album really got you?

“400 Degreez” by Juvenile. I remember Juvenile and Dem Hot Boyz. That and Dr. Dre’s “2001”. That was California music, regardless of what side. That was our music for the whole coast. That album was larger than life. I played the fuck out of it in my car and even my mom loved the album.

Top to bottom: it’s all a masterpiece. What I’ve always admired about Dr. Dre is that care for creating such a cohesive project and striving to create a masterpiece and not quitting until it’s as good as it can be. Just appreciating the concept of an album…That’s why I’ve respected so much with what Kendrick has done with these two albums he’s done… Something cohesive, conceptual, and something really strong from beginning to end. That’s something you don’t see everyone do. I don’t think everyone is capable of that, having that insight or ability to do that. The goal is to strive toward with every project is to create something that matters from beginning to end.

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