For the first time in a long time, Gerald “G-Eazy” Gillum can fall asleep in his own bed. After nearly three years of relentless touring, selling out shows from coast to coast, and gathering a solid fan base of (mostly) female followers, the 25-year-old rapper/producer is taking in some Bay Area sunshine before launching into another expansive (and almost entirely sold-out) North American tour. “Man, these two weeks were like gold,” he says over the phone, his voice smooth, relaxed, “home is kind of an idea that doesn’t exist…it’s a light in a never-ending tunnel.”
While the majority of post-graduates tend to nose dive into a quarter-life crisis, the Oakland-based MC decided to hit his grad year running – recently breaking into a full-on sprint with his critically acclaimed LP These Things Happen, which debuted at #3 on the Billboard Hip-Hop/Rap charts last July. Growing up around the infamous Hyphy scene in the late 90s and early 2000s, Gerald has had fame on his mind ever since he began high school, at a time when Mac Dre, E-40 and The Pack would play on the radio “just as much as Jay-Z.” After seven years of producing, and years of constant hustling, he finally landed “the deal of the decade” with RCA, having full creative control over each of his tracks.
Described by Rolling Stone as “a six-foot four white guy who looks less like an emerging Bay Area rapper and more like chiseled, slick Fifties retro-rebel from a Lana Del Ray video,” it’s clear that G-Eazy knows what he’s doing. Paired with his charismatic live shows and budding talent, G’s stock has risen from ‘frat rapper’ to ‘mainstream babe;’ comparisons to Elvis, James Dean, and Drake being thrown around on the regular. While the rap scene in 2014 was marked by serious accusations of cultural appropriation, thanks to the likes of Iggy Azalea, and even Mackelmore’s signature, chart topping blends of rap-pop, G-Eazy’s music —with its slow, southern beats and clean flow— set him apart from the pack, regardless of race. While his tracks undoubtedly hype up that machismo, self-congratulatory themes you learn to expect from an up-and-coming rapper, a handful of songs delve deeper, shining a light on the darker spaces of Gerald/G-Eazy’s persona. In short, he’s someone to keep an eye on.
“Music comes alive when people get to experience it, and talk about it, share it, listen to it. That’ll never happen if you don’t walk away and release it.”
TM: A lot of critics tend to focus more on your look, rather than the quality of your music. How do you deal with this kind of feedback?
G: I try to just keep my blinders on and take everything day by day. It just feels good to have this platform, and to have an audience that cares about the music I make. I mean, everything was grown from the soil real organically. This was made in my backyard, so it feels good just to have an audience. I don’t really care too much about anything negative. It feels good to be here, it feels good to pay rent off of a dream. It feels good to be able to help my mom out and take care of her.
TM: Speaking of your mom, the voicemail message she leaves at the end of ‘Opportunity Cost’ is very personal. What made you want to put this on the end of the track?
G: Well, to me, that voicemail was honest, it was real. It hit home for me, it came at a time when I was finishing the album and I was busier than I had ever been in my life…everything was turning into a whirlwind and I hadn’t talked to her in a while. I called her to catch her up on everything that was going on, and she couldn’t talk for long so she called back and left that voicemail. It just felt right to add on to the album, it’s just supposed to be there. And I think that’s what people connect with – that realness, that honesty, that vulnerability. I feel that people can identify with that. I mean obviously I was nervous to do it! But it felt too real to not put on the album.
TM: It’s a very intimate way to end a song.
G: Yeah, but she helped me get here. She’s always been in my corner. I don’t think she understood why her fourteen year-old son was bringing half a dozen friends over everyday, and recording till like midnight on a school night…but she saw how passionate I was about the music, and how dedicated I was to it, and I guess she figured that if any teenage kid is this devoted to the craft, then it’s got to be a good thing at least. It’s better than being outside getting in trouble. She’s always been in my corner. She’s real close. She’s my homie.
TM: In a previous interview you’ve stated that These Things Happen feels like your debut, but you’ve been releasing music on the internet independently for years. Do you ever go back and listen to your old stuff, and think, “look how far I’ve come”?
G: Nah [laughs]. I’m a weirdo when it comes to old material. I can’t listen to it. I’ll just cringe. I’m even like that with These Things Happen. As soon as it’s done and it’s out there, I can’t go back and listen. I’ll go and over-analyze everything and think about what I would have done differently if I had the chance to do it over.
TM: Aside from the Hyphy scene, who else have been your musical influences over the years?
G: Oh, people from all over – everyone from Nas to Jay-Z, to Drake and Lil’ Wayne, to Eminem, to Kanye, obviously, John Lennon, and John Cash for sure. He’s a real hero of mine. I think what’s great about Johnny Cash is his honesty and vulnerability. He’s both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time, and I think that’s what I identify with in his stories, you know?
TM: You’ve stated in previous interviews that there are two sides to you: the ‘Gerald’ and the ‘G-Eazy.’
G: The ordinary and the extraordinary, yeah! There’s the honest and vulnerable, and introspective side, and G-Eazy is the invincible side, he’s the evil villain. He’s got super powers, and if he wants your girlfriend he’ll take her. He’s doesn’t give a fuck. And I think people live vicariously through the G-Eazy songs, and they connect with the Gerald songs.
TM: You have a ton of creative control on this album. How long, roughly, would you say that it takes to put together a track for you?
G: Oh man well it depends. Sometimes in comes together in a couple hours – and I’ll spend some time polishing it – but sometimes it’ll come together that quickly. Other times, you take a song like ‘Downtown Love’, we kept coming back to that song and changing parts and taking part away, re-doing parts, switching it around…you know, you can spend forever painting a painting, but eventually you have to know when to walk away and say ‘it’s finished’. Music comes alive when people get to experience it, and talk about it, share it, listen to it, and that’ll never happen if you don’t walk away and release it.
TM: On a good day, say for a sold-out show, how many girls try and invite themselves back to your tour bus?
G: [Laughs] I don’t know…have you ever seen the old pictures of the Beatles with the girls crowded around the bus? Sometimes it feels like that.
You can catch G-Eazy at the Corona Theater on Wednesday, January 14th. Tickets available here.