Imagine an alternate reality where rock ‘n’ roll and hip-hop come of age simultaneously, and greasers blast fat beats from vintage car stereos on their way to the sock hop. This is the world of G-Eazy, a New Orleans-bred emcee and producer whose been on a precipitous rise to the top of the rap game for the past few years. After a string of mixtape releases culminating with The Endless Summer, which demonstrated his pitch-perfect blend of doo-wop and hip-hop, G is poised to take over the national scene. He’s opened for Lil Wayne and A$AP Rocky, and is currently one of the few hip-hop artists on the Vans Warped Tour. We recently caught up with G about the tour, his upcoming album, and what he’d really do with a trip back in time.
OS: You’re playing on every date of the Vans Warped Tour this summer. What has it been like so far as a hip-hop artist on a mostly punk tour?
G: Well, it totally feels like I’m an outsider, but it’s all working out just fine. I think that having Mod Sun and T. Mills playing the same stage that I’m playing helps a lot because we have a lot of crossover fans that we share. But other that that it’s been fun. It’s been interesting being the outsider and not always fitting in, but there are a ton of cool people here and a ton of cool bands. It’s not really my scene and I wasn’t even into this as a kid, so it’s definitely strange, but it’s really awesome in its own way. There’s a lot of fans here that straight up look like actors from a Tim Burton movie.
OS: But you’re also kind of an out-of-the-box hip-hop artist yourself, with the ’60s doo-wop vibe that you bring to your tracks. What if you could go actually back to the era that you emulate in your music? Which artist would you want to collaborate with?
G: The obvious answer would be The Beatles, but that’s not really a possibility. I feel like they wouldn’t collaborate with anybody. They were kind of in their own world. But if it would be possible to squeeze into one of their sessions and find a way to work with John Lennon, that would be really unbelievable. Also, I mean, if I could go back in time and I could get Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers to the studio and have them lay parts down, I think that would be kind of awesome.
OS: There’s an especially retro vibe on your new single, “Mad,” featuring Devon Baldwin, who’s been a pretty frequent collaborator of yours for a while. How do you know her and when did you guys start teaming up?
G: I met her in New Orleans. She goes to the same school that I went to, and I had heard around campus that she was a singer (and that she was really attractive) and so I decided that she was someone that I wanted to work with. When I finally started working with her, it didn’t click right away, but there was one session that we had together where it finally did, and from then on she’s been a really frequent collaborator. Even if she’s not listed on a track, chances are she’s helped me with it. She sings a ton of my background parts too. When I’m making a beat, I like to use the voice as an instrument by laying down a bunch of pads and vocal harmonies behind my tracks, so anytime you hear those John Lennon-esque “aaahs” in the background, chances are it’s probably her singing them. We’ve got great chemistry and she’s my sidekick in the studio. She helps live too. She knows music theory a little better than I do so she always can help me out if I’m having trouble figuring out what key something’s in or what kind of harmonies to put on a track.
OS: You mentioned going to college in New Orleans, which is obviously really famous for its historic place in American music history. What was the effect of being there, and writing and producing music in that environment?
G: It’s a great city to be in as a musician because it cares so much about live music in particular. And that’s really how I got my footing in New Orleans. It was through playing out a lot, and playing a bunch of live shows. In that sense, it gave me the opportunity to play a lot of live shows and to practice and hone my craft, whereas if I had lived in a city where there wasn’t a lot of love for live music and not a lot going on, then it would have been way harder to get shows booked. But other than my own music, there was so much else going on that I got to learn from, like going to see brass bands play and see how they work a crowd and how good they are onstage and as bands. Going to bounce shows and seeing how they work the crowd and how they party. There’s just so much going on and you can soak up different aspects from different scenes.
OS: I imagine that it was probably pretty crazy trying to balance your college life with your performance life. What was that like?
G: Well, in all reality I think that’s a common misconception. Most kids spend a lot of their time in college partying and socializing. You have more free time in college than you’ll ever have again. It’s just that you’re living on campus and most people are really sociable. I never really had too big of a social life. All my free time was spent working in the studio. For me, all through college I was working to make sure that I wouldn’t have to go get a job after college like a regular 9-5, because I knew that if that happened, then I wouldn’t have as much free time as I had in college. So I just tried to take advantage of the free time I had whenever I wasn’t in class, and sometimes even when I was in class, to work on music all the time.
OS: I actually did a bit of digging and found that you actually have an old profile on OurStage from 2008! How did online music sites like OurStage function in your early promotional strategy when you were still trying to get the word out about your music?
G: I was doing everything. I really thought I was going to be an internet star and blow up on MySpace or something (laughs). That was the era that I got started in, when all of that was really booming and it was all brand new. People forget, because MySpace is so dead now, but it’s really not that old. It only really started nine years ago. That’s not a long time at all, when you think about it. It was a brand new idea and really intriguing to me that you could load your music up online, share it, and it could potentially go viral with people sharing it all around the world. But because it was such a new idea, I was a little naive about it at first, thinking, “I’m just going to load this up and then I’m gonna be Soulja Boy tomorrow.” You actually have to work for it.
OS: Your last mixtape, The Endless Summer, is about to celebrate its one-year anniversary. What are you thinking next in terms of album-length projects like mixtapes or albums?
G: I’m almost finished with the new album, and I’m really excited about it. I took a lot of time on this one, and usually I like to get more than one album out per year, but this is one that I really took my time with. I spent at least 60 hours with every song that I have on there. Oftentimes when I put out music, after it’s out there I wish I could call it back and fix or tweak some things, like maybe it’s the mix or my performance on a verse, or I wish I could have added more parts to the beat. But on this one, I want to make sure that I do it right all the way and that I feel like I can stand behind it and be proud of it. So I am almost finished with this new album, and the goal is to get it out before or right around the time that Endless Summer hits the one-year anniversary mark.
Catch G-Eazy on the Vans Warped Tour this summer, and be on the lookout for his new full-length project, which drops this August.