Work, work, work. Party, party, party.
Dancing along with hordes of fans packed into Denver’s Epernay Lounge for an exclusive listening party, hip-hop emcee G-Eazy stands in his booth, watching over the frantic crowd wrestling around one another to get a good look at him. His new album, When It’s Dark Out, pumps through the high-end speakers. A sea of smartphones, with their accompanying flashes, direct everyone’s attention to the man of the night. As it happens, Eazy remains reserved in the front, tossing back the occasional shot of Bulleit Bourbon while pumping his arms to the beat of his new songs. It’s been a long journey for G-Eazy to make it to this point, and now that he’s here, he’s not letting it go.
For Gerald Gillum, this kind of publicity has become a reality most every night. The 26-year-old has made power moves over the past four years to secure himself a spot among hip-hop’s biggest come-ups. Starting with critically lauded mixtapes The Outsider and Endless Summer early on, Eazy brought music fans a new flavor of Cali-rap — equipped with Frankie Valli samples and accompanied by his own slicked-back Valli-style hair. Years later, he’s setting up to release his second full length album on a major label and tour the world because of it. But the Bay-area native still wants what he’s always wanted: to make dope tracks.
“I just want to make great music, it’s as simple as that,” he admits. “That’s what I love doing in life, and that’s what I feel in my heart. I just want to make the best music I can make, see where it gets me.”
During a time when the music industry is chock full of gimmicks and viral superstars, G-Eazy cements his name into the conversation in the most traditional and simplest of ways he can — through his music, videos and live shows. Now that his fan base spans the world over, he’s confident that the steps he took to get to where he is can catapult him even further into rap superstardom.
“I think you’ve got to have a strong sense of self,” he says. “Know what you want to say and how you want to say it. But, at the same time, you have to maintain yourself and stay true to what got you there.”
Though the quality of his lyrical structures and production has significantly increased through the years (he’s now making radio-ready songs instead of blog-ready music), the foundation of having him at the helm the whole way through the creative process is still the same. “So when we talk to the label,” he explains, “I’m not waiting for someone to tell me what direction to take it. I know what I want to do and how I want to do it.”
It’s a working formula, too. His first major label album, These Things Happen (a precursor to the new album, making the full project’s name “These Things Happen When It’s Dark Out”) peaked at number 1 on the US Rap charts. Popular singles such as “I Mean It” and “Almost Famous” spread like wildfire following the releases of their accompanying videos online, making him one of the most popular artists in the internet-fueled industry.
For fans, it’s not just about all the dope music that G releases. What makes him such a popular artist for younger listeners is the lifestyle and swagger he portrays — a dapper young gentleman, one who also drinks, smokes, parties and turns all the way up. It’s why when you see him in person at his own listening party, he’s backed into a corner by screaming fans, both guys and gals alike. People envy what they think his life is like. But there’s something more substantial in G-Eazy’s work than the visage, and it’s finally starting to come to the forefront of his delivery on the new album.
“It got way harder this time,” he says about the artistic progression. “With the first album, you don’t have any pressure, expectations — your schedule’s not that crazy when you’re making it. When you’re making the second one, you have to squeeze in the time between touring the world and living up to whatever everyone expects you to do.”
In his first single from the new album, the Bebe Rexha assisted, “Me, Myself, and I”, he gets far more personal and authentic than in projects past. He raps, introspectively: “I found how to cope with my anger / I'm swimming in money / swimming in liquor.” On a separate track, “Sad Boy,” he asks himself: “Gerald what are you so sad for?” It’s clear throughout that the happy “Cali-rapper” everyone thought they knew has matured with more to say.
“Sonically, it has more of a cinematic feel to it,” he says about the album’s outcome. “There’s a lot of (those) things that inspired it.”
Come Dec 4, when the rest of the world hears When It’s Dark Out, G-Eazy will be hopping on and off planes once again, rolling through another world tour. His stop here, through Broomfield’s 1st Bank Center on Sunday, Jan 10, hosts himself and one other artist featured on his previous album These Things Happen: A$AP Ferg.
“I mean, Fergy is the homie,” he says. “Ever since the first time I met him we’ve been cool, and I’m a huge believer of touring with your friends.”
With an entire catalogue of new music to show his fans on each stop, G-Eazy and the tour sets to reaffirm his validity in the rap game. Those who wrote him off as a gimmick — or a simple “frat rapper” — couldn’t have been more in the wrong (his new album has features from legends like Too $hort and E-40, further legitimizing his role in a tough genre to break). Now is his time to take revenge on the haters, with his head in the right place to do so.
“Where’s my head at?” he says through laughter. “My daily task is trying to keep my head from exploding. It’s important to keep the right people around you and always stay humble and stay grounded. It’s gets pretty easy to lose yourself.”
Through all the turn up and partying, there are deeper messages at work here being conveyed in G-Eazy’s music. One that proclaims the superstar lifestyle isn’t as perfect as we see it through our screens. Though he can pack a popular Denver bar with little more than the promise of an appearance, the party doesn’t come easy for Eazy.
He’s “work hard, play hard” personified.
Photos courtesy of G-Eazy