G-Eazy on his fondness for the music of Tennis and how Steve Jobs changed everything for him
G-Eazy is an up and coming rapper born in Oakland but based in New Orleans. The MC, who stands out thanks to his Dapper Dan appearance, gravely voice and self-made production, broke out somewhat thanks to his Endless Summer mixtape, which featured a remix of Dion's "Runaround Sue." His independently released album from 2012, Must Be Nice, marked a huge step forward in every way. We recently spoke with G-Eazy about his love for surf rock, the darker side of partying and whether he'd rather be president or with Rihanna.
Westword: You're pretty much completely self-made -- self-recorded, mostly self-produced, label-independent: Has that been a conscious choice of yours, or did you need to do that by necessity?
G-Eazy: Well, I think back in the day when I was first starting to make music, all I wanted to do was to get a record deal. I thought the whole idea of being signed was really sexy and attractive, and I was like, "I just want to have a major label deal and all this bullshit." And, I dunno, somewhere along the road I kind of started to figure out that maybe I could do this myself, and that kind of became the chip on my shoulder to say, "I'd rather build this myself my way and build a brand exactly how I want to do it, rather than, you know, work under somebody." So I just wanted to keep my creative control and prove to the world that I could do it.
And you majored in music business at Loyola. How has that helped?
Yeah, I think that had a lot to do with it -- just learning the ins and outs of business from my teachers -- you know, learning all about marketing and finance and how to run a business and corporate culture and all that. I also attribute a lot of it to Steve Jobs. I read the Steve Jobs book and that kind of changed everything. I've been, like, an Apple geek my whole life, and have always seen him as a hero. But reading the book, and learning about how he built the company, and maintaining that corporate culture and all that, I think that influenced me a lot.
You used to be in a group called the Bay Boys.
Haha. Oh, no.
Were the Hot Boys a source for inspiration for you?
Yeah, for sure. What's weird is the Hot Boys and the whole New Orleans Cash Money thing had a really big impact on the Bay when that was popping off. I don't all the way understand it. I mean, I know that they were big everywhere and had a lot of commercial success in the mid to late '90s, but they were really, really felt in the Bay Area. So yeah, everybody in the world wanted to put together a group of rappers, and I'm sure that played a part and kind of influenced us early on.
So do you feel that you've always sort of been destined to end up in New Orleans?
I don't know about destined, but, I mean, New Orleans has definitely been a great place for me for the last few years. You know, it's inspired me a lot, and I've learned a lot from living there. It's a fun town.
So the Endless Summer mixtape had a strong influence in surf rock, and it was also the name of a Bruce Brown surfing documentary. I was wondering if you were a surfer yourself.
Nah, I never really got into surfing because I never lived in a beach town. Maybe if I grew up in Santa Cruz, instead of Oakland, I would've gotten more into it. My dad put me on to that movie when I was a kid, and I really liked to watch it, and I remember I came back to it a couple years ago, and I watched it one day on Netflix because I remember my dad would always talk about it. And not only is it a really fucking awesome movie, but I just felt a really strong parallel between that movie and what I was trying to do as a musician.
I mean, you basically have these guys that got to travel the world and do whatever they loved to do most for a living. I was just finishing up my Senior year in college, and that's what I wanted to do with music; I wanted to wake up every day and do what I love to do, which is work on music, and I wanted to tour the world doing it. And I've never wanted to get a regular job. So, for me, leaving college and entering into this chapter of getting to make a living, having fun touring the world, it kind of felt like an endless summer, and it was a parallel that kind of clicked.
But there's also a very distinctive sound to surf rock. What do you think attracted you to that sound?
Yeah, well I also loved the soundtrack of that movie. But it's also sounds that I grew up around. My mom would always play me a lot of late-'50s, late-'60s rock. And my uncle, who we also lived with -- I lived in a big family home with my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, my mom, my little brother. My aunt and uncle were in a local surf rock band, and they were inspired by a lot of that stuff, and they would rehearse in our basement.
And when I was a kid, I'd go downstairs and I'd watch them rehearse. And I always looked up to them, so I was surrounded by a lot of that music when I was a kid. So I think that's why I always appreciated it. And, I dunno, there was some moment at some point where I realized that a lot of those rhythms weren't so different from contemporary rap if you half-time the drums -- so put those melodies and chords over top of rap drums; it just kind of clicked.
One of the samples that you used on Endless Summer is of Tennis, which is a local band.
Yeah, yeah. I love Tennis.
I was wondering why you chose that one in particular.
Well, to me, I always felt a really strong '60s pop influence in their music. It was just like a contemporary take on a classic sound. But, I dunno, I really love their music, and that was one of the songs that stood out to me as, you know, this would be really dope to remix. And I just threw it out on the Internet, and it just kinda grew legs and got popular, I guess.
It seems like, where on Endless Summer, you had to rely on sampling for hooks, on Must Be Nice, you could attract a lot of guest artists to sing for you. Was it nice to have more control over the piece of the song?
Yeah, I mean, there's kind of two aspects that go into that: One is the creative side -- I really wanted to have more control over the music, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could write choruses from scratch instead of using the crutch of a sample. But the second aspect is the business side: If I was going to sample records forever, then I'd be broke forever. If I was going to write my own songs, then I'd have a chance to actually make a living in music. And, you know, there's always been the business side to it.
So that's maybe one side where being label independent has really altered the sound of your music because the label can't support you on the sample side?
Yeah, yeah. I mean one of the main reasons I released Must Be Nice without any samples and wrote it all myself and put it on iTunes was that I needed a way to pay rent. You know, I had just gotten out of college, and tour wasn't supporting me all the way. I needed an iTunes check every month to pay rent, so I needed to put an album out, you know?
But you're giving it out for free, aren't you?
Yeah, yeah. I mean, at the same time, I knew I had to build a brand, so I put it out for free, as well as I made it available on iTunes. A lot of fans just like to support the music. It's kind of like a digital tip jar in some ways.
And you've found that that has been a good way to make money?
Yeah. It works.
Must Be Nice was much darker than Endless Summer, and so are the singles that you've been putting out. Is that a road you're planning on going down in future?
Yeah, yeah. A lot of the new album is even darker than Must Be Nice. I dunno, I like to push myself creatively and try to continue to evolve as a person and as a musician and as a songwriter and all that. I dunno, I just feel like anybody can glorify the party, but there's a deeper side to everything too, and I just try to capture the introspective side of things.
Your new album -- when is that coming out?
I'm looking to release it in the fall. I'm probably like eighty percent done at this point. I just really wanna make sure I fine tune this one and perfect everything that I can.
And this is gonna be another one where you're doing mostly all the compositions yourself.
Yeah, it's all original production.
You seem to have a love or at least a fascination with the music of Danny Elfman. I was wondering what that was about.
Yeah, haha. I dunno, Tim Burton's always been one of my favorite directors. Maybe it starts with the O.G. Batman movies that he did in the late '80s, early '90s with Michael Keaton. But Danny Elfman has always done most of the music for Tim Burton's movies, and, I dunno, I've always loved his style, this really dark, haunting sound.
Your production recently has been really great. I think it's really moody and textured, and I was wondering if you planned on branching out at all as strictly a producer for other MCs.
Yeah, I think that time will eventually come, but for right now, it's like the way I work, I like to spend a lot of time on one song. Some producers will go into the studio and make five beats in one day. I'd rather take one idea and spend the time I'd spend on five beats on that one idea and really flesh it out and turn it into something.
So just the way my schedule works right now, it's like I really only have time to work on tracks for myself. And I'm trying to essentially break myself as an artist. I haven't made it yet, so until I do, it's kind of like I want to keep the good songs for myself. I guess that sounds selfish, but I'll get to a point where I'm stable as an artist and I can afford to, like, you know, give my good songs to other people.
Just for fun, I was wondering if you could break down your plan to get with Rihanna.
Haha. That's more so like a life goal I have. I feel like if I ever slay Rihanna, then I will have made it in the world. There's nothing bigger you can accomplish, nothing in the world. That's like bigger than being the president. No, I'm joking, obviously.
Is there anything else that you'd like to say to Denver fans?
Just thanks for the love. Denver's one of my favorite places to visit. Last time I was there, we sold out the -- was it the Bluebird or the Gothic? I think we were supposed to be at the Bluebird, and they moved us up to the Gothic, and we ended up selling that out. It was one of the biggest shows of the tour. So, yeah, I got mad love for Denver.
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