G. Love, born Garret Dutton, began mixing hip-hop with other styles of music before it was cool to do so. “I’d be practicing folk music in my bedroom,” he remembers. “Then I’d be going out skateboarding, writing graffiti, smoking weed, playing basketball and listening to rap with my friends. One day, these two worlds collided. That’s when I became G. Love.”
With his new moniker, G. Love formed a band in 1993, signed with Okeh Records, a Sony revival of the classic jazz label, and began mixing blues and roots sounds with hip-hop. Today, it's common to find hip-hop's influence in all genres of popular music, but along with Beck and the Roots, G. Love & Special Sauce was one of the first groups to warp hip-hop with seemingly disconnected genres of music — and the band has been at it ever since.
“For better or for worse, we’ve really experimented and worn our influences on our sleeves, whether it was Johnny Cash or the Ethiopians,” says G. Love. “I’m like a sponge. Everything that I hear, taste or smell comes out of me in different ways. Our music is like ‘American music,’ which is basically everything.”
Renowned country-blues musician Keb' Mo' was also one of the first artists to sign with Okeh Records back in 1993. He and G. Love struck up a friendship but drifted apart before reconnecting while touring several years ago. When Keb' Mo' dangled the possibility of producing one of G. Love's albums, it was a no brainer: The latter has always wanted to win a Grammy. Keb' Mo' already has five to his name, including the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Americana Album for Oklahoma.
"He has a way of pushing you and challenging everything,” says G. Love. “He wants to get the greatest performance possible. Everything has to be perfect.”
He especially recalls the first night of recording his new album The Juice, when they stayed in the studio until 3 a.m. working on one song. The next morning, Keb' Mo' told him, “You know I was just messing with you last night. I wanted to see if you were here to work.”
And work they did. The Juice's twelve songs range from upbeat bops like "Shake Your Hair" and "SoulBQue" to chilled-out grooves like "Drinkin' Wine." The band keeps its distinct medley of hip-hop with country and blues, but with a noticeably higher quality recording sound than G. Love & Special Sauce's typically lo-fi style. G. Love's lyrics combine personal material, as in "She's the Rock," which is, perhaps unsurprisingly, about his wife, with commentary on political matter in songs such as "Birmingham," which features Keb' Mo' and Robert Randolph.
“We’re living in Donald Trump’s America right now, and from my perspective, it’s a pretty ugly place to be,” G. Love says. “I see him and his version of America as being kind of evil. I can’t relate to it, because I try to live my life with tolerance for people of all races, sexual preferences, backgrounds, anything.
“I know Donald Trump as the guy who had the casino," he adds. "I was smoking weed and sneaking into the Trump Taj Mahal when I was eighteen. He’s like a mob boss from Atlantic City. Tell me he hasn’t buried people in the marshes around Atlantic City, and I’ll tell you: ‘Go dig.’”
The titular "The Juice," which is the first song in the record, is G. Love's groovy take on a protest song. The song slams the Trump administration and celebrates the people mobilizing against it.
“It’s a rallying cry for protest kids, progressive politicians, and for people who feel that they don’t have a voice,” he says. “The juice is the power. You have the power.”
G. Love & Special Sauce plays with Jontavious Willis at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, February 29, at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th Street, Boulder. Tickets are $30 and available at the Fox Theatre website.
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