Rapper G-Eazy on Sampling Doo-Wop Music: "It's a Match Made in Heaven"
Whether it's girls with winged eyeliner and beehives or guys in Letterman jackets and Ray-Ban shades, we're all hungry for 1950s and '60s nostalgia. And up and coming hip-hop artist G-Eazy is providing us with just that. With his greaser "T-Bird" style and regular use of doo-wop samples, it comes as no surprise that G-Eazy is turning heads rather quickly.
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The Oakland born, New Orleans-based rapper has seen considerable success in a short amount of time opening for such acts as Drake, Lil Wayne, and A$AP Rocky. Now, at the ripe age of 23, he's kicking off 2013 with his first headlining tour in support of the recently released album, Must Be Nice.
In a phone interview, rapper G-Eazy spoke to New Times about musical influences, giving away music for free, and seeing success at 23.
New Times: How do you think growing up in Oakland influenced you musically?
G-Eazy: Well, when I was growing it was during the whole "hyphy" movement, so Mac Dre was everyone's favorite rapper. That was a big early influence on my music because that was the culture that I grew up in. That was the sound that I was most influenced by.
You've been known to sample doo-wop songs, what prompted you to choose that genre over another?
Well the thing about most doo-wop records is the rhythm to them, and their tempos sync up perfectly with contemporary rap, if you just half time the drums. So it was really just something that clicked in my head when I was listening to a lot of old records. I knew I could flip these and turn them into rap songs because you don't have to speed them up or slow them down. You just half time the drums, throw 808s under them, and it's a match made in heaven. It was just something that clicked. Plus, I always liked the melodies.
Did you grow up on those records?
Yeah. My mom and grandparents would play that stuff around the house and stuff when I was growing up.
What other types of music did you listen to growing up?
Specifically the Beatles when I was a little kid because that was all my mom played. That was her favorite band ever and she would play those albums for me all the time. When I got to kindergarten, or first grade, basically when I was in school and starting to hangout with friends, the music and the culture I was surrounded by was rap and hip-hop. You have this balance of when I was at home, my mom was playing Beatles records and in school it was all about about Tupac.
Do you remember what your first CD was?
My first CD... Um... I remember one of the first ones that I tried to save up and buy was Juvenile's album that came out and had "Back That Ass Up" on it. So, I saved up all my money, my allowance money, I was mowing the lawn and all that. My mom took me down to the record store, and it had the parental advisory sticker on it with the lo-fi, photoshopped babes on the front, fire, and all that. She looked at the back with the names of all the songs and said "Pick something else out." [laughs] I know [Dr. Dre's] 2001 was one of the early CDs that I bought. That ended up being a huge influence on me.
Whenever you've put out an album, you release it for free. Why the decision to do that?
That's really the era that we live in now. We have a generation of kids who are graduating college now, and pretty much grew up with Napster and Limewire. We've been kind of trained that music is something that you obtain for free, it's not a product that you pay for. That's just how we've been trained and raised.
Naturally, that's the world we live in and you gotta acclimate to that. But, with that, I was able to build a grassroots fanbase. It's tough if you're coming out with your first release and you don't have a fanbase already built. You don't have a group of people who are already following your music. It's really tough to push strangers to buy your record. They're more likely going to try something out if it's for free. So that was the strategy early on, just give it all away for free and hope to build a following around the music that I was making.
Do you think the internet makes it easier or harder to come up in the music industry?
Well it's interesting because the power is in your hands as the independent artist. It's not in the hands of a record label anymore. You can do it but it's just so cluttered and noisy because everyone else can do it as well. So, it really puts pressure on you to go hard and to write songs that are worth talking about.
Last year, I spoke with Yelawolf about seeing success in his 30s and why that's been a good thing. On the flip side, you're seeing it at a pretty early age. Is that scary or intimidating?
Sure. I mean, you always worry about sustainability. That's a big thing. I often talk about rap years being in the same vein as dog years. I've got to know that I'm 23 but if I was a lawyer, I'd be early 30s out of law school and with a job in some firm. It's the way I have to think about things. You always know that this isn't going to last forever and to capitalize on it while you can. But, at the same time I think if you just always work on, this is going to sound cheesy, writing from your heart and making genuine songs then your music has more of a chance of sustaining and lasting.
Do you think that in today's music industry it's more common to see artists who are focused on having a gimmick as opposed to worrying about sustainability?
Well, that's been around for awhile. But, there are always going to be those two different approaches to the music business. There is going to be the approach of get rich quick off a gimmick song, hope to sell a lot of singles and have a big year. Or there is the approach of to come up slow, pay your dues, go on tour when nobody is really coming, put out records when nobody is listening, and to keep working at your craft. To work on getting better, building your story, and to ultimately build a loyal fanbase.
What music have you been listening to lately?
Well, I'm always listening to the Beatles and Johnny Cash. Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky. The XX's kind of new album.
Are you constantly writing and working on new music?
Yeah. Yeah. The thing is, often times, I have nightmares about falling off or losing a little bit of the momentum that I have now, or not being able to sustain. The one thing that I believe is true, regardless of whatever, is that if you are always working hard and if you're saying genuine things in your music then I feel like everything has a way of working itself out for you.
In comparison to say a rock and roll crowd, hip-hop fans seem to be more difficult to win over. Do you still get stage fright or nervous before going out?
Man, I used to get stage fright like crazy. I've played so many shows that it's become a routine, and so I'm not getting stage fright anymore. It's where I'm the most comfortable and most happy, when I'm on stage. But, every now and then you get out in front of a tough crowd that is not there to see you, and it's still tough to win them over. Especially if it's a real hip-hop crowd who just wants to stand there, look cool, and just stare at you all weird.
With Twitter and Facebook, it's very easy for people to spew out insanely negative things at artists and musicians, how do you deal with that and still stay positive?
Hecklers have always been a part of the music industry. At a point you have to learn how to take everything with a grain of salt. You have pay as little attention to the bad as you do to the good because both can be harmful. You just don't take everything seriously that you read on Twitter or on the YouTube comments. You can't let the compliments go to your head or let the haters bring you down.
Is this going to be your first headlining tour?
Yes. This is going to be my first real nationwide headlining tour. I'm really, really excited. A little scared [laughs] but this is something I've always wanted since I started touring. It's just exciting to have my own tour and to be up in front of crowds who are there specifically for me.
And you're actually kicking off the tour in Florida. Have you ever performed down here?
I performed in Florida on the Warped tour. I haven't really played down there much. Not trying to neglect Florida or anything, it's just far from everything. [laughs] It's totally awesome and I'm looking forward to starting the tour there.
G-Eazy. with Skizzy Mars, Hi-Rez, and Will Brennan 8 p.m., Thursday, January 31, at the Green Room, 109 SW Second Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tickets cost $13.50. Purchase tickets here. For more info visit greenroomlive.com.
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