G-Eazy on "The Organic Nature of Working with Friends"

Lanky, polished, and simply very white, rapper G-Eazy is no Vanilla Ice; he's not Mac Miller either, nor any sort of Eminiem. G-Eazy, with his slicked back hair and easy command of the stage, is known for, among other things, sampling doo-wop, like on his hit "Runaround Sue," and even Grizzly Bear on "Acting Up." It's always hard to be a cool white dude making hip-hop, but this guy makes it look, well, easy.

Born Gerald Earl Gillum, onstage, G-Eazy has supported artists like A$AP Rocky, represented on the Vans Warped Tour stages, and just this week, hit West Palm Beach with Lil Wayne on his America's Most Wanted Tour. When we spoke with the artist about staying in school even as his musical career bloomed, remaining loyal to Oakland, his hometown, and his upcoming Fall release, G-Eazy seemed mature way beyond his 24 years.

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- PHOTOS: Lil Wayne at Cruzan Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach

New Times: You're from the Bay Area. What's going on out there musically?

G-Eazy: The Bay Area is a unique place, a fun place to grow up. When I was in high school, I began making music and beats. There was a really strong regional, cultural thing going on in hip-hop. That gave me a lot of pride growing up there. We had our own style of music. I didn't really all the way open up until I moved out of the Bay and started to get inspired by different styles of music.

Do you play there often?

Oh, yeah, totally. I do a big holiday show there every year. I think it's important for me to have that strong connection to your hometown. And always let the hometown fans know that you might be traveling all over, living here or there, but to know that where you're from means a lot to you.

Then you went to Loyola in New Orleans. Was that a big shock for you?

Yeah. Again, because the Bay was so different in terms of the music we listened to, and the culture, style, dancing, slang, then to come to New Orleans. I think everyone was looking at me like I was a weirdo when I first got there. But it was just another experience to soak up another city's culture. See what they thought was cool, see what they listened to.

Lil Wayne's from New Orleans and now you're touring with him. That must be exciting.

It's totally exciting. The time I was graduating from high school, when I first got to New Orleans, that was 2007. That was when Lil Wayne was at his peak. He was just about to drop Tha Carter III. He was on top of the world. He was a major influence back then and he still is in a lot of ways. It's a dream come true.

How did you tour when you were in school?

The whole time I was in school, I was juggling the life of a student and a life as an up-and-coming musician. I had to work out a situation with my teachers where they would let me miss a bunch of school so that I could go on tour. I knew that once college was over, I was going to have to hit the ground running. Music is one of those things that you have to put in so much groundwork for the effort to be able to pay off, to make a living or anything. So I had to work while I was in school as if I was already out there full-time. You opened for Drake at the time. Did your classmates know?

The weirdest part was opening for Drake in these big arenas and then going back to class and just feeling super regular. It was one of those reality checks where opening up for him felt so cool and it was an exciting experience. But at the same time, it was like, I really haven't accomplished anything yet, I still have so much work to do. Coming back to school just put that in perspective. It kept me from getting ahead of myself.

Why'd you stay in school? Your parents, a personal decision?

I always looked at it like, of course I had the urge to drop out. It was tempting, especially when opportunities started to come from music. But I always knew that whatever opportunities came at that time, they didn't outweigh everything that my grandparents had saved and put aside. My mom worked as a college art teacher, her whole career and she didn't have a lot of money, but she saved everything she could to put me there. I could never outweigh the small opportunities I felt like I was getting in music against everything my family had scarified to give me this opportunity to finish school. It really wasn't that hard.

What do you have coming up?

I have a new album that I'm really excited about. I'll be releasing the new single off the album really soon with a music video. This album is definitely taking a creative step forward from my past work. It's just the next chapter in my life. I'm getting older, I'm experiencing more. Live is moving a bit faster. With every album I try to capture where I'm at at that age. This is a project that I can go back when I'm 50, listen to, and say, man, when I was in my twenties, that was a real wild time.

Can you talk about who you worked with on the album?

Here's the thing, I'm not really big on investing in a lot of high profile features. I like to work with underground really talented musicians and singers. People I can get as a producer to sound just like any one big that I would go after. I just like the organic nature of working with friends who are also really talented musicians, and working with talented people that I can just call up.

Who are people you would consider "underground"? At what point... Do you consider yourself underground even though you're touring with high profile names.

Yeah. The word underground is kind of weird. I would say emerging. I think the lines cross when going from emerging and up-and-coming artists and let's say a high profile act. I think a lot of it comes down to touring and album sales and having big records, a big song, a big video, or multiple big songs and big videos.

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