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Never Had It Growing Up: G-Eazy on His Oakland Roots and New Major-Label Fame

With his rapid ascent up the charts, a newly announced world tour with Logic, and a budding fashion line, rapper and producer G-Eazy is making things look, well, easy.

The 26-year-old Oakland native released his sophomore full-length, When It's Dark Out, in December, but thanks to the heavy radio play of his hit collaboration with singer/songwriter Bebe Rexha,"Me, Myself & I," the album now sits comfortably at number 13 on the Billboard 200.

After a huge 2015 and coming off of an electric set at Coachella, the man born Gerald Earl Gillum is hungry for more. This Saturday, G-Eazy brings his slicked-back hair and leather cool to West Palm Beach for SunFest. We spoke to the unexpected hip-hop star about his new record and the road to his current popularity.

New Times: G-Eazy is a play on your birth name, but does anyone ever confuse it with Yeezy or Young Jeezy?

G-Eazy: Yeah, a thousand times. Those and Eazy-E.

Who'd you listen to growing up that you might consider blueprints to your own sound?

I'm a huge Lil Wayne fan...I remember around 2006, 2007, playing Tha Carter II and his mixtapes over and over and over. I was heavily influenced by him at the time. [Lil Wayne] and Mac Dre were two of my favorite rappers that I kind of tried to emulate for a while, I think, at that age when I was finding my own style and voice.

In your interview with Larry King, you said the nicest thing you own is your Rolex watch. Do you consider yourself modest or more practical than most rappers?

It's all relative...I don't think I really spend that much money, like if you compared me to some other rappers at my level or whatever, but then I think back to how I grew up — then I start to feel like I'm spending way too much money these days, and I start to feel guilty about it because we never had it growing up.

You've admitted to partying pretty hard while on tour and recuperating with Pedialyte. Can you recall any particularly rough hangovers?

I had a big LA show once and afterwards I stayed up the whole night partying, even though I had a show the next day. But I knew I still had to put on a show for them, and somehow I found a way — probably fueled by espresso and adrenaline. But yeah, I always find a way.

Why did you decide to sign with a major label when you could've gone the independent route?

To me it's always been about creative control. When you're independent, obviously everything is your call and I'm involved in all aspects of what I do. I used to design my own album art and merch. I've always contributed to music video concepts, I still work with the producers on my tracks, I'm right there the whole way through mixing my album. So when I decided to sign, I wanted to keep creative control. Past that, major labels help you scale up and reach a larger audience, and I've always wanted to reach the world. So in theory, they help me do that, but they let me do it my way.

On the new LP, When It's Dark Out, the song "Calm Down" references Eminem. You've also expressed how tired you are of talking about being a white rapper and any perceived gentrification. When do you think the day will come when a rapper is just a rapper, regardless of race or ethnicity?

I think it's a case-by-case basis. It's about what you contribute with your music and it's about being honest and true to yourself with everything you do. I grew up surrounded by hip-hop, I've been rapping and making beats for over 11 years — it's all I know and love.

Being from Oakland, when you recorded "Of All Things" with Too $hort for the new record, was any part of you fan-boying?

Yeah I fanned out the whole time. I felt blessed to have a hero of mine on the album with me, but I just felt like his flow and his vibe fit that song perfectly.

Did you write "Everything Will Be OK" as more of a cathartic exercise or to bring awareness to the struggles of depression?

At first it was definitely an exercise for me. It was the first time I'd been that honest and opened up like that on a record, but the process helped me a lot. It wasn't until afterwards that I thought about how it might have a greater impact and reach other people like that.

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You look like a cross between James Dean and Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys, but you've toured with Lil Wayne and made music with Big Sean and E-40. How much fun do you have messing with stereotypes and people's expectations of what hip-hop should be?

I'm just doing me. I dress how I like to dress and I make the music I would like to listen to that doesn't exist yet, based off what I'm into. I don't get too caught up into what boxes people put me in or who they compare me to.

G-Eazy

9 p.m. Saturday, April 30 at SunFest, along the Intracoastal Waterway in downtown West Palm Beach. The festival grounds are on Flagler Drive. Banyan Boulevard and Lakeview Drive lie at the north and south boundaries, respectively. Single-day tickets start at $40; two- and five-day GA tickets range from $60 to $80. Visit sunfest.com.

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