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The bay, branding, and being white in hip-hop: G-Eazy tells all

by Caitlin LoPilato

“From the BART train to a tour bus,” Bay area rapper G-Eazy has been making impressive strides in his career lately, completing his first string of performances in Europe, appearing in an issue of The New York Times, and racking up over a million views in less than a month for his latest music video, “I Mean It.” Perhaps G’s most noteworthy accomplishment comes in the form of his newest album, These Things Happen, a 16-track musical diary that embodies the dapper rapper’s complex persona. We talked to G-Eazy about how his journey started, where he is now, and important lessons he’s learned along the way.

Caitlin LoPilato: You just finished your first-ever European tour. How was that?

G-Eazy: It was crazy. It was wild to think that music could take me and my team all the way overseas and allow me to perform these songs thousands of miles away from where they were made.

CL: Were the crowd reactions different in Europe than they are in America?

GE: Sometimes, their accents would come through [Laughs]. In some cities where they were really loud, you could hear them screaming the words to a song and there was a collective, slightly accented sound in the lyric.

CL: When did you first know that you wanted to pursue music? Why hip-hop?

GE: Hip-hop was the culture and the genre that I was surrounded by. In terms of a career, I’ve always had this strong entrepreneurial drive, and music just became the vehicle for it. My friends and I were all into writing raps and rapping them to each other. It eventually became competitive; we would freestyle and battle each other sometimes. You just wanted to be the coolest one. This was around the time I started making beats, and it was the entrepreneurial side of my brain that was like “I could take these raps, record them over the beats that I’m making, put them on a CD and be kind of official.” It was that idea that really struck with me.

CL: Was there any pressure there, since you were a white kid trying to make it in rap?

GE: Yeah, for sure! That pressure seemed like something that could be tough, but I never saw it as something that would keep me from doing what I loved.

CL: I know you majored in Music Industry Studies at Loyola. What was one of the most important things you learned while in college, and how did you apply it to your career today?

GE: The single most important thing I learned was the importance of building a brand. That was one thing my teachers talked about the most; every artist, every band, every company, everything in the world has a brand and an identity behind that brand. Everything you do, whether it’s a song, album art, music video, performance, or interview, you’re representing your brand in a certain way. You need to know who you are and what your brand is.

CL: In your song “Far Alone” you talk about growing up on Bay area rap like Mac Dre and E-40, and now E-40 is joining you on stage, and you have relationships with pretty big-name Bay area rappers like Lil B…What’s that like for you?

GE: It’s completely surreal. Even those local guys who weren’t necessarily known on a national level or selling tons of records are still legends in my eyes, and were people I idolized growing up. To finally grow to this level and consider those people as peers is crazy.

CL: Especially within your fan base, you’re associated a lot with other white rappers, like Logic, Hoodie Allen, Sammy Adams…are you comfortable with that association or are you looking to step out of it?

GE: Ever since I was 13 or 14, I was like, “Well if I’m going to do this, I want to be as big as Drake or Kanye.” That’s the category I aspire to be in.

CL: These Things Happen is a really introspective record, and it definitely seems like you took your time to perfect this one. For old fans, new fans, or anyone who’s never heard your music before, how would you describe your new album?

GE: It shows the different sides of who I am as a person. It has the more introspective, reflective side, where I tell real stories about coming from not much and aspiring for big things, and I talk about what the roller coaster has been like so far. But it also shows the party side. Depending on what time of the night it is, I can be a drunk asshole partying my face off, and looking for the next bar to go to. Sound-wise, it’s a mix of my influences. There’s a lot of Kanye and Drake, there’s a little Lil Wayne, and I have a record on there with A$AP Ferg. The album as a whole is really an all-encompassing look at who I am.