Cali rapper on humbling fan interactions, adjusting to fame and channeling his inner demons through music

From humble beginnings growing up in a single parent household in Oakland, California, to selling out concerts across North America in recent years, G-Eazy’s relatively quick rise to hip-hop prominence has been something to observe.

The price of fame is far from inexpensive though. The Oakland rapper – born Gerald Gillum – has fuelled his long-time passion by paying the dues required for progression. As a result, he’s succeeded in building upon the foundation he established as an artist when he began making significant moves to further his career while majoring in music industry studies at Loyola University New Orleans just five years ago.

While navigating through the current-day hip-hop landscape, the RCA Records’ signed artist has made rapid advancements with his unique 1960s-inspired image, lengthy list of confident bangers and admirable humility when it comes to his accomplishments. As a result, he’s achieved commercial success with his first two studio albums These Things Happen and When It’s Dark Out, while simultaneously garnering the respect of his peers.

“It’s hard to adjust when you don’t take any time off to let it sink in,” he says over the phone, while on tour. “I just kept going. I haven’t really picked my head up to see where we’re at.”

It’s safe to say that G-Eazy’s never-settle attitude has defined his career up to this point – and although he’s proud that he’s made it this far, he knows that more work must be done. He also knows that this new, exciting – but tiring – lifestyle comes with its fair share of challenges, which he has no choice but to face head-on.

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I wouldn’t just flat out compare myself to heroes I look up to. I can tell you who I draw influence from though. One being Johnny Cash. Dr. Dre. Kanye West for sure.

ON THE TRACK “RANDOM” OFF WHEN IT’S DARK OUT, YOU HAVE A LINE SAYING “FIGURED WHAT THE F*CK I WANTED TO DO IN LIFE AND PRACTISED IT / PAY ATTENTION, NONE OF THIS IS HAPPENING BY ACCIDENT…” DID YOU REALLY SEE ALL OF THIS FAME COMING WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED OUT?

It sounds kind of crazy, but yeah. I don’t think it made sense to anybody but me. I always dreamed big. I just figured, if you’re gonna do it, chase greatness – even if you’ve got a million miles to go. I’ve still got a long way to go.

YOU’VE GOT A DEGREE IN MUSIC INDUSTRY STUDIES FROM LOYOLA UNIVERSITY. HOW HAS YOUR PRIOR KNOWLEDGE IN THE FIELD INFLUENCED YOUR APPROACH AS AN ARTIST?

I think the most experience I got from school was linking up with some of my team. I met both of my managers there. I collaborated with a lot of different kids there. Just being with other people with similar goals and inspiring each other.

CONSIDERING YOUR OVERALL IMAGE AND PERSONALITY, WHICH STARS FROM BACK IN THE DAY WOULD YOU COMPARE YOURSELF TO?

I don’t know man, that’s a big question. I wouldn’t just flat out compare myself to heroes I look up to. I can tell you who I draw influence from though. One being Johnny Cash. Dr. Dre. Kanye West for sure. Johnny Cash kind of for his perspective on life and the stories he’s told. He had a lot of demons, a lot of insecurities, a lot of fears, but was a strong person and a strong artist. Dr. Dre – him and Kanye for being two of the greatest producers to ever work in hip-hop. Just on their quality control and overall vision in terms of being perfectionists and putting projects together. And for changing the game. For being different, for being powerful, and that productive.

There are a few fans that I’ve met that tell me that they’ve come to over 20 shows and they’ve driven these crazy distances to catch multiple shows [during] each tour. That shit’s crazy to me.

ONE THING THAT HAS UNDOUBTEDLY MARKED YOUR GROWTH AS AN ARTIST IN THE PAST COUPLE YEARS HAS BEEN THE INCREASING ATTENDANCE OF FANS AT YOUR SHOWS. HOW HAS YOUR STAGE PRESENCE IMPROVED SINCE THE DAYS WHEN YOU OPENED FOR ARTISTS LIKE DRAKE AND LIL WAYNE?

I think it’s like anything else – you learn by doing. Repetition is the key to perfection, I guess. If you’re always pushing yourself to get better, there’s always room for improvement. I’m pretty self-aware and I usually take well to criticisms. I ask my team for notes all the time. Like, ‘how can we make the show better?’ I want it to be an experience – something that people are inspired by. Something they enjoy and want to come back to keep experiencing.

A LOT OF YOUR LYRICAL CONTENT ON BOTH OF YOUR ALBUMS PERTAINS TO YOU ADJUSTING TO THE CHANGES WHILE BLOWING UP RELATIVELY QUICK. WHAT’S THE CRAZIEST FAN INTERACTION THAT YOU’VE HAD THUS FAR?

There are a few fans that I’ve met that tell me that they’ve come to over 20 shows and they’ve driven these crazy distances to catch multiple shows [during] each tour. That shit’s crazy to me. Thinking about the drive alone … When I was a kid, my parents were split up. We’d drive on weekends to go see my dad and I hated the car and just being in there for three hours each way every weekend. It felt like I had spent a lifetime in a car, and thinking about driving that far to go see an artist is humbling. People tell me they’ve driven like 18 hours, and that’s insane.

DESPITE THE POSITIVES IN BEING A RISING STAR, SONGS LIKE “OPPORTUNITY COST”, “SAD BOY” AND “ME, MYSELF & I” SHOW THAT YOU DO STILL FACE VARIOUS CHALLENGES. WHAT ARE THESE DIFFICULTIES AND HOW DO YOU COPE WITH THEM?

I just think the separation from reality. The life of an entertainer or somebody in the music business is extremely different from the life of a normal person. You’re literally travelling every day. That’s not normal. My show is basically a party for everyone there. Imagine living a Saturday night – every night, 300 days out of the year. That’s not really normal. The way the money works, it’s like it doesn’t come forever – you’re hella broke, you’re struggling. You’re trying to make it and then all of a sudden, when it does come, it floods in. That’s kinda crazy for someone who didn’t grow up with money – to all of a sudden have it, not know what to do with it, and not know how long it’s gonna last. You live with the duality. On one hand, it’s like, ‘cheer up man, this is what you’ve always been dreaming of.’ On the other hand, it’s like you’re living such a strange lifestyle that’s so different from your family and friends back home. It can be tough. You don’t really have anybody to talk or relate to.

YOU [SEEM TO HAVE] BECOME MORE COMFORTABLE BEING MORE PERSONAL IN YOUR MUSIC. WHEN IT COMES TO BEING MORE PERSONAL IN YOUR LYRICS, HOW HAS YOUR COMFORT LEVEL EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?

I guess just by going there. Every time you open up like that, you gain the confidence to do so in the future. It’s a process, I guess. I’ve definitely gotten a lot braver when it comes to being personal in my music, being vulnerable, and channelling some of those demons. That’s why I relate to Johnny Cash – he channelled heartbreak, those demons he had. That’s the power of music. As the artist, you express yourself and get that out of you – as the listener, you identify with the music; you relate and you say ‘damn, I’m not the only person that’s been here… somebody else feels me.’

Photos supplied courtesy of Sony Music Canada