G-Eazy: The 21st Century Elvis
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because hip-hop’s Elvis has not left the building.
By Melissa Pandika
Rapper G-Eazy makes it look easy.
With his Cupid’s bow pout, slick pompadour and silky, laid-back flow, the 25-year-old Berkeley, California-bred MC seems destined for stardom. Nicknamed “hip-hop’s Elvis,” G-Eazy — who cites Drake, Kanye and Nas as his influences — had already built a devoted following when his third album, These Things Happen, debuted at number one on the iTunes rap/hip-hop charts at the end of last month. And it entered Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Rap Albums charts at number one — sans major record label support.
Luck factored into his success, but not by much. Chalk it up to a series of calculated career moves — and some serious hustle. “Music was what I cared about,” G-Eazy said. “So, it was just about lining everything up and putting the pieces together so that we could actually monetize it.”
The goal for his new album? Nothing less than “ultimate world domination.”
At the end of the day, I’m just a kid that grew up around this culture, was inspired by it and had a dream to make music.
Raised by his single mother, a photographer and art professor, G-Eazy (born Gerald Earl Gillum) started making beats and writing raps in junior high. He started a hip-hop group with his friends, the Bay Boyz, releasing their songs on MySpace.
At his mother’s insistence, he went the college route, earning a degree in music industry studies at Loyola University in New Orleans. Along the way, he took notes from Macklemore and other up-and-coming artists, devising a “master plan”: First, release a free mixtape and videos to generate buzz and build a fan base. Second, earn money from tours, merchandise and iTunes sales.
A handful of mixtapes and two albums later, he opened for Drake and Lil’ Wayne. After graduating, he performed at every venue on the 2012 Warped Tour. He was stunned: he had actually made money. But instead of taking it easy, he hit the road again for Hoodie Allen’s Excellent Adventure Tour, using his earnings to fund his Plastic Dreams Tour. And then he released his third album, Must Be Nice — which contains zero samples. “I wrote all the music from scratch,” he said.
He released These Things Happen independently, too, but this time with help from Blueprint Artist Development (the management team behind Nicki Minaj, T.I. and other hip-hop royalty). The chill, moody album chronicles his hectic high life as he edges closer to fame. On the hazy opener and title track, he recalls “labels calling the telephone,” while security guards at his own shows don’t even recognize him. His storytelling comes alive on “Downtown Love,” about “a beautiful, outgoing alcoholic socialite,” the Edie Sedgwick to his Bob Dylan.
The drawback is that his material can sometimes seem derivative; his brooding lyrics and delivery on “Opportunity Costs” sound almost too reminiscent of Drake. But don’t get us wrong. These Things Happen is still a must-listen, perfect for poolside unwinding.
G-Eazy might still be easing into his sound, but definitely not his popularity. Last we checked, he had over 184,000 Twitter followers, and his YouTube vids have earned millions of likes. His concerts sell out to hordes of screaming fans.
The comparisons to Macklemore are obvious, his white presence in a predominantly black genre evoking similar controversy. But in the YouTube and SoundCloud age, “you see the walls of the genre being broken down,” he told VladTV. “At the end of the day I’m just a kid that grew up around this culture, was inspired by it and had a dream to make music.”
G-Eazy’s dream has arrived — and we’re listening.
- Melissa PandikaContact Melissa Pandika