G-Eazy Explains The Anxiety of Fame
Upon first site, I don’t recognize G-Eazy as he strides through the front door of a Brooklyn Artist Collective. Hitting a solid 6’5”, the Oakland rapper isn’t sporting his increasingly iconic leather jacket, nor the 1930s, slicked-back hair with hard side parting—his signature style that now boasts a plethora of tutorials and how-to’s online. In his defense, album release weeks are exhausting, especially for an album as highly anticipated as When It’s Dark Out, which necessitates the rapper cramming as many interviews and appearances into a few key days as possible. As he takes an impromptu, 15-second nap on the sofa across from me, I hope he’s not dreading the impending interview too much.
As it turns out, the star is a natural. Speaking about the album and his new-found-fame, G-Eazy (born Gerald Earl Gillum) speaks eloquently and calmly; a large cardboard cutout of his new album sits on the windowsill of the kitchen behind him. He appears to be both confident and in awe when it comes to his relatively recent climb to the top of the rap, a position he strove for relentlessly and eventually managed to achieve.
We asked the rapper about his musical evolution, fame as a drug, and being able to send money to mom each month.
This album is far from your first release. How is it different than your other material?
This is probably like my 19th project if you count all of the mix tapes when I was in high school and stuff. That’s kind of crazy to think about. But it’s just like anything else. You know, you push yourself to be better at whatever it is you want to do in life, to improve your technique.
It’s just a different vibe. This is the first time I’ve had a real audience, the first time I’ve had an opportunity this big, the first time I’ve had a whole record label behind. The first time I’ve had a team this strong and this big. So you just rise to the occasion, because it’s inspiring to have this shit, to have this opportunity, and I dreamed about this moment for years, you know. When I was a kid, I was in love with making music.
Who do you think your peers are now, and what sets you apart from them?
It’s definitely crazy being in this tier. Like, my peers are the people that I admire. That’s crazy. Because I’m a fan of music, like when I get booked to play festivals, I’m like, “Wait, and I get a free ticket to just be here and watch bands and rappers play?” So it’s crazy when I meet people that I listen to and they know who I am and show love. It’s dope. It’s very inspiring.
What sets me apart is that I’m me. I can only ever be myself. I dress the way I want to dress; I make my music that sounds like what I would want to listen to. It’s just me.
You play way more live shows than most other artists. Why is that?
I probably play like 150 year. Before I’d ever played a show, I had such stage fright and such a fear of performing and being in front of people. I was like, “Okay I have this dream to do music, but how’s this ever going to work?” To do music and make a living, you have to be on stage. You have to perform. I was like, “I don’t know how to do that, but something’s got to work; something’s got to give.” So I got booked for a show in like 2008, I was opening for Afroman. I was like, “This is a legit person. Afroman has music that people know. People will be at this show. This is an actual show, not like an open mic night at a coffee shop.”
Obviously I took the show and I remember thinking, “Fuck, one day I’m going to wake up and it’s inevitably going to be that day of the show, and I’m going to actually have to get on stage and perform.” I was so nervous. I got on stage, and I had the time of my fucking life. I fell in love with that feeling—that rush. It was intoxicating, just being in front of people. I was like, “I want to do this shit for the rest of my life. This is incredible.” And it’s still that way. There’s just a magic, a true magic being on stage in front of people.
You’ve said before that fame is like a drug. Do you still feel this way?
Man, being admired is weird. Especially for something creative. In a sense, it’s like validation for the work that goes into it, and the process. In the other sense, it’s like fuck, I hope this lasts. I hope they still like me tomorrow.
So there’s a bit of anxiety to it too?
Oh yeah, yeah. But I don’t know. I use it as motivation I guess. It inspires me to work harder, to keep going. You never want to fall off. I want to dance for the rest of my life. Fucking I can’t imagine any other kind of life.
Was there ever a time that you thought you might give up on music?
Man, today. I was like fuck this shit! I fucking quit. Just kidding. But release weeks are really crazy. I mean, at the end of the day I just remind myself, “You could either be here or you could be like, bored and broke at home.” But even thinking back like when it wasn’t working, when you’d refresh Soundcloud and there’d be no plays, like no one’s listening, I never thought about quitting because there was never a Plan B or like a fallback. Even if I seem crazy or psychotic, this was just always it. I just always thought it would work and that it would happen. I think when your back’s against the wall like that, you just have to do it.
What defines success to you?
The biggest return is just making do. I send money to my mom every month. That feels really, really special to be able to help her and give back. I hired all my friends. I pay my rent off of music. That’s what feels good. I don’t really think about awards or like accolades as validation for what I’m doing. I don’t think that would necessarily make me feel like I’ve made it. I just want to be able to continue. Awards are kind of bullshit anyway.
It’s weird. It’s not like a sport. It’s not like who has the highest mark. It’s not math.
Does Oakland still feel like home to you?
Home is a suitcase. Actually, the closest thing to home is a tour bus. And that sounds weird because it’s in a different city every day, but it’s the only time I sleep in the same bed every night, and actually live in the same space. Like I make coffee using the same machine every day. It’s like an apartment on wheels with eleven roommates.
I mean, the Bay is forever home. Every time I go back, there’s just a feeling like nothing else.
If your music were any type of food, drug, or alcohol, what would it be?
My music is whiskey at a dive bar late at night. Or early in the morning—just depends.
All photos by Amber Asaly.
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