“The new album, primarily, is about coming home – making everything full circle, encapsulating the length of the journey. It can be a bumpy road but, ultimately, I didn’t want to lose myself along the way.” On the eve of finishing his upcoming album, G-Eazy takes a moment to give me a brief education on West Coast hip hop culture – and the inspirations for his famous scores. Born Gerald Earl Gillum, only minutes into our call does the Californian native prove he’s more than just the dark, bad-boy rapper that we’ve all grown accustomed to seeing in the media.
“I’m from the Bay Area in California, which is a very unique place culturally,” Gillum explains. Growing up the singer recalls a collective sense of pride reverberating out the area’s regional music scene. “The rest of the world may not have understood, but these were superheroes in my eyes,” he tells me. Gillum is referring to the Hyphy movement, a genre of hip hop prominent in California throughout Gillum’s youth and still influential today. Although short-lived, Hyphy culture emerged in Oakland in the 1990s and quickly spread around the Bay Area, uniting the streets of a whole region in the high energies of the ‘hype’ (sound familiar?). For Gillum, this history is cemented in the origin of G-Eazy, and without the likes of the scene’s trailblazing artists, “E-40, Too Short, Mac Dre…”, to name a few, he may have never even picked up a microphone.
T-shirt by SAINT LAURENT and cardigan by MAISON MARGIELA.
T-shirt by SAINT LAURENT and cardigan by MAISON MARGIELA.
Yet, while quick to cite the Bay Area and its unique rap history as the origin of his love of music, Gillum also opens up about his perennial outsider status. “I’ve always felt different,” he says, “or strange or unique and I’m unlike almost anybody I’ve ever met.” Embodying an eccentric cacophony of influences, the sleek-haired man-in-black doesn’t necessarily fit the picture of a rap star that most have in their heads. Gillum decided to toy with this concept in the artwork of his most recent EP “Scary Nights“, a scrutinizing take on the rapper’s image where Gillum bears an uncanny resemblance to Heath Ledger’s scratched-up Joker. Looking to the villainous veils of his favourite films, whether it be Tim Burton’s Batman, The Dark Knight or Requiem for a Dream, the rapper reveals an affinity for dark and haunting music – a thread uniting Gillum’s hip-hop upbringing with a murkier, alternative edge usually heard from the heaviest of rockers.
(LEFT) Top by JACQUEMUS and jeans by THE ELDER STATESMAN. (RIGHT) WALES BONNER, trousers by DRIES VAN NOTEN, shoes by GUCCI and watch by ROLEX.
Top by JACQUEMUS and jeans by THE ELDER STATESMAN. WALES BONNER, trousers by DRIES VAN NOTEN, shoes by GUCCI and watch by ROLEX.
On the final track of his EP, titled “A Very Strange Time”, the dispirited Gillum raps: “They’ll never understand if they tried to rip apart this / Most managers won’t understand the lifestyle of an artist”. These lyrics paint a picture of his resignation; that often- times being misunderstood is “one of the things that comes with this line of work.” From a conceptual standpoint, and in a genius way, the detail of the song in itself, at a glance, can be misunderstood. It’s refrain, “Where is my mind?”, puts a spin on alt-rock song “Where is My Mind” by the Pixies while the title references the narrator’s monologue in the movie Fight Club. At the end of the day, Gillum attests, “you can’t make everyone happy.” So, he just aims for a clear message, for himself and his fans. He admits: “most of my music across any project or any individual session is naturally going to be a small piece of my autobiography, in that, it’s all expressive of my overall story.”
So, what’s the story with Gillum’s upcoming album? These Things Happen Too is the highly-anticipated sequel to his first major-label release, precisely encompassing his journey thus far and retracing the steps he took to get there. One thing Gillum does make clear is a fervent desire to remind fans that he’s still Gerald, but is this reminder necessary for the fans, or for Gillum himself? “I think it’s a bit of both,” he ponders, “even though this life can be a hurricane, I [still] never lost myself in it.”
(LEFT) Jeans and jumper by THE ELDER STATESMAN, socks and shoes by MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA (RIGHT) All clothing by SAINT LAURENT.
Jeans and jumper by THE ELDER STATESMAN, socks and shoes by MAISON MARTIN MARGIELA All clothing by SAINT LAURENT.
The album, which at this point has over 175 songs recorded, has been an exercise in maintaining the self. As a result, Gerald, as Gillum innocently refers to himself now, presents a soul-filled project that feels nostalgic but at the same time evolved, ultimately progressing into something new entirely. One of the experience’s crowning jewels is a feature from none other than hip-hop God Lil Wayne. “[He’s] probably one of the most influential artists in my life,” Gillum effuses, emphasising just how surreal things have gotten in his career.
“When I go home and I see the people I grew up with, I spend time with my mom, my family and I listen to the music I [loved], it’s a reminder of who you are,” Gillum explains of the position he’s at in his life right now. “A certain amount of growth and evolution and maturation are always healthy things, [but] you know you can’t stay stagnant forever.” Maybe this is why Gillum is so fascinated by the cyclical journey his life has taken him on, finding strength in his past that’s imperative for his future.
(LEFT) Suit by BURBERRY and talent’s own jewellery (RIGHT) Top by WALES BONNER and watch by ROLEX.
Suit by BURBERRY and talent’s own jewellery Top by WALES BONNER and watch by ROLEX.