styling/ Alyssa Hardy
photos / Spencer Kohn
story / Miz Kane
Going to a G-Eazy concert is an outing that will make you hyper aware of exactly how many years you have spent on this Earth. From the high schooler who looks like they probably snuck in with a fake id and just wants to start living their life to the early 20-something who just wants to get lit and forget about all impending adult issues. Not to mention, the late 20s, early 30s concertgoers who just realized they are a lot more ‘adultier’ than they thought after interacting with the aforementioned parties and they’re not quite sure how they feel about that. Orchestrating this mashup of age-related previews, diversions, and revelations is the Bay area’s hottest rising hip hop star.
Dominating the music charts, the 26-year-old rapper Gerald “G-Eazy” Gillum is living out his childhood fantasies. From his roots in high school, the self-made artist has been putting in the groundwork for his career starting out in his bedroom in Oakland, California. With the success of his latest album and internationally sold-out tour, both utilizing the title When It’s Dark Out, it is obvious that G-Eazy has taken those seeds planted during his formative years and has carefully groomed his budding career into a massive garden admired by a following any creative horticulturalist would envy.
Describe young Gerald and what growing up was like for you.
I was definitely shy. I’ve always felt like an outsider. I’ve always felt a little bit different. I could never quite fit in in any social circles really. I guess that comes from moving around a bit. My mom was a visual artist. She’s a very…how do I explain this? I mean, she’s a hippy. She’s a weirdo. She’s a little bit different. I’ve always been creative and she had always encouraged that out of me. I liked to draw when I was little. Around the time I was 13, I found music and I fell in love with that.
Who were some of your idols that you looked up to as a child?
I idolized Batman. I idolized Kobe Bryant. I idolized Jay-Z, Mac Dre,…Leonardo Dicaprio.
What is your background then?
It’s just white (laughs). My dad’s part Mexican, but they were just white people. They’re both artists. They split when I was little. My mom left and took me and my little brother. They both teach visual art. My dad teaches sculpture and my mom taught photography and photo printmaking.
In other words, do you feel your heritage didn’t really play a part in your upbringing, but more so the skills of your parents played a bigger part?
No, I mean, my mom and I are real close. One thing she always encouraged was expressing myself creatively and embracing my individuality. You know, embrace being different.
Which parts of your career do you believe are directly linked to or inspired by your childhood?
I write and produce music, but I’m also really involved in all visual aspects of everything I put out. From my mixtape covers, album covers, the music videos to posters for tours and concerts…I don’t know if that comes from her encouraging me to draw and paint when I was a kid or taking me to museums and galleries, you know, things of that nature. Just being around fine art from when I was a young age and having a sense for those things.
Ok, so being that you were focused on building your base back then, how do you feel your teenage years differed from the average teen’s? Or do you feel like it was the same?
I guess I was just more focused and driven than an average teen. I don’t think every kid my age was spending hours and hours in a studio working and creating everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I would go to the park and play basketball and stuff like that some days, but most days I would just go to my makeshift studio set up in my bedroom, write, and record songs until it was like nine or ten.
Going back to that, what do you value about those times now?
Those were the formative years. You have to put the work in in terms of any craft. You gotta get started early. Those were the years that developed my craft.
We’re the purest during our younger stages. Being that you’re involved in an industry that can be extremely jaded and filled with people who are willing to do anything for fame, is it important to you to make sure you keep the 13 or 14-year-old Gerald proud in regards to your artistry and the decisions you make?
Yeah, absolutely. There are certain values you have. Certain values, certain ideals, certain principles that you stand for and I would hate for my younger self to see me now and be disappointed. I would always want [my younger self] to say I kept it solid. It’s tough navigating this industry.
Can you hear your younger self within yourself reacting to some of the moments that you’re experiencing now?
Absolutely! Like when I get in front of certain crowds or when I meet certain people that I grew up listening to. Yeah, those moments definitely stand out and I think about what my younger self would think.
What do you think your younger self would think? Are you going crazy in your head?
There are times where I still get starstruck. Not gonna lie. That’s because I remember what it was like back then and I’m still that same person. It’s the same dream that I’ve been holding onto for all these years. I’m still the same kid at heart, I’m just getting to experience it now.
Is there any advice you wish you could give your younger self?
Just to stick with it and to stay true to yourself because it’s like, when you’re young, you get anxious for the return or to gain some validation, some vindication for what you’re doing. You put all these hours in and sometimes you don’t see a return right away so, you get anxious. But [I would say] just to have the patience to stick with it and to always hone it because it’s really about the journey.
On When It’s Dark Out, you tell the story of a traumatic moment from your childhood on “Everything Will Be OK.” Being that you’ve kept that story under wraps for so long, even from your friends, what made you want to share it now?
I was challenged by someone and I didn’t really know who this person was at the time, but he challenged me to fully open up and go there. There are certain songs that present themselves as opportunities in time to open up. I couldn’t have told that story on just any song.
You’re getting your feet wet in acting with the new upcoming short Tunnel Vision playing this former music promoter/ex-firearms salesman-turned-realtor who gets set up and loses it all in the end. You’ve previously mentioned how being forced to get a 9-to-5 or even regressing momentum-wise would make you feel like a failure. With that being said, is Johnny Russo’s [G-Eazy’s character] story your biggest fear at this point being that you’ve worked so hard for so long, since your formative years, to get where you are now?
I think that’s the same with anything. Especially in music, it’s like you spend all these years building something and it can all crumble in an instant. You just have to be careful, I guess.
Now that you’ve stepped into the position to be an idol for your younger fans, what do you hope they’re learning from you or what do you hope they’re taking in from you?
I don’t know. I worry about that. I mean, I don’t necessarily feel like a role model; there’s a lot of weight and responsibility that comes with that term. I guess if anything, I’m just an example of investing a lot of years and hard work into something you care about and sometimes, if you stick with it, it’ll come to fruition. I don’t know. It’s a tough mountain to climb; one of the hardest. The music game is hard.
G-EAZY in #13 issue of LADYGUNN!