G-Eazy may be on the verge of becoming a genuine pop phenomenon, but the 27-year-old MC is repping his hometown of Oakland as hard as ever. His latest album, When It's Dark Out, features Bay Area stars both old (Too $hort) and new (Kehlani), and in June, he took a break from his ongoing arena tour to perform for the Golden State Warriors at Game One of the NBA finals. When Rolling Stone reached him on his tour bus in July, he seemed elated that the team had just signed star forward Kevin Durant.
But as much as G-Eazy is a product of the Bay, his music reveals an artist who wants to step far beyond it: "Me, Myself & I," one of the biggest crossover hits of the year, accelerates toward a big pop hook buoyed by light EDM synths. He took another major step toward the mainstream when he teamed up with Britney Spears for the first single from her upcoming LP.
As his bus rolled toward San Diego, G-Eazy discussed California hip-hop and some of his new album's most revealing tracks, but first, his publicist issued an unusual warning: "He really likes to avoid the whole white-rapper thing." Later, when RS asks G-Eazy — the self-described "coldest white rapper in the game since the one with the bleached hair" — why he started making this request, he says it was a recent thing. "I don't know what the last straw was," he says. "It just started to become the story, like, every single time." The MC, on tour in the U.S. through August 4th, talked to Rolling Stone about working with Spears, growing up in the Bay Area and embracing vulnerability.
How did you end up on the new Britney Spears single? That's pretty wild.
It was hella wild. I was actually on tour in Australia. After the first leg in the U.S. and we got that email that was like, "Britney Spears wants to do a song." I didn't know if it was gonna be the single or what. It was just a no-brainer. I think we were in Melbourne, and I was like, "Yo, let’s see if there are any studios open here." And literally after the show we went and cut it on the spot. That kind of thing you just drop whatever you're doing to do.
Do you know what led her to reach out to you for the song?
No, but I heard it and I like it. I just wrote it like a conversation I was having with her, you know?
Were you a fan when you were younger?
Of course – I think we all were. Watching the VMAs when we were kids, she was one of the biggest entertainers in the world. And still is.
How would young G-Eazy have responded if someone told him he'd one day be rapping on a song with her?
I wouldn't have believed it. It's pretty insane.
How much time do you spend in the Bay Area these days?
As much as I can, but I'm pretty much on the road year 'round. When I get home in September after this tour, and then a Europe run, it will be like nine months straight on the road. It's not really like I get to live anywhere, or be normal.
Do you think that the way the region is changing will affect the rap music that comes out of there?
We'll just see where it goes from here. But I think what's going on now is a renaissance of my generation and HBK Gang. We're all the same age, pretty much. We were in high school in 2006, when the hyphy movement exploded, so we were all heavily influenced by that. Now we've come of age, and it's our turn. So it will be interesting to see the kids that are listening to us now, where they take it 10 years from now.
I've read that you went to high school with the guys from the Pack. What was Lil B like back then?
I actually went to high school with Lil Uno. Lil B went a different school. But I was right there and watched that happen. I remember the night they uploaded "Vans" to MySpace, and everyone was talking about it in school the next day. "Have you heard the 'Vans' song?" "Have you heard the 'Vans' song?" It was inspiring to watch it happen because it gave us hope. Like, "Wow, this is possible." You can make it out the Bay and get discovered. The whole concept of making songs and sharing them online on social media, that wasn't possible a few year before that.
How do you see yourself fitting into that scene these days, now that you're touring arenas in Europe?
I've never fit in anywhere in my life. Ever. I've always been an outsider to some extent. I don't know. Those are still my good friends, and when I'm home I'm still at the parties, at the shows, being normal. I don't feel different.
On the new album, there are few more contemplative songs, like "Everything Will Be OK." How have those translated to the live show?
I do perform them. It's hard for me to perform "Everything Will Be OK," so I don't do it every night. The thing about it is I have to really perform it, like really perform. I can't just recite those lyrics. I have to put myself there. When I'm onstage I literally reminisce about what I was going through and channel that emotion from those memories, from how I felt when I wrote this song, from how I felt when I recorded it. I have to find a way to channel that onstage. I can't do that every night, but it gives the show a dynamic. It's one thing to turn up and jump around stage and give people a good time – that's obviously a big part of this – but I'll always get deeper than that as an artist.
"It's one thing to turn up and jump around stage and give people a good time … but I'll always get deeper than that as an artist."
When you wrote the song did you realize you might end up having to perform it and relive it every couple of nights?
I knew it could be a dilemma. I didn't want to talk about it, and I didn't want to rehearse it. I didn't know if I was gonna do it until the first day of tour, and I just decided right before I went onstage.
You executive-produced the new LP, but it seems like you were less involved in the individual beats.
Definitely. I'll always be involved because I have that background, so it lets me communicate with other producers what I'm looking for, a sound to add or a sound to swap. I have that vocabulary, but I definitely took a step back. I actually just started making beats again the other day on the bus.
Will that be the beginning of the next album?
Yeah. The next project. I don't know if it will be an album or a mixtape. It's gonna be called Endless Summer Two. Endless Summer was a mixtape I did four or five years ago, and I flipped a bunch of old Fifties and Sixties songs and chopped them up. So I'm kind of going that route again.
Have you picked out any of the old songs?
Yeah. I love listening to that stuff, so whenever something jumps out at me, I'll mark it. I can't give you the secrets, and I want to make sure I can clear the samples. I'm in a slightly different place this time around.