G-Eazy album cover

It's been a long road toward respectability for Oakland's G-Eazy. The 25-year-old rapper blessed with American Apparel model good looks and a breezy confidence that oozes an aura hovering somewhere between George Clooney and Patrick Bateman began rapping and producing at the age of 13, venturing out onto the local circuit that was built on hyphy and nursed by Lil B shortly thereafter. Since then, he's been on a steady upward trajectory, utilizing a rare patience and a continual willingness to put in the hard work to build a dedicated fan base and turning that in to an independent label, The Revels Group, and a management deal with The Blueprint Group, the company behind Lil Wayne and Drake, to name a few.

Yesterday, that steady, five-year grind was finally rewarded with a debut album, These Things Happen, written and recorded over a past 12 months spent largely on the road touring the country—whether on his own, as an opener on Wayne, T.I. and 2 Chainz's America's Most Wanted Tour, or as recently a co-headliner with MMG's Rockie Fresh—and in Europe, from where he just recently returned. These Things Happen pulls in guest spots from A$AP Ferg, Jay Ant and Bay Area legend E-40, and proves to be his boldest step yet out away from the lazy Asher Roth/Hoodie Allen comparisons that have dogged him since he began making noise in the industry.

A few days before his album hit stores—where it launched at No. 1 on the iTunes Rap/Hip-Hop charts on Monday—G-Eazy stopped by the XXL offices to talk about the support of the OGs in his hometown, his relentless touring schedule and work ethic, and how he breaks away from easy stereotypes. —Dan Rys


XXL: Had you developed a plan for the release date?
G-Eazy: I would say that I would drink whiskey into oblivion and party and rage, but it's weird; this press week is so crazy... To me, I'm just looking forward to the conversation. What people think of it—reading reviews, reading Twitter—I've spent so much time making this that I'm excited to know what people think, for better or for worse.

It must be hard to take a minute to appreciate those moments sometimes.
There's definitely gonna be a moment on Monday where I appreciate the whole thing. But ultimately it's like, I spent over a year making this record, and I want it to last for years to come. So it's not so much about Monday as it is about the bigger picture. So you have to take a second to appreciate it, but really I want the impact to be lasting. You shouldn't understand this album the day you hear it; it's gonna take some time for it to sink in and let it resonate.

What would you say are some of the biggest challenges you've faced in the past few years?
Just making this shit. Everything was self-invested. I put an album out on iTunes a year and a half ago so that we could have any money to do shit. All the music videos, that was all money that we had saved up from iTunes that we spent on making music videos. Paying our own rent so we didn't have to go work jobs so we had time to go do this shit.

Here's the thing. Any rapper may have a great rapper inside of them. There's a lot of rappers that probably have a great album inside of them. But whether or not you have the time and the space to record that album and execute it on a high level and get it out of you, it will never matter. And it took a lot of time and a lot of resources to make this come to life. And if it wasn't for that, we wouldn't have this setup. If we didn't bet $100,000 on shooting those music videos and bringing those to life, would I have any buzz or awareness for this record? So there's that.

Photo Credit: Bobby Bruderle

G-Eazy Bobby Bruderle

You've been touring seemingly nonstop for the past three years. Does that weigh on you?
It's definitely been a whirlwind, but that's what I signed up for. It's the greatest life in the world. Every time I start to get tired, or feel like I haven't been home in forever, seen my family in forever, I just remember that I'm lucky enough to have the coolest fucking job in the world, and that this was everything I've ever wanted since I was 13. I decided right when I started rapping—and it's funny in retrospect, because the music was so bad—that if I was gonna do this I wanted to go all the way, and I wanted to be able to tour everywhere, ride on a tour bus, sell records and become a household name. And as windows start to open, it's crazy.

Is this what you had envisioned when you first started?
I mean... It's the beginning of it. It's hard, man—you want to enjoy it and live in the moment and celebrate every milestone, because naturally. This is a milestone. I have a record coming out, in stores, everywhere on Monday. And it's gonna sell really well; that's a fucking milestone. But at the end of the day, there's always a bigger fish, and there's always a Jay Z. And you just don't get too comfortable or caught up in the moment.

I read Questlove's book [Mo Meta Blues] last year, and one of the things he said that stuck out to me was that for every door you open, you realize there's another door beyond that, and that was one of the hardest things for him to realize.
I think my mom has always taught me since I was little to just always take things one step at a time and keep your head down. Look up at the top, but just take everything step by step. I think that's how I approach this shit. I've never had one video go viral, I've never had a real hit song. I've never had anything in my career that dramatically changed things and took it to this whole other level; it's been incremental steps the whole way.

And I think in the age we live in, especially with the Internet, everybody's looking for that instant gratification. Like, I just made the hottest mixtape in the world, why am I not signed yet? Why am I not selling out arenas? But at the end of the day, this game is hard as fuck. Literally, hard as fuck. And if you wanna be in that category with the real legends, then it's even harder. It's literally one of the most impossible things you could ever do. So you have to condition yourself to be in love with the process. And the process is not a gratifying experience every day. If you wanna be a great, you're gonna be frustrated every day that you're not there yet. You're gonna be frustrated that every song hasn't catapulted you into that next level of where you think you want to be or where you deserve to be. And you just have to stay humble and keep working hard, I guess.

Photo Credit: Bobby Bruderle

G-Eazy Bobby Bruderle

You've got four production credits on the album. When did you first start producing?
As soon as I started rapping, around when I was 13. I had gotten a friend to install Reason on my computer, and I was hooked instantly. And it was around the same time I had started to write my own raps, and I was like, yo, if I can figure out how to put these two together and structure songs, then I can make music. And if I make enough of that music, then I can make a mixtape. And then I can put that out and give that to people, and I can upload it to Myspace. And that was a new idea at the time—Myspace had just hit in like '04, '05—and I fell in love with it and never went back.

Is there a different approach you take from the production side or the rapping side?
Man, it depends. I usually start out with the music, or sometimes I'll go in with an idea—like a chorus in my head—and just build a beat around it, and add structure to the idea. Yeah, it all depends.

Some people that I've talked to that do both have mentioned to me how it's difficult sometimes to wear both hats at once, or to switch between the two.
Sometimes it's like, I'll be slow, because the producer side of my brain is working, and I can't fully concentrate on writing the song, because I'm hearing like, should we add this synth under here following the chorus, or should we double that snare here, or add these hi-hats here, or whatever. I can't help but think about that, and I get side tracked to the point where I can't write the song.

But I've gotten better at it being able to fully switch between rapping and producing. But I think ultimately it helps with my own product. The songs turn out the way I want them to, and they all flow, and there's a consistent sound and flow to the whole album, being that I can be involved in all the production. If you don't have a background in production—even if you can hear how you want a track to be, or something you would want to add—you don't have the skill set or the vocabulary to execute that. So it just helps having that background.


You just got back from touring in Europe. Tell me about that.
Just music that I made on my own bringing me and the homies overseas. We're in Paris and these kids are screaming the words to "I Mean It" with their accents, and you can hear it through the crowd. That's surreal. This shit is not a result of radio play, of me being on TV all day, of me being on the cover of a magazine; this is a result of me just doing this shit, organically. So I just enjoy every step of the way.

What's different about performing in Europe?
You know what? Every time you play a city for the first time, it's like paying dues—you gotta start somewhere. I remember the first New York show I ever did, it was Webster Hall in the studio, like 300 kids. Then you come back and you play Highline, then you come back and you play Irving Plaza—you make steps every time. Unless you catch a hit, you blow up overnight and you're out of here, but my shit's always been gradual. So we go over there and it was just like my first time in New York. I was curious if there would even be anybody. But nah, the tour started in Paris, it was sold out, and it was fuckin' awesome.

So you were getting back to small venues?
Yeah, intimate. And the energy—there's a different kind of energy in a small, sweaty, hot club in a basement somewhere in Paris, than these big, huge, beautiful theaters. I forget how much I sweat on stage in these small rooms. But the energy was crazy, though, man. So we did that, then we had tons of press days in London, came here, about to release the album. I'm on a roller coaster right now; this is what I signed up for, and I'm just excited to see it start coming to fruition.


When did you meet E-40 and make that relationship with him to where he wound up on your album?
Well when me and Jay Ant made that song ["Far Alone"] and talked about the concept and put the whole thing together, we were like, yo, what if 40 jumped on this? As if that was the biggest point that that song could reach, like if it got to E-40 and he added a verse, that song lived its life to the fuckin' fullest. So I put out the original just because. And my team reached out to his, and he had heard the record, and he loved it. So we got on the phone—I was still on tour traveling around—he heard it and he was just like, "Yo, I love that song, you're telling stories on there. I'm gonna do my verse tonight, let's shoot the video tomorrow." [Laughs] And I'm like word, I'm just buggin' out. Like literally tripping—that's Jay Z in my eyes, he's literally a legend—and he's been in the game for so long. So that record, just being an anthem for the Bay, it's an underdog, come up story, and it's paying homage to the music, the culture and the area that I grew up in. So it just made sense.

There must be a certain level of validation that comes from that, too.
Hell yeah. If 40 gives you the stamp of approval, you know, that means a lot. We talked on the phone—we had just kept in touch—any time he calls, I just pay attention and listen closely, 'cause he's just giving out wisdom. But he had called me the day of my Kid Cudi show, it was me and Kid Cudi at the Bill Graham Auditorium in San Francisco, so it was huge. So we had sold it out, I was opening for Kid Cudi, and E-40 called me that morning and I'm like, I got a big show tonight, you should really come through and fuck with me, knowing that was a long shot. And he was like, "Man, I would, but it's Memorial Day weekend, I got 25 years on you, I gotta barbecue with the family, I gotta take it easy, I can't be out here doin' all this reckless stuff." And I was like, you know, it's my birthday tomorrow, if you have a change of heart, just let me know. He called me back an hour later and was like, "I'ma fuck witchu, have your folks call my folks." And he came through on his word.

He wasn't there when I went on stage, so by the time I walked on stage, he still wasn't there yet. So I was nervous, like, is E-40 gonna come or not? So I close with "Far Alone," and I hear him on the mic, and I look to the side of the stage, and my manager's there and he's like, "He's here," he gives me the thumbs up. I'm literally trippin', buggin' out. And then he walks on stage for his verse, and the crowd just went fuckin' stupid. I'm literally about to shed tears on stage, so hyphy, so emotional, so amazing, and he killed it. And then after that, I was like, you can't get out of here without giving them a record. So he dropped "Tell Me When To Go," and the place just erupted. Shouts out to him, man, because I think that's really... It's a real thing when the legends show love to the young up-and-comers, 'cause they don't have to do that. It was dope.

What's the best advice 40 gave you?
Just keep my head on straight, and always think about the long-term and how to pace yourself.


Let me ask you a question. As a white guy in hip-hop, I know there are some things that I have to tread lightly around, or be more aware of myself when I'm discussing them, or things like that. It's easy to hear a G-Eazy song and look at you and say, Asher Roth. Hoodie Allen. Mac Miller early on. How do you break away from that stereotype in a way, or at least from that first impression?
When I did the record with Ferg ["Lotta That"], I feel like outside of "Loaded," I'd never really done a record like that. But it was like, yo, this is the music we all listen to, why not start to expand and do different shit? I feel like I can only tell my story, and no one else can do that. I'm me; I'm not those guys.

I took a year and a half, and spent every dollar I had to bring this [album] to life, so that I could put this into the world and say, "This is who I am." Don't judge me because you saw one music video, or one photo. Listen to the fuckin' record. And it's got it. It's got the, "I'm drunk as shit at 2 a.m., looking for the after hours, turnt up as fuck," and it's got the, "I grew up with no fucking money, chasing the dream, raised by a single mom whose an artist, and who pushed me to pursue this creative path." And here I am. After saving all this up and betting the house on it, I have this story to tell now. But it's like, any time, especially early in an artist's career when they haven't told their whole story yet, you can only tell so much of a story with a music video here, a mixtape here.