America's Most Wanted Music Festival 2013 is arguably the tour of the summer. The previous America's Most Wanted tour back in 2009 with Young Jeezy, Drake and Soulja Boy was a huge success, bringing in millions of dollars. Now Lil Wayne brings T.I., 2 Chainz, Hit-Boy and G-Eazy out on tour with him around the country, with over thirty dates falling throughout the rest of the summer. However, life on tour isn't all crazy stories and outlandish gags. It's a period of time in an artist's life where there's barely any sleep, endless numbers of performances, interactions with millions of fans, and countless memories made and forgotten. G-Eazy, the up and coming hip-hop artist from the Bay Area, is the opener for this star-studded line up, an opportunity which is both helpful to his career and challenging for his mental state.

"To be involved in something like this is an honor to say the least," G-Eazy told XXL while enjoying a rare day off in New York City last week. "But there’s always two ways to look at it, and I always try to think about the big picture with my career in any situation, and try not to get too caught up in the moment. So my focus is always like, after I’m done performing, I’m back on my bus where I have my studio set up, and I’m working on records. I’m working on my album right now because I’m thinking forward, like, I’ve got to kill it in the fall on my own headlining tour."

Between headlining his own outings around the country and opening for some of the biggest artists in hip-hop, G-Eazy has tasted both sides of the touring spectrum, and while the exposure of such a massive bill in arenas around the country is important to him, being the opening act can be psychologically challenging, especially after getting a taste of what it's like to be the top act of the evening. "I know what it feels like to walk out in front of a sold out crowd of a thousand people that are there for you, and how good that feels, but as an opener you just have to train yourself to think that it’s going to be harder," Eazy said. "It would be really easy to step out on stage and just feel disappointed right away, but you’ve just got to train yourself to think like, 'Yo, this is going to be an uphill climb.' But you just embrace that and figure out how to make the most of it and gain that exposure."

G-Eazy sat down with XXL for an in-depth look into the behind the scenes of tour life, the trials and tribulations of being an opening act, some of his favorite tour memories, and what he's learning from being out on the road with Weezy, Tip and 2 Chainz.—Emmanuel C.M. (@ECM_LP)

What he's learned on the America's Most Wanted Tour

"Whenever I watch Wayne, or watch Chainz or Tip perform, these are guys that have been doing it for so long, and they have their tricks onstage. Whether it’s how they command the energy of the crowd, or the talk breaks in-between songs, or where they position their big songs in their set, or what they walk out to, or what they end with, all of that goes into building a good live show. And there’s so many tricks to use. I try to use this whole tour as a learning opportunity to say these are O.G.’s who have done it. And what can I learn from them? Because obviously it worked.

"Talk breaks are key. Talk breaks are really key, man. Saying the right things before songs, especially your big songs that people are anticipating. Figuring out that perfect way to introduce your really big songs. Because fans can sit home and listen to the music, but they want to experience the songs. And they sit there in their seats and wait for that big song, and that anticipation builds. And then when they hear that talk break, and they hear that song that’s getting introduced that they really love so much, that’s what really drives their energy up.

"Atlanta was dope. I’ll admit the first two shows—I think Atlanta might have been the third show we had—the first two shows were a little rocky. I knew it was gonna be tough going in this tour but it was even tougher than I anticipated. The thing about arenas—the difference is, it’s all assigned seating, so if you’re early in the bill the place isn’t filled up yet and it’s just patches of people all over an arena sitting down in their seats. Where as if they were all able to just gather up to the front, I think the energy would be crazier, but since they’re all separated and they’re all sitting down it’s kind of an awkward thing, especially with music they may not be too familiar with. Whereas by the time Atlanta came around, we had a ton of industry people there 'cause it’s Atlanta, it’s like another New York or LA for hip-hop shows. That was where it finally clicked and it was like, 'Oh yeah, who I am' and 'I do this,' so fuck it."

The tough parts of touring

"As an opening act there are those tough parts, it just wears on you. When I’m headlining my own tour, there is something to celebrate every night. It’s like, “Man we sold out another city,” we got all these kids that know all the words to my song, and we sold this much in merch...blah blah blah. But as an opener, you get out there and it could wear on you, it could be discouraging. You get out there and in front of a crowd that doesn’t react well to your music and you’re like man, “Am I even that hot? Do I suck? Are they not fucking with me?” But you have to come back and remind yourself that, 'Yo this is an up-hill climb when you’re opening a tour,' and you just have to just stay focused and just keep working hard through it because it’s like, you don’t just wake up one day as a Lil’ Wayne, as a Tip, as an Eminem, as a Jay Z. You have to work so hard to get there and earn that, so you gotta keep things in perspective.

"New York is definitely [my favorite city]. Growing up in the Bay Area I kind of always idolized New York as a city across the country as, like, 'Man if I could ever perform in New York and sell out a venue in Manhattan and see kids in that city embrace my music, that would be a milestone. That would be crazy.' So when we did Highline Ballroom a few months ago, it was that kind of moment for me. It was like, yo, I grew up on the other side of the country listening to East Coast hip-hop feeling like, man, if I could ever be popping in New York that would be crazy. So there’s always the New Yorks and the LAs and, of course, the hometown shows are always super crazy.

"Particularly when I’m headlining, [I feel a little in awe]. Like when I walk out and the crowd’s sold out and I couldn’t even hear myself if I wanted to talk to them or whatever. I’m almost just stuck for a minute, can’t stop smiling and I’m just like, 'Yo we did this,' without no label, without any big co-sign or anything like that, just grassroots organic. And it’s just like, it feels good when you see something you work hard at, when you see something you believed in for a long time finally start to work out and pay off, and do it your way."

Craziest tour stories

"When I’m the opening act, there are times when I could go out there and totally win over a crowd, and that’s what you try to do every night. You try to convince them and turn them into fans. But there are certainly bad experiences where you go and out and no one’s fucking with you at all. Versus headlining, I just played the biggest headlining show I ever did in Minnesota at this venue called First Style where they made Purple Rain and we sold that out like a month ahead of time. It was 1,500 people and walking out on stage there was the most special feeling I’ve ever felt as artist. It was like, this is legit, this is something special going on here and it’s just like, I don’t know, just seeing that community building around my music and seeing them come out and support it that it just, it means a lot.

"The craziest shit that never ceases to amaze me is the kids that drive a long way. Say there’s no show close to where they live, they’re in some suburb in the middle of nowhere in some random state that we don’t get to visit and you meet these kids that drive six, seven, eight hours to a show and you just think, man, all those hours sitting in a car and they’re driving all this way to hear you play songs, just to get to experience your show. That’s the stuff that never ceases to amaze me. The love and support from fans and the crazy stuff they’ll do. The other cool parts are always the kids who come and buy all the merch. They’ll come and buy a hoodie, a t-shirt, a hat. My favorite part is always the girls in the crowd who throw their bras and panties on stage, I’m never mad at that. Sometimes they’ll be little notes inside of them and stuff. The craziest note, it was a phone number on one side of the bra and on other side it was, 'for the freshest pussy in Austin, call me.'"

Performance Style

"I try to bring a lot of energy. I mean I’m not gonna say I’m doing backflips and climbing off of stuff like I’m Method Man or something like that, but I’m like, I tryna always run around the stage and keep the crowd jumping and keep them really engaged and all that. 'Cause the way I see it, man, by and large, you got to admit that hip-hop might be one of the more boring genres live a lot of times. But with the music industry going the way it is, it’s like all we have left is the live show and t-shirts. We don’t really sell records like you do, but you sell enough to recoup the money you spent on marketing and music videos. So it’s like, you want a profit, you gotta have an awesome live show, 'cause that’s your cash cow. So I’m like, how can I make the live show something that’s an experience, something you want to come back and see again and again. You just try to give them a great show, and just bring that energy and then give that to the crowd.

"I study a lot of ‘50s and ‘60s pop guys. I study Elvis and Johnny Cash, and I just admire the way they had crowds full of girls going crazy, and that’s what I want my crowd to be like. I want to create this character around the music that’s like, almost like the James Dean of hip-hop kind of thing."