At the start of his first Las Vegas residency at KAOS, rapper-producer-hip-hop artist G-Eazy opens up about life in the music fast lane.
Gerald Earl Gillum came to music by way of old- school favorites: Beethoven’s Fifth, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.” Before he was known as the rapper G-Eazy, young Gillum soaked up sounds at home in San Francisco’s East Bay, where his grandparents and single mom played lots of classical records, and the kids in the streets and clubs blasted West Coast rap.
Gillum didn’t fit the mold of hip-hop breakout star. Six-foot-four and white with hair slicked back like James Dean, he looked more greaser than gangsta, but his gift with beats and a desire to earn cash and acclaim pushed him toward the mic and the rowdy adoring crowds.
While studying music at Loyola University in New Orleans, he created mixtapes as digital downloads that grew so popular, he was opening for Lil Wayne and Drake before graduating in 2011. He released his first major-label album, These Things Happen, in 2014 and landed his first Top 10 Billboard single the next year with “Me, Myself & I.” World tours, a collab with Britney Spears, and TMZ-tracked canoodles with singers Lana Del Rey and Halsey made him full-on famous. Here’s the man who makes it look eazy being G.
What was the first moment people took notice of you onstage? G-EAZY: I was 13 or 14 years old at a little house party for grown-ups with my friend Marty Grimes, who I still perform with. It was his mom’s birthday and she asked the DJ to let us perform. I mostly remember how totally weird it was hearing my voice coming through the speakers over the top of the beat.
You are performing on your 30th birthday at the Palms. What will be different from your other shows? GE: Vegas is Vegas. There’s no place like it. Being that it’s my 30th, I have no choice but to go all out. One of my favorite things about performing in Las Vegas is that it’s a moment that all of my friends rally around to share the experience. We’ll all be at the hotel, and we’ll all go into the venue together and enjoy as a huge group. Sometimes when you tour, you don’t get to see friends and family as often. You’re constantly on the road, people have jobs and normal lives, and they can’t just follow around the rock ’n’ roll circus 24/7.
Do you feel any pressure considering all the major artists doing residencies at KAOS? GE: I’m in great company. It’s so well curated. It’s an honor to be next to names like that. I think when you run with fast runners, you run faster. I’m always inspired and motivated by being around other great people. It just pushes me to go even harder.
What do you see as your greatest accomplishment? GE: Being able to provide for my family. My mom lost her job as a fine arts professor and suffers from chronic pain that’s hard for her career. I made it my mission to take care of her and send her money every month.
Her comfort means everything because she struggled so much to raise my brother and me.
Describe your perfect day. GE: I don’t have a regular schedule like most people. Often, I’m up making music until 4 or 5am, so I’ll sleep into the next day. But a dream day for me would be waking up in time for brunch with my friends. We’d throw something on the grill and hang out at home. Other people might say, ‘I’d go to Paris’ or somewhere, but I spend so much time on the road that home is almost a figment of my imagination. Waking up at my house in L.A. and having nowhere to be—that’s the ridiculous fantasy.
What about a dream collaboration? GE: Oh, it would be with Drake, no question. He’s the best we’ve ever seen, in my opinion. His level of success in the music industry is unprecedented as far as being prolific at the highest level for more than 10 years. It’s so hard to stick around. This industry will chew you up and spit you out and can be really cruel. But Drake keeps thriving. He’s like a god to me.
Did you ever have a job outside the music biz? GE: Lots of them. As soon as I could work, I worked. At 16, I worked at a hot dog place called Top Dog in Oakland. I ran the register and the grill, cleaned up the place at night; [I was] getting home on school nights at 1 in the morning. But, you know, it taught me the process of running the show myself and knowing what it means to carry the weight. And when you’re making $8 an hour at 16, it means being able to buy Air Jordans when you get your paycheck.
No doubt you’ve made some bigger splurges recently. GE: I still collect sneakers, but, yeah, my Ferrari makes me really happy to drive. It’s a black 488 that looks just like the Batmobile. I set it as a goal for myself to buy one, and as soon as I turned in my last album, they delivered it.
What’s next for you? GE: I’ve been truly blessed in my life and gotten to do so many cool things at such a young age. I’m excited about the process of working on this next album, but also of bettering myself and staying in a good headspace. When you’re a performer, especially if you’re touring, life can be kind of like Groundhog Day, where you’re doing more or less the same thing every day. You’re performing the same exact songs, and even the crowds start to look the same. Chances are it’s fun, but there’s that repetition. That repetition can be a grind and the grind can really get to you.
The key is self-care. It’s hard because you position yourself to be in a place to receive these blessings, but you also have to learn to say no. You need space to quiet down. I’ve seen what happens to artists who burn out, and it’s not pretty. For me, it’s a matter of remembering that little kid who, at 13 or 14, got up onstage. It’s about prioritizing Gerald as much as I prioritize G-Eazy... and in this game, that can be tough.