Nabil G-Eazy revisits past work on new album 'These Things Happen Too.'
Without a single example uttered, G-Eazy is already laughing at the mention of what other MCs Spotify compares him to: "It's so annoying."
While the Bay Area artist born Gerald Gillum is one of the most successful white rappers of all time, having had multiple Top 10 hits, he doesn't often compare himself to his peers. Instead, he uses the story of when he decided to take music seriously to explain what drives him.
"I was listening to The Black Album looking out the window of an Amtrak train on the way to go visit my dad. And I just remember having this deep realization, an 'Aha!,' that I wanted to chase this to the edges of the earth and I wanted to push myself to always want to be great," the "Me, Myself, and I" rapper tells EW. "So I've been on this lonely quest ever since with as much ambition and drive as anybody. But I dunno, it's hard for me to compare myself to anybody because I can be a bit of an outsider or a loner at times. But I aspire to the greats. Those are who I study the closest."
Taking a page from Jay-Z's book, G-Eazy's newest album, These Things Happen Too (out Friday), is a sequel to his 2014 debut These Things Happen. Here the rapper talks about why he wanted to revisit his past work, what it was like working with Lil Wayne and Demi Lovato, and how he deals with public perceptions.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Why make a sequel album at this point in time?
G-EAZY: Well, to me, the album represents a full-circle journey. Setting out with all this ambition on the first one as a wide-eyed kid who wanted the world, wanted the universe, wanted to travel, wanted to transcend, wanted to take it above and beyond, and then experiencing all of that — getting to take my music all around and make so many dreams come true, but kinda reflecting on the journey as a whole, as well as the impact it's had on me for better or for worse, from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, to the adversity you face as you push through this journey.
How do you see These Things Happen now? Do you look at it as your breakout?
These Things Happen I recorded primarily while living out of a suitcase. I was saving up every dollar I was making from touring, and an independent project I'd released prior to that, and I was reinvesting it all back into the music. I was funding my own music videos. I paid for the album art out of money I'd saved up. I was living with very few possessions. It was a bit nomadic, but it was an exciting time because I was just all in on this dream and this goal that I had in my mind. So I didn't sign to RCA until the album was actually already complete and ready to push go on.
Was there an effort to maybe get back into the same headspace you were in when you made These Things Happen?
Absolutely. I went back to some of the same places I recorded the first one in. I worked with a lot of the same people I recorded the first one with. It was important for me to circle back to where the inspiration came from — to make sure that if I was going to do a sequel, that there were thematic similarities that I went back and touched on again.
You also just re-released two of your past albums with new songs. Did revisiting old tracks there inspire this project, or was it the other way around?
I've been working on this album for the past three years. And it came to me pretty early on in the process as to what I wanted to do and where I wanted to take it. It's not like I really set out with that in mind before I start. I just got started creating. I write freely, and then the music typically has a way of telling me what it's going to be about. I don't try to overthink it. I just let it come to me.
You have a song with Lil Wayne on this new record. How did that happen? Did he give you any advice about making a sequel album? He's an expert at it.
Tha Carter III is not only one of the greatest rap albums of all time, but it arrived at a very crucial time in my life. I had moved to New Orleans in 2007, so it was not too long after [Hurricane] Katrina, and it was right before Tha Carter III dropped. Wayne was my favorite rapper at the time, it was peak Mixtape Wayne, and all of the sudden I'm living in New Orleans for school, his city. And it was so sweeping and inspiring to feel his energy. To live in his city around that time was a pretty big deal. You just felt his impact everywhere. So getting him on this album was a huge moment for me. But I can't say that we've had many conversations where I've ever really gotten to be around him. He's kind of like the Wizard of Oz, he's so legendary.
I did a tour with him a few summers ago, or not a few summers ago. I'm sorry. I did a tour with him eight or nine years ago now. [Laughs]. I was the opener of the opener. It was the first big tour I was on and I was getting paid enough to get a tour bus at least, but I still wasn't performing for many people because I was the very first act on. There were five other people performing after me. So while I'd be on stage saying "Make some noise," I think most people would be looking at their tickets trying to find their seat, filing into the venue. But it felt great just to come full circle with him. And at the end of the day, his verse says everything. It's pretty self-explanatory.
It's dope too that you reference his song "Mr. Carter" on the new track because Wayne made that with Jay-Z, who also loves to follow up on past work.
It felt like that song just reminded me of "Mr. Carter" so much, and Jay-Z's influence on Wayne being similar to maybe Wayne's influence on me. The two of them are two of my favorite, favorite, favorite rappers of all time.
Another big recent collaboration you've done, which fans have already gotten to hear, is "Breakdown" with Demi Lovato. How has the reaction been to that single?
It's been incredible. It's been so inspiring and it feels really good. It makes my heart warm to know that it's helping other people. Music can be a very, very, very powerful thing, and it can give people language and words that they maybe don't possess, or a power they don't necessarily possess, or can help them feel less alone. At the end of the day, we're all human, and that record is honest and vulnerable. These lyrics are deeply revealing for the good and the bad. And I think when you humble yourself, and you share those kinds of things, and you're vulnerable about them, people can really relate because they feel like they've been there too.
You've expressed before that it was important to have Demi on the song, and that you two have become friends. How do you relate to them? Do you seek that type of relationship or common ground with all your collaborators?
I think a certain amount of common ground and relatability and chemistry is important when collaborating with people. I don't think it's a requirement. I think great things can come from two or more [vastly] different people. But Demi is somebody who possesses this immense power and talent and has had such a long successful career, but has also experienced an incredible amount of adversity in their personal life.
It's hard as a public figure because it becomes very difficult to protect your privacy. It's like, when you're in your own home, you should be able to feel safe, but metaphorically speaking, it's like all the windows are open when you're a public person. And it becomes nearly impossible to ever close them. So that lets everybody else get a look inside what should be your private personal life. And it almost becomes everyone else's business.
And when you're putting it all on the floor, it's probably beneficial to work with someone that can match that energy.
Oh yeah, absolutely. I think the timing of doing this record with Demi was powerful. And at the end of the day, it's not hidden information. We've both experienced our fair share of adversity and breakdowns that have become everybody else's business because of the media's portrayal. So given what Demi's experienced and gone through, especially in the past couple of years, as have I, that synergy and chemistry and connection is even stronger. And that's one of the pillars of our friendship, I'd say, is our ability to talk about those things, and be there for each other.
Do you feel like you're at a turning point right now? This album doesn't feel as "live fast, die young" as your past work.
I want this album to represent the maturation of Gerald. To show my evolution, both in my artistry, but also in my identity as a human being. And as a grown man. This is my fourth album. I'm not just a wild kid anymore. At some point you've got to become a grown man and handle your adult life and take responsibility.
But I like that it's not quite like, "Here's a whole new me." It's transitional.
Oh no, no. These things take time. [Laughs] I've shown more than once that my maturing process can sometimes come with a bit of a slow pace. But yes, we all live and grow in our own ways.
One thing that I've noticed in terms of your growth as a musician is that you're singing your own hooks more. Is that something that you've been focusing on? Or, alternatively, do you see your hooks as a chance to provide a platform to up-and-coming artists?
Well, I've always loved the dynamic of rap verse into melodic chorus. And I've also always loved the conversational aspect of doing records with vocalists, because it feels like I'm handing off back and forth, or a conversation happening between verse and chorus with me and the featured artist. But it also kind of came out of necessity because I could never sing. So I didn't have a choice.
I've always wanted to push myself to be able to sing my own choruses, but singing has never come naturally to me. It wasn't until quarantine that I got to really spend enough time and practice every single day and get good enough so I could do my own hooks. Everything's Strange Here was certainly my first dive into that kind of work, but there's definitely a learning curve, and like anything else, you get what you give and you have to be extremely diligent and disciplined in your work ethic and your approach.
Finally, is there anymore about this project that you're excited for people to experience?
For the most part, I think I'd consider myself a fairly self-aware person when it comes to my public perception. Oftentimes with artists, friends of mine, I see it all the time where you can be either too self-aware, or lean into being too aware of what the negative things get said about you and giving that too much power. I try to keep a balance of being aware of it all and not letting it penetrate my inner psyche or heart too much, but it's hard. I think this is ultimately a statement of, "I hear what they say." I'm not unaware, but this is me standing up on my own, telling the world who I am unapologetically, and saying, "You can take me to leave me, but these are my truths. And this is who Gerald is."
This interview has been edited and condensed.