G-Eazy is living proof that appearances can be deceiving. A six-foot-four Caucasian male clad all in black like a Johnny Cash throwback, he has also been likened to a "young Elvis" (Billboard), with slicked-back James Dean hair (Rolling Stone). He looks more like a greaser from The Outsiders or American Graffiti than anything resembling a contemporary rap star. But when he picks up a mic, he is unmistakably hip hop. His rhymes are underpinned by slow southern, trap rhythms and minimal synths, though sung choruses boost his crossover appeal — he makes no apologies for his pursuit of fame. As comfortable working with Lil Wayne and Chris Brown as he is with Britney Spears, he told Rolling Stone in 2014 that "I've always wanted to be a star. I've always wanted to be an Elvis Presley or a Tupac... I have an addictive personality and fame is the most addictive drug there is."
How Gerald Became G-Eazy
Gerald Earl Gillum was born on May 24, 1989 in Oakland, California. His father, Edward, is a professor of art at California State University, Fresno; his mother, Suzanne Olmsted, is an artist and teacher. He has a younger brother, James, who is a musician. After his parents split when he was in the first grade, Gillum and his brother were raised by their mom — who worked two teaching jobs to keep their heads above water. But money was tight: all three of them shared a room at his grandparents' house. Gillum followed his mom's example, and worked for the Top Dog restaurant chain from the age of 14. "That's the only way we brought money in," he told Rolling Stone. "If I wanted something I had to go work for it."
He attended Berkeley High School, where a group of his peers had a Billboard hit as the hip-hop act the Pack. Gillum has described this as his "seeing-is-believing moment," when he realized that if people he actually knew could succeed, then he could, too. Like the Pack, he had also been making beats — using the music-production software Reason. He sold mixtapes out of his backpack for five bucks each.
Producing Mixtapes While in College
G-Eazy's initial sound was influenced by hyphy — the rowdy style of hip hop from Northern California — but he slowed the pace down after moving South to New Orleans for college in 2007, where he soaked up Southern bounce music, epitomized by local hero Lil Wayne. By now he was set on a career in hip hop, and chose a bachelor of arts degree in music industries studies at Loyola University to help him progress. He released several mixtapes as digital downloads while at Loyola, including "The Tipping Point" (2008), "Sikkis on the Planet" and "Quarantine" (both 2009), "Big" (2010) and "The Outsider" (2011); he also released a download-only LP in 2009, The Epidemic LP. Gradually his reputation grew — by the time he graduated in 2011 he had toured with Lil Wayne and Drake. Although he wasn't able to socialize much with the headline acts outside of the shows, he took the opportunity to watch and learn how to program a live set, work a crowd, develop a rapport with the audience, and how to act like a star: lessons that would serve him well.
'Must Be Nice' to 'When It's Dark Out' Albums
After graduation, Gillum dropped another mixtape, The Endless Summer, in August 2011, which featured an updated version of Dion DiMucci's 1961 hit "Runaround Sue." The accompanying video, directed by Tyler Yee, firmly established his 1960s aesthetic, which Gillum has described as "modern meets Johnny Cash." The following year he independently released his first full-length album, Must Be Nice, which peaked at No. 33 on the Billboard R&B/hip hop album chart, and No. 3 on the iTunes hip hop chart. He made his major-label debut in June 2014, with the album These Things Happen, on RCA. Guests included label-mate A$AP Ferg, the veteran Bay Area rapper E-40 and fellow Californians HBK Collective. The album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard album chart and was certified gold by the RIAA. Gillum embarked on his first overseas tour, From the Bay to the Universe, which included dates in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
His second album for RCA, When It's Dark Out, dropped in November 2015, with guests including E-40 (again), Big Sean, Chris Brown, Bebe Rexha and Keyshia Cole. The album debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard chart and was certified platinum. Its lead single, "Me Myself & I," a duet with Bebe Rexha, reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart (his first Top 10 single). A remix of the album's second single, "Order More," featured Lil Wayne and Yo Gotti.
A Moment of Introspection: 'Everything Will Be OK'
Hard work and hedonism are consistent themes in G-Eazy's music — but When It's Dark Out also revealed a more introspective and vulnerable side on the song "Everything Will Be OK." The lyrics address his guilt at leaving his friends and family behind to chase his dream — and then in the third verse he talks about his initial confusion over his mom's lesbian relationship with a woman called Melissa, which he eventually came to accept. But there is a tragic ending when Gillum relates how he came home one day to find Melissa dead after overdosing on prescription drugs. "It's a really, really personal story that I had never even told my closest friends," he told Nylon magazine. "But the song is just about acceptance. It's about love and it's about appreciating people while they're here."
G-Eazy's stellar ascent continued in July 2016 when he was featured on "Make Me…" — Britney Spears' lead single from her ninth album. In March 2017 he released a single, "Good Life," a collaboration with the singer Kehlani that received more than 13 million YouTube views in its first month. He also released Step Brothers, an EP with DJ Carnage. He is currently working on his third studio album for RCA.
(Profile photo of G-Eazy by Larry Marano/Getty Images)
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