A strong work ethic has never been a problem for G-Eazy, so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that, in less than 18 months, he has followed up his breakthrough 2014 album, “These Things Happen,” with the recently released “When It’s Dark Out.”
The current album – his first under a deal with RCA Records – arrived Dec. 4 despite the fact that G-Eazy toured into the early months of 2015 behind “These Things Happen” and needed to include time for the manufacture and promotional set-up of the new album, a process that can take a few months for a major label release.
“I don’t know how we did it,” G-Eazy said in a recent phone interview. “I guess just by not taking any days off. I went from the end of the last tour for the last album (straight) to the studio, just set up shop, locked the doors and put my phone on airplane mode and made the album.”
G-Eazy, who plays the Toyota Amphitheatre in Wheatland on Saturday, July 9, had good reason to push himself to make “When It’s Dark Out.” “These Things Happen” debuted at No. 3 on Billboard magazine’s all-genre album chart and topped the magazine’s Hip-Hop and Rap album charts – an impressive showing for an album that was independently released (although it was distributed by RED, one of the industry’s leading distributors).
Now G-Eazy (real name Gerald Gillum) is being touted as a candidate to be hip-hop’s next superstar, having seen his single “Me, Myself & I” (featuring Bebe Rexha) top Billboard’s Hot Rap, Mainstream Top 40 and U.S. Rhythmic singles charts (and reach No. 7 on the all-genre Hot 100 singles chart).
G-Eazy’s ascension didn’t happen by magic. That aforementioned work ethic played a key role in getting him to the cusp of stardom.
Raised by a single mother in the Bay Area, G-Eazy got into hip-hop as a teenager, and during college at Loyola University in New Orleans began unleashing a steady stream of mixtapes, beginning with the 2008 release “The Tipping Point.”
A tipping point came with the 2011 release of his mixtape “The Endless Summer. It included an updated version of Dion’s 1961 hit, “Runaround Sue,” and generated more than 4 million YouTube views. “The Endless Summer” mixtape gained widespread acclaim for the way G-Eazy built his tracks and his raps around ’50s/early ’60s-era doo-wop and early rock ’n’ roll samples – a unique blending of retro and modern.
The exposure from “The Endless Summer” enabled G-Eazy to start what became a relentless touring schedule. In addition to headlining shows, he also landed a spot on the 2012 Warped tour and snagged opening slots on tours by Lil Wayne, Drake, Shwayze and others.
He also started to get considerable attention for his race (he’s white), his looks (he’s often compared to film idol James Dean) and his sharp sense of style.
But his music remains G-Eazy’s biggest selling point. With “These Things Happen,” he started to move away from the retro element of “The Endless Summer,” and now on “When It’s Dark Out,” any traces of that style are pretty much gone. To G-Eazy, though, it only made sense to evolve his sound.
“I think it was important as a creative (artist), with every project or body of work you set out to put together to push yourself and move forward, take risks,” he said. “You can’t reheat the same soup forever.”
“When It’s Dark Out” stands out for several reasons. For one thing, it is an unusually musical and melodic hip-hop album. For instance, “Me, Myself & I” is built around Rexha’s strikingly pretty guest vocal, while “Drifting” (featuring Chris Brown) and “Nothing To Me” (with Keyshia Cole and E-40) are silky ballads with mostly sung vocals.
G-Eazy also steps up his game lyrically, showing a personal and vulnerable side in a several songs that is rare in today’s hip-hop, where it’s common for artists to brag about their success, money, women and ability to party like a pro.
“When It’s Dark Out” has some lyrics (“One of Them” or “Order More”) about living the big life of a hip-hop star, but the songs “Drifting” and “Sad Boy” find G-Eazy contemplating the downsides and insecurities of fame. On “Everything Will Be Okay,” he recalls real-life difficulties, such as the separation of his mother and father. He also raps about weathering the time his mother was unemployed, understanding his mother’s sexuality and discovering the body of his mother’s girlfriend, who had suffered a fatal overdose.
G-Eazy said he is proud of what he’s created on “When It’s Dark Out,” adding that the new songs will be the focus of his live show.
“I kind of put the album together in a similar way I would put a show together, like in terms of a set list, just energy wise, keeping the dynamic,” he said. “So I’ll play most of the new album and of course I’ll do some of the favorites off of the last one.”
What: The Bay Area rapper co-headlines the Endless Summer Tour (with Logic)
When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, July 9
Where: Toyota Amphitheatre, 2677 Forty Mile Road, Wheatland