It didn't take long for G-Eazy to follow up 2014's breakthrough These Things Happen with the December release When It's Dark Out, his first album under a new deal with RCA Records. This despite the fact that he toured well into 2015 and needed to write a full album of new material.
How'd he do it? "I guess just by not taking any days off," says the Oakland hip-hop artist, who went straight from the road into the studio. "I just set up shop, locked the doors and put my phone on airplane mode. I just worked my ass off."
Now G-Eazy (real name Gerald Gillum) is being touted as a candidate for hip-hop stardom. Last week, his new single "Me, Myself & I" (featuring Bebe Rexha) landed on Spotify's 10 most-streamed tracks, right below Drake and a couple notches up from The Weeknd. (The album also features guest appearances by Chris Brown, Keyshia Cole and E-40.) Next week, he'll be headlining 1STBANK Center on a bill that includes A$AP Ferg among its support acts.
Gillum was raised by a single mother in the San Francisco Bay Area, and joined a local hip-hop group, the Bay Boyz, while still in high school. He subsequently enrolled at New Orleans' Loyola University, where he majored in music industry studies.
It was during college that Gillum, now 26, began releasing a steady stream of mixtapes, one of which included an updated version of Dion's 1961 hit "Runaround Sue" that generated more than 4 million YouTube views. He was soon gaining widespread acclaim for raps built around late-'50s and early-'60s-era doo-wop and rock 'n' roll samples.
"I like to bridge gaps, bring different worlds together," he says. "Sampling '50s music, half-timing the drums, and rapping over it, was a crazy contrast."
After landing a spot on the 2012 Warped tour, the rapper 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 music remains the selling point. With These Things Happen, he started to move away from his past work's retro elements, which are now pretty much gone. "You can't reheat the same soup forever," he says.
The new album also finds Gillum taking a more personal approach on tracks like "Everything Will Be Okay," which deals with his mother leaving his father and one of her best friends suffering a fatal overdose.
"I told a story on 'Everything Will Be OK' that I hadn't even told some of my closest friends," he says. "So to talk about it on an actual song and then release it to the whole world, it was kind of scary. But it can be therapeutic, I think, to open up."