SOUTHERN MARAUDERS: G-SIDE
There’s a NASA launch site just outside of Huntsville, AL, but rockets are about the only thing leaving the city according to G-Side’s ST and Yung Clova.
Words: Anupa Mistry
Four projects into their career, G-Side’s star is steady rising beyond niche rap circles. They’ve been lucky to get out: touring Europe, and even playing Toronto last September. Still, it’s evident on The One… Cohesive—the duo’s latest Block Beattaz-produced record— that ‘Bama is forever-home. ST and Clova’s aim: using Slow Motion Soundz, a G-Side-led collective of rappers and producers, as a launching pad to put Huntsville on the hip-hop map.
POUND: You talk a lot about traveling on Cohesive but you always manage to bring it back home. What's that about?
ST: We’re from Huntsville and Athens—two pretty small towns. And really, nobody ever gets out. You don’t go anywhere unless you got a mean jump shot or you play football. For the most part, there’s no music industry here and we didn’t really have anybody to look up to. The type of music we were making wasn’t going to be accepted in Down South clubs, so we had to find our own lane. One day, I think it was in between the Starshipz and Rocketz and Sumthin 2 Hate albums, a magazine called Hip-hop Connection in the U.K. did a write-up on us. It was the first time we’d been in a magazine in actual print, and so I had this genius idea—I call it the “Reverse Beatles Theory”—to take what we do, and deliver it to the doorsteps of people in the U.K., or Europe or Australia. It has the same effect as when The Beatles delivered their music to America.
POUND: You should patent that shit!
ST: Yeah! It’s kind of working though! (Laughs)
POUND: What’s been your favourite place to visit so far?
ST: Norway. Oslo, Norway to be exact.
POUND: Uh, that’s like the complete opposite of the South I’d think!
ST: Yeah. It is THE polar opposite (laughs)! It’s crazy but the club was packed out and they knew everything word-for-word. It was like being in the Twilight Zone, but we got used to it.
POUND: In an NPR write-up, there was this idea of scrapping the concept of G-Side as a duo and envisioning it as four-man group with CP and Mali from the Block Beattaz. Is that accurate?
ST: Yeah that was dead-on. That’s what the Slow Motion Soundz/G-Side product is: G-Side over Block Beattaz beats. You hear other people over the beats and it’s not the same. And that’s not like they don’t get the same caliber beats, it’s just because we’ve been working together for so long, CP and Mali know what fits us and we know what we’re going to get out of them.
POUND: So how is the process different with an outside producer versus Block Beattaz?
ST: If I work with Burn One or someone else, it’s a lot less hands on. Burn One will send a couple tracks over and let me pick out, whereas with Block Beattaz we’ll do six sessions on one song. After we’ve got the idea or the verse mapped out, Clova and I will work on it section-by-section, and (CP and Mali) like to work on it sound-by-sound. It’s real meticulous.
POUND: With that said, there’s a more orchestral, ambient tone to Cohesive—whose direction was that?
ST: CP set the tone for the initial sound and once everyone around the studio got a feel for the first few records they kind of fell in line. It was more experimental; we didn’t go in and say, "Yeah, we want it to be like this." I don’t know how we could tell but it’s like, you get those records and you’re like, "Yeah, this is the one. This can make it."
POUND: Words like "soulful" or "introspective" or "dark" tend to get tossed around in reference to G-Side. Do you agree with those descriptions?
ST: We’re not the most extroverted people—myself, nor Clova, nor the Block Beattaz. We’re all pretty much some weirdos, so it makes sense. We rap about what we know and what we see and on Cohesive there’s a lot of frustration going on in our lives. But that’s how it is in real life. I don’t know many other acts that live the way we live. We’ve got a big, huge studio and I don’t know how to work a lick of that equipment but I’m in there every day. We get small winds from nothing; like we couldn’t do shows in our town and now (our shows are) packed out. We’re not rapping fairytales because we’re not really living fairytales.
POUND: There’s also been a lot of “Album of the Year” talk with respect to Cohesive. Why do you think it’s connecting?
ST: That’s appreciated. We put a lot of work into it. (Maybe it’s connecting) because it’s real and because of the emotion we put into the record—and pretty much anyone can relate to drum and bass. If you don’t like what we’re saying on the songs, you’ll love the beats at least. There’s still a lot to work on … If anything, the next album could be our best piece of work. I do feel like we’ve finally have been able to step our lyrical game up to match those beats though.
(CLOVA CONFERENCES IN)
POUND: When you first started rapping, was there anyone you tried to emulate or take cues from?
Clova: I used to try and rap like 8ball. The way he made words come out of his mouth— he was so smooth, it wasn’t rushed, and he made it sound so cool to be him even though he was so big! It was like, how could someone so big make it sound so groovy, you know what I mean? (Laughs)
POUND: What do you bring out of each other?
ST: I think we give each other a chance to be ourselves. I don’t have to go out of my comfort zone to make up for the things that I lack, because Clova does it for me. All his strengths are probably my weaknesses. So we bring balance to each other; that’s why we drop a lot of two-verse records, there’s no need for a third verse.
POUND: Do comparisons to OutKast or UGK make sense to you?
Clova: Earlier on, a lot of comparisons were definitely made. Especially to OutKast and the way they used to rap in the ‘90s and early 2000s. But, I don’t know, we kind of went left and they went left too. Let’s say we do want to be like them in terms of being international. As far as UGK, I mean we’re all from the hood so maybe we give that vibe; we spit that gutter stuff.
ST: I think it comes from us not being afraid to experiment and the fact that we work so closely with the Block Beattaz and how OutKast worked with Organized Noize.
POUND: Is it worth it to fit into the mold of “Southern rap?" Whatever that is?
ST: It all depends on what you want. I know regional guys who make four times what we make per show. They might not get shows outside of Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia, but they make good money doing it. Me? I would like to tour for the rest of my life off of the records we make, like you know how Frankie Beverley and Maze can go and sell out a stadium at 50 and 60 years old? I’d like to be able to do that.
Clova: I mean regional rappers are doing it up, but I’d rather be international: it’s funner, different people, different cultures. I get tired of driving through Huntsville or Mississippi all the time.
ST: It makes your quality of life better, especially coming from where we’re from. We only see the same thing all the time. And most people from where we’re from will not go outside of the country. Shoot, some will never go outside of the state—some of our friends CAN’T go outside of the state because they’re on probation. That’s kind of why all that international and travel stuff comes into play in our music. Our people like to hear about it; they can’t go so we’ve got to pain that picture for them.
POUND: Alabama’s getting some shine now because of Yelawolf though.
ST: I’m a big Yelawolf fan; he’s got really dope stage presence, his album’s dope, he’s probably my favourite out of all the Alabama acts outside of Slow Motion Soundz. On Huntsville International, he drove up to come and get on the record. He taught us a lot indirectly—I don’t even think he was trying, we just watched his moves, the things that he did, watched his company.
POUND: There’s this rapper who guests on “Came Up” named S.L.A.S.H. What can you tell me about her?
ST: Yeah, she actually started that song. It was her and CP in the studio; she put her verse down first and gave us the inspiration for our verses. S.L.A.S.H. is the shit! (Laughs). Her name stands for Some Love And Some Hate—she’s 24, and right now I’m developing her and working on her album, Cinderella Story. She was actually sent to us by Yelawolf’s manager. She came on the last few cities with us and killed it every time. I don’t think people knew S.L.A.S.H. was a female—but once they see it on stage everybody freaks. Like, she’ll rap circles around most dudes.
POUND: With all this stuff you’ve been doing, building a studio, establishing other artists, what changes have you seen in your local rap community?
ST: Unity mostly. Before, a lot of people wouldn’t mess with each other because they didn’t want to see someone else come up before them. But now, I’d say 90 per cent of the acts in Huntsville record at our studio so … it’s more of a united front. If we never get rich, what Slow Motion Soundz has done in Huntsville as far as having a music industry can’t be undone. It changed people’s perspective of the music game; a lot of people look at the indie route as the route to go now, some people watch our moves and then piggyback, or rap about the same things G-Side used to rap about when we used to be dope boys and stuff. We’ve had everlasting stake on it; if the money never matches, they still can’t match what we’ve done.
Clova: We’ve just made it cool for everybody to be themselves man. You don’t have to follow the trend of being Atlanta or New York or an East Coast rapper or West Coast; you can just be you.