Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 20 May 2019

RedFestDXB: G-Eazy opens up about mental health and handling fame - and that Dubai storm

The hip-hop star says he's ready for this year's performance, no matter what

G-Eazy performing in the US. The artist says he is pumped to play in Dubai again. Getty
G-Eazy performing in the US. The artist says he is pumped to play in Dubai again. Getty

Hip-hop star G-Eazy’s last performance at RedFestDXB made for a ­memorable Thursday night for the artist and his fans, but promoters would probably rather forget it.

That was in 2017, when the weekend ­festival found itself in the crosshairs of one of the UAE’s most vicious storms. But fortunately for ­G-Eazy – real name Gerald Earl Gillum – he ­headlined the opening night and so did not bear the brunt of it.

The worst of the storm hit the ­following night – organisers cancelled Friday’s performances due to safety concerns and ran a slightly abridged version of the festivities on Saturday. That said, it wasn’t smooth sailing for G-Eazy, 29, as he performed in windy ­conditions and lashing rain. His black leather jacket – essential to his vintage 1970s film star looks – was soaked, while his signature comb-over was transformed into an unruly mop.

But the weather wasn’t enough to dampen what turned out to be a fierce set from the rapper. He commanded the stage as he delivered his biggest hits with his ­signature laid-back, assured flow.

Speaking to The National before his return to the festival tomorrow, once again as the opening night’s headline act, G-Eazy says he is pumped to get back on the stage. “And I don’t even care how the ­weather will be,” he says. “Although that night was a rarity for Dubai, I am ready, no matter what. I am travelling halfway around the world to rock out.”

Another reason he has signed up to the event again this year is the reception he got from the fans. G-Eazy describes the sight of the crowd singing along to his tracks Me, Myself and I and Order More as nothing short of a blessing. “Man, it was crazy,” he says. “Any time I’m that far from home, seeing those fans who know my music makes me feel so grateful that I have a chance to do this. Dubai was like that and it is those things that make you just stop, ­acknowledge that moment and really think about how blessed and lucky we are to get to do these things in life.”

Hip-hop’s fascination with the other side

G-Eazy’s latest album, 2017’s The ­Beautiful and Damned (which is not a reference to F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1922 novel) is all about the creeping awareness that comes with life in the fast lane. It is a sprawling ­double album that details G-Eazy’s life before and after his rise to fame. In short, the ­album’s first half is all about Gillum, the ­hungry rapper who sold his CDs from the back of his car, while the second half is about the star that is G-Eazy and the vices that come with success.

So, what’s the difference? “Well, Gerald is the guy who turns up in the morning and inspects the messages G-Eazy made the night before,” he says with a wry chuckle.

It is the theme of duality, G-Eazy ­explains, that courses through the album. That concept of public versus private lives remains a favourite lyrical topic for pop music and hip-hop artists such as Eminem/Marshall ­Mathers and Jay Z/Sean Carter.

It works, G-Eazy says, because it offers the artist a wider berth to be ­personal and creative. “I think people who have multiple perspectives, and who can see two sides of any issue, can ­generally become successful ­musicians,” he says.

“On one hand, you, as an artist, have to be ordinary so people whose lives are more ordinary than yours can relate to you. But at the same time, because of what artists do and that travel and roller-coaster lifestyle, you also have a special insight into things and you have the ability to express it in your work.”

Remembering Mac Miller

But that roller coaster can take its toll. The Beautiful and Damned ­features tracks that explore the ­paranoia that comes from ­unexpected success. The album’s title track is a case in point. It’s a mix of over-stuttering beats, while G-Eazy sounds panicked as he recalls the lonely nights in hotel rooms while on tour. “I’m talkin’ to myself / What’s wrong with you? / You should make some songs to turn up to ... Thinkin’ too much like you usually do.”

G-Eazy is also taking part in a growing conversation in hip-hop about mental health, with high-profile stars ­ranging from Kanye West and Jay Z to Kid Cudi and ­Logic, all discussing their ­personal struggles openly. The topic was also tragically ­driven home last year with the death of acclaimed introspective rapper Mac Miller at the age of 26.

Still ­reeling from the loss, G-Eazy says he will ­continue to raise awareness of mental health both inside and outside of the studio. “It is important and we need to keep the dialogue going,” he says. “It’s important as an artist, as myself, to start taking care of myself. Music is a crazy place to work, so you’ve got to put your health first.

“Mac was a great friend of mine. He had an incredible spirit, an ­incredible soul, and he gave us so much. If there’s anything we can take from that it’s learning that life is short, life is really precious and life is a beautiful thing. It’s important to take care of what we’ve been given.”

G-Eazy will perform on the opening night of RedFestDXB on February 14. Doors open 6pm, tickets from Dh395. Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, www.redfestdxb.com

Updated: February 12, 2019 08:17 PM