At a certain point in time, the rap game was all about being real, raw, and rugged. The harder the beats and rhymes, the scarier your persona was (see: Ice Cube). And nowadays, mainstream rap is more or less about getting the party going. The rap radio airwaves are duller than a knife from Panda Express, and the underground is far too expansive. The only way to make a splash is to either do something different (see: Odd Future), have natural God-given talent (see: Jay-Z, Nas, or Eminem), or very rarely both (see: Kanye West).
A group like Huntsville, AL’s G-Side is on the right path, working together for over a decade, still doing their own thing. A common adjective in reviews is “cinematic”, and while they embrace the modern dirty-south rap mentality, they also hold true to old school methods. “Everybody’s been trying to step their game up,” Stephen “ST 2 Lettaz” Harris explains. “It was a dead era for a minute.” Hip hop certainly has needed a good jump-start for some time. Either the new generation is all about capitalistic gain (where in god’s name is Chingy?), or people have been singing about the same things for years. “I don’t even listen to a lot of rap anymore,” Harris continues. “If anything, it’s old school, like Outkast, or Masta P, but I try to look for new music, like alternative rock and soul.”
This shines through within their music as well, as they sample everything from Beach House to Enya. In a time when the internet offers anything and everything, it’s fitting when an artist takes the time to explore all that’s available. Aside from searching for new music, Harris attributes his inspiration to cinema: “I actually want to direct videos at some point. I watch three or four movies a day.”
Meanwhile, the duo’s other half, David “Yung Clova” Williams still holds true to one of rap’s core ideals: fashion. “I like sports and fashion a lot, for real,” he says. “I just love the jerseys, crazy hair-dos, and stuff”.
While the two focus on unique sampling and looking fresh, they have also gone on to embrace the world of modern technology as a means to further their careers. “Use the internet/to network/constructed a network/where we all connected to get work” they rap on “I Am”, a track off their newest album, The One…Cohesive. “If it wasn’t for the technology, we wouldn’t be here,” Williams admits. “You couldn’t see your face on a site at first, and then you can Google your name, which is great after the grunt work.”
Harris adds a bit more: “It’s a whole other game nowadays, because right when you were tired of fuckers selling shit at the store, then there was a whole other way to find music, and it has boomed. You can sit in the privacy of your home, and you can find new music, and find sites that you trust and love. It’s dope. In order for us to be a success, we have to add the tech side to the old school physical grind.” On the other hand, they’re definitely aware of the necessity of face-to-face interaction. Harris continues: “It’s cool when you got Twitter followers, but if you’re not traveling, doing shows and touching base with the people, the influence isn’t felt.”
Since there’s so much clutter on the web, it becomes hard to sort the good from the bad, but Harris and Williams attribute their sudden propulsion into rap stardom to something else. “People got a good thing on our last album,” Yung Clova explains. “They just wanted to see if we could do it again.”
“We just stuck to the same formula,” Harris adds. “We can’t make music like other people, so we want to make things that haven’t necessarily been heard.”
“When we hear the music, it’s just a gut feeling,” Williams chimes in. “Suddenly, you hear it, and you’re like, ‘Awww man!’”
The two have certainly made a reputation in their home of Alabama, and are starting to get more recognition elsewhere. “Critics be comparing us to Outkast/Funny ‘cause they treat us like some outcasts,” they sarcastically taunt on “Inner Circle”. Critics and fans alike lump them in with other southern acts, but G-Side are trying to do something of their own. “Well excuse me Mrs. Executive/I’m from Alabama/That’s probably why my music/Isn’t quote, unquote Atlanta,” they continue. Overall, G-Side aren’t trying to mix up with the greats of the dirty south, and they’re not trying to be the toughest, richest guys on the block. They’re just trying to put their two cents in.
“I want to be able to do these songs we’re making now, and perform them when we are 40,” Harris proudly admits. “Just make classic timeless music that doesn’t die.” G-Side just want to do what they are passionate about, and get the respect, and recognition they deserve.
“We realize we can’t change the world, but I at least want to make a better surrounding for my family and the next generation,” Williams states. “I don’t want them to go through what I went through.” If the next decade is as successful for them as this one was, they might get their wish.
G-Side will drop their next album, titled Island, on November 11th, and will perform at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival on Saturday, July 16th at 2:50 p.m..