Huntsville's G-Side talked to IMPOSE while driving up the east coast to play a few New York gigs. It was a few days prior to the release of Island, the duo's second record of 2011. When ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova talk of maintaining humble demeanors, it speaks to a sincerity instilled in them long before the rap career, rather than usual stink of rappers who recite “we still out on the same block” bravado. It took one whiff of the American Dream for G-Side to expand it's business beyond the W-2 job life and promptly root themselves in the business of hip hop. The group maintains a clothing company, barber shop and video production company without blinking or compromising its music output. G-Side has created a renaissance in Huntsville from a contagious mentality of remaining local while keeping a keen eye on the global oppertunities.
Up to this point your music was built upon being everyday dudes or W-2 boys with day jobs, but as your notoriety keeps building and opportunities to become full-time musicians come into play, how is that affecting your writing?
ST 2 Lettaz: Now instead of us writing about how frustrated we are with our jobs or how frustrated we are that we’re not getting recognition, we’re trying to write about how happy we are that we’re getting recognition or writing about some of the places that we got to see. We’re trying to be a source of hope for people back home who are still working their jobs and do music and wish they could get out on the road.
So you’ve not fallen prey to the “woe is me” rapper dilemma yet?
Yung Clova: Naw, we not gon’ fall into that. At least I hope not.
ST: We’re pretty much appreciative, even in some of the most annoying times. You’re not always going to be happy with the business. You’re not always going to want to take interviews for the cameras, but this is what we asked for. This is what we got ourselves into, so we’re not going to complain about it at all.
I’ve noticed lately that rappers fall into that trap; you see it with Kanye and Tyler the Creator. It’s a peculiar approach to music.
ST: But that’s personality wise, you know what I mean? Like who they were before they were famous. Tyler was Tyler before he was famous. Now that he’s got cameras all in his face, he’s still weird ass Tyler but now there’s extra criticism. And with Kanye being who he is, now he’s under a microscope. But this is what you ask for. If you’re not a humble person in the beginning, then people are going to treat you like the asshole that you portray.
People will stop us while we’re eating, you know. Come and ask two or three questions and we don’t mind it as long as they’re respectful of us, as long as it doesn’t ever get out of hand, then we won’t have a problem with it.
When you sit down to write, given how your lifestyle has changed, does it feel any less natural?
ST: It doesn’t feel any less natural because we’re still doing it at Huntsville. All of our albums we recorded in Huntsville. There came a point where we were kinda worried about critics and worried about the response. Now, with the Island record we’ve got to where we know our fans appreciate us for what we do. So we just get in there and make Huntsville music, we make Slow Motion Soundz. Nobody else in the world can do that, so there’s not a lot of pressure. The only pressure is to out-do ourselves.
Cohesive had the structure that presented the crew with a guest feature on most of the tracks. What was the concept going into Island that you wanted to present?
YC: We just showing people how we live. We feel like we’re on an island by ourselves. We’re surrounded by Atlanta, by Florida, by Mississippi , so we want to show people how we make music out here.
ST: The fact that we’re not mad about being on this island. This is where we’re born. We’re not content, but we’re happy with where we are.
Clova, do you still have your barbershop open? ST, do you still have the gas station?
YC: Yeah. The barbershop is still up and running. I actually hired another dude a couple months ago. We’ve had him in training. When I be gone, he takes over my position.
ST: Me, I’m gas station free, man. I haven’t worked the gas station in probably a year, year and a half. I’ve picked up a camera and started shooting videos as an extra side-hustle, man. In Huntsville everybody got a hustle and a side-hustle. For me, it was music and doing the videos.
Did you happen to do the the S.L.O. video for “Purple Onion”?
ST: No actually my protégé Slash did that. I give her all my work now that I can’t do so much. She’s the third MC on there. She did the whole concept, directed it, shot it, just went in and did everything herself. It was maybe her second or third video. She’s really dope artistically.
I watched that video for the first time last night and it was just so dope.
ST: The crazy thing is it’s simple as fuck and it keeps your attention for seven minutes. We don’t go anywhere. It’s just a white background with crazy shit inbetween.
It kinda reminded me of the “Flava In Ya Ear” video mixed with The Roots’ “What They Do” video with the commentary, ya know.
ST: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Me and her will team up and shoot a couple more videos for the new album.
In the past year you’ve played Pitchfork Festival, Fun Fun Fun Fest and NPR has covered your music. Did you ever seek out these places or feel as though you had the sort of music that could be embraced by the trendsetting media?
ST: We didn’t plan for it, but we’re not going to shy away from it neither. We try to stay on the cutting edge of music, so it kind of makes sense. We don’t pattern ourselves after anything that we’re not. I think that’s why it’s hard for the masses to latch on because it’s our music; it’s brand new, it’s fresh and it comes from Huntsville Alabama. They don’t really know what to expect.
It puts us in a lot of places that other people can’t go. I think us as a group, we can perform anywhere, under any circumstances. We can perform in a pizza parlor for 13 people or in a festival with 1300. It’s the same energy.
Out on tour it’s tough to eat right. How do you guys handle that situation?
ST: That’s funny that you ask that. We got a $500 gift certificate from Taco Bell. It’s crazy. Shout out to Taco Bell.
In a few cities we have good friends who cook us food. In Brooklyn we got a friend who’s making us some huge sub sandwiches. Sometimes we’ll try to eat the local food if there’s one spot that’s famous we’ll try to go, but yeah… all Taco Bell right now, man.
ST: That would last the average person like a year, man. There’s a few of us, but I’m sure it will take awhile still. One man can’t survive off Taco Bell alone. I feel bad for the people who have to clean up the hotel rooms after us.
A lot of the goals you mention on record, traveling Europe, etc., you’ve met a lot of those goals in the past year. What’s the next plateau for G-Side?
YC: We trying to get a Grammy, man.
I saw in an interview that you put your paperwork. Did you hear anything back?
ST: If we don’t get it with the Cohesive, then we’re going for it with the Island. The Arcade Fire showed us that an Indie can win a Grammy.
Clova, any plans with the Purple Tyrant fashion line to discuss?
YC: Our clothing line going real good, man. We’ve got shirts out and we need to get into the jeans next. I’ve got some young dudes back home that are really dope artists handling things while I’m out on the road.
ST: When you see us in press pics, nine times out of 10, we’ve got our Purple Tyrant shit on.
It’s impressive how you guys are able to be out on the road, being recording artists, yet you’ve got people in your home town running aspects of your businesses for you.
YC: Everybody’s hungry. Everybody wants a piece of the pie, so you’ve got to get in where you fit in.
ST: Huntsville is a big community. Everybody tries to support one another’s dreams. If one person makes it big, then we all make it. The fact that you can trust your young Gs to stay home and handle that is what’s up. It gives them something to do rather than run the streets.
Have you noticed a change in your community from the success of G-Side?
YC: Everybody back home is trying to do music. That’s why I got into producing because everybody wanted beats and verses from us. The layout changing, man. It feel real good right now.
ST: We’re showing people where we’re from that you can be successful at music. You can make it to MTV. You can go overseas and perform. You can go up to Toronto or out to LA. Nothing is out of your reach. When we were coming up there wasn’t even a recording studio in our city.
YC: Everybody got a home studio now, but we’ve got a few open.
ST: In our hometown, Athens, there was zero and now the best one in the city is the one Clova runs. Huntsville there were maybe two or three and the one that was fully functional was the one Slow Motion Soundz was running. Now everybody kind of built off of that model and branched off to do their own thing. Now there are probably five for six studios you can go to. But, none of them can give you that Slow Motion sound.