I can’t think of a better way to continue the Speak Ya Clout series that I started this summer than by interviewing Huntsville, Alabama duo G-Side. Over the last three years, few rappers or groups have made a bigger impact on me. I’ve diligently sought out every album, side project, mix tape, and guest appearance of theirs that I can find and I’ve seldom been disappointed. Their most recent long player, The ONE…COHESIVE, is no exception. Damn near perfect production matched with top notch lyricism make COHESIVE one of my early picks for album of the year. Read on as we break down G-Side’s origins, influences, Huntsville hip hop, and the making of The ONE…COHESIVE.
Please support G-Side and purchase The ONE...COHESIVE by clicking here.
(Editor's Note: I will be posting this interview in three sections.)
DJ Sorce-1: Let’s start from the beginning. When did G-Side officially form as a group?
ST 2 Lettaz: We started doing music together in ‘99. I left Huntsville to go to Texas for a few years and when I came back in 2004, we got back together and made it solid.
DJ Sorce-1: 2004 was the year when Slow Motion Soundz discovered you, correct?
ST: Yeah, exactly.
DJ Sorce-1: In interviews I’ve read with you guys, you’re very open about some of the difficult things you’ve had to experience in life. You’ve talked about how many talented people you’ve seen get shot and locked up. Is it hard to separate yourself from that world as you become more successful?
Young Clova: Hmm. Not now. If I didn’t have a job, it would probably be hard. Having a job helps me distance myself form the streets.
ST: At the same time, we live in the same places that we lived before. We know people that are still doing the same thing. You have to be smart and know what you can’t get yourself into. I had to learn the lesson that nothing we do is small anymore. I can’t pick up and go somewhere else and be an unknown.
Clova: Everything we do is going to reflect our label, too. We can’t be in certain places doing certain things. We’re not just representing ourselves; we’re representing our whole family.
ST: Huntsville is all about reputation. Without a good reputation, you’re pretty much out.
DJ Sorce-1: Can you describe Huntsville to me? I’ve never been to Alabama before.
ST: Huntsville is big in terms of having a lot of land, things are just spread out. You pretty much need a car to get around. There are areas of Huntsville where you can find somebody who has chickens in their backyard or lives in a trailer, but overall we’re pretty modernized. We also have huge houses out in the mountains that surround Huntsville. It’s pretty diverse. You can basically find all aspects of city life in Huntsville, we just don’t have skyscrapers.
DJ Sorce-1: I remember reading something to the effect of, “It’s amazing I’ve made it in music, because where I’m from, if you don’t play basketball or football, you don’t have a future” on ST’s Twitter. Is that representative of Huntsville?
ST: That’s not really Huntsville, that’s the whole world when it comes to people living in poverty. If you didn’t come up knowing you had a college fund, your only means of getting to college are to be super smart, have a great jumper, or play football. We don’t have an entertainment industry in Huntsville per se. We didn’t see anybody come up as a rapper, make it big, and make it out of the city as an inspiration. So we’re pretty much trailblazers when it comes to that. We’re the first act out of Huntsville to really get out and tour internationally. We’ve probably toured the most out of any other act in Huntsville period. If you look at Alabama, the only other people that can compare in terms of touring are Rich Boy and Yelawolf.
DJ Sorce-1: Do you ever see yourself leaving the Huntsville area?
Clova: I do. I think I need to, for a minute anyway.
ST: I’ve been in Huntsville my whole life, so I’d like to. At the same time, Huntsville is still growing. You can still have some kind of stake in it and make some money. I figure the Slow Motion Soundz building can be one of the biggest skyscrapers in the downtown once we start getting it (Laughs). We’d like to be in the position where we can have a home in Huntsville because that’s where our families live and it has a great cost of living. I’d also like to have a home somewhere else. I want to live overseas, maybe in Spain, just to see some totally different shit.
DJ Sorce-1: I only know a little bit about the history of Huntsville hip hop. I know that Mr. Marcellus and The South Click were big Huntsville rappers. Were there any other Huntsville rappers that influenced you when you were coming up?
ST: Mr. Marcellus was one of the big ones. Rudi Devillie, SLP, Mic Strange, and 6 Trae G were also all major players when we were first coming up.
DJ Sorce-1: How did you get access to their music? Was it through local radio or did you have to hit local barber shops and mom and pop stores?
ST: Mostly barber shops or your local bootleg man would come through with all of the major and local tapes. Certain guys like SLP had a big van with his face on it, so whenever you saw his van you knew they had CD’s for you. Radio supported a few guys. Before we were with Slow Motion Soundz, most people heard of us on the radio with our song “Lacs and Prices”. There were different outlets, but most of the time it was hand to hand.
DJ Sorce-1: Besides Mr. Marcellus, which of the artist that you listened to coming up have you worked with?
ST: 6 Trae G and Mic Strange. Some of the other guys aren’t as into the music anymore. They’ve grown up and have families and stuff, so we haven’t really had a chance to work with them.
DJ Sorce-1: Huntsville is a relatively small place. I’m sure there are a lot of people that see the success of Slow Motion Soundz and want to be a part of it. How do you respond to people who try to hand you demos and approach you in the street about getting on?
Clova: Put a price on it. That’s the easy way out.
ST: That’ll weed out those who are serious and those who aren’t. The fact that artists want to work with us is a good thing. For the Block Beataz, that’s how they feed themselves. Everyone in Huntsville is basically piggy backing on what their records are doing. They want to come to CP and Mali to get tracks or studio time. It works in our benefit. We don’t turn anyone away if they’re serious about doing music.
DJ Sorce-1: So you’re willing to work with anyone with a good work ethic?
ST: Of course. That’s how we built the industry in Huntsville that we have now. We recently did a show in Huntsville where there were six quality acts on the bill, all from the city. And there were more acts in the crowd that wish they could have been on stage. That’s how you build your industry. Just because you’re popular outside of the state, you can’t charge someone $2-3000 for a verse when they live right across the street and you know they don’t have that.
DJ Sorce-1: It’s funny, that doesn’t really seem to be the mentality at all on the East Coast. It seems the bigger you get, the less people want help anyone else.
ST: In Huntsville, even if we don’t like each other, we don’t let the public know. We’ll still all work together. We just might not kick it together after we do the song.
DJ Sorce-1: It’s impressive that you can see the bigger picture like that.
ST: It took a long time to learn. A long time. It took for motherfuckers to get to fighting, beefing, and shooting at each other over dumb shit for us to see that the only way to rise was to get on each other’s shoulders.
DJ Sorce-1: It seems you have a very specific way of catering to your local market. Can you talk a little bit about how sites like Baller’s Eve, Traps N' Trunks, and Southern Hospitality have helped in spreading your name all over the Internet and beyond Huntsville?
ST: We pretty much built our network off of the people who enjoyed our music. We didn’t know where to send the music originally. I can’t even tell you the first websites Codie sent it to. It kind of snowballed and then it got to a point where all you saw was G-Side on a lot of these blogs. At that point we kind of had to step away from courting the blogs and focus on us. There was some physical grind in spreading our music too, because word of mouth is better than the Internet. The Internet just reaches further. So we can thank the Internet for our fans in Norway and the UK.
Clova: We kind of knew bloggers were going to be the modern day equivalent of magazine writers. We understood what was going on and where the rap game was moving.
ST: It was funny, after we were more popular; all the majors started courting the blogs that were supporting us. We also had people from Huntsville hit up blogs like Southern Hospitality and say, “Hey, we’re from Huntsville. Post our music too.”
DJ Sorce-1: That’s interesting, because after I wrote a couple of posts about you and other Huntsville artists, I’ve gotten similar emails.
ST: A lot of people don’t understand that, for us, it started with the music being high quality. Then, it became a matter of who we knew. We didn’t call every web site saying, “Hey, you wanna post this for me.” A lot of people posting us, it was by choice. But after they did post us, we went to go see ‘em. That’s how we built a relationship with them.
Clova: Yea, every time someone did something for us, we actually got in our cars and took our own money to go say thank you.
ST: We did the same thing with some of the people who purchased COHESIVE online. I have a list of names and I’m sending them emails saying thank you. Not trying to sell ‘em anything else or have them watch a new video…it’s just thank you. Every last ticket sale, CD, or shirt is big to us.
DJ Sorce-1: I think some new artists don’t realize that. Before you get on your grind, you have to have something really good to grind for. You guys have been a group for 12 years and you’re still busting ass. You’ve had various day jobs and other things and you haven’t’ given up on the rap.
ST: We just had to learn. We had to learn where we were at. We were in Huntsville, which had no music industry at all. So we made a choice. We could have run to Atlanta and jumped on the nearest label and done a million open mics. Or we could build an industry in Huntsville. And that’s what we did. Whether or not G-Side and Slow Motion Soundz makes a million dollars, we’ll still have built something. We built a scene that can’t be undone. You can’t take away the records we’ve sold and the impact we’ve had on artists.
DJ Sorce-1: When you mention the decision of signing to a label or building your own industry, I’m not sure how useful it is for a lot of rap acts to be signed to a major these days. I don’t think major labels help a lot of rappers.
ST: It comes down to straight business, numbers, and the situation being right. You have to make sure you’re not going to sign and then get put on the self for another act to shine. Some people are made for 9 to 5's. Some people need to be told what to do. Some people need to go to work and have the same schedule every day. And some people can’t stand that. I think we’re the latter. We’re independent by nature. For somebody to come in, be our boss, and try to tell us how to do what we’ve already been doing for so long…we couldn’t take it. I’m a control freak. I want to know what the fuck is going on; top to bottom. I want to know what the money is going towards, where I gotta be, when I gotta be there, and why. It could work with a major, but it’d have to be the right situation.
Click here to read Part 2.
Click here to read Part 2.