Here is Part 2 of my interview with G-Side. Part 1 can be read by clicking here.
DJ Sorce-1: In other interviews you’ve named rappers and groups like 8 Ball and MJG, Outkast, The Geto Boys, Master P and UGK as major influences. Are there any East and West coast rappers that had the same level of influence on you?
ST: I’m a huge Pac and Jay-Z fan. Those are my two major influences that aren’t from the south.
Clova: Yeah, Pac and Jay-Z were big for me. I like Biggie too man. I was a big B I G fan.
ST: I can’t forget E-40. He was a huge influence for me. But for the most part it was all regional. We were kind of biased against East and West coast stuff. Once we had our own voices in the south, we couldn’t really relate to the beats or lyrics. Those cats up north who be rhyming about numerology and stuff like that never made it down to us. We didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. But if guys came out rhyming about chicken, grits, bricks, and bitches…we understood that. (Laughs)
DJ Sorce-1: (Laughs) I want to touch on the lyrical content of G-Side. You both have talked about how Clova’s lyrics revolve around swag and aura while ST is more on the lyrical tip. How do you achieve the balance of being a group that brings it lyrically while at the same time not losing your listeners?
ST: When you’re writing something, you know if it’s going to go over someone’s head. If you stretch and stretch and stretch to make a cool metaphor or punch line, 9 times out of 10 your audience isn’t going to get it. We try to keep it simple, from the heart, and not over think it. That’s a really important part of it. Once more people start listening to your music you tend to think more about what you’re going to say and how people are going to take it. But you can’t over think it. You just gotta get in there and do you.
DJ Sorce-1: In one of your interviews you talked about trying to make “modern soul music”. A lot of your subject matter touches on material that working class people can relate to. Do you worry that if you get to a certain level of success, you might lose some of the audience you’ve been building because they won’t be able to relate to you?
Clova: I don’t think we will. It’s kind of like our fans have turned into our family. They helped us blow up. I don’t know…I don’t think they’re really going to go anywhere.
ST: I think that our fans will grow with us instead of grow out of us. If we stay true to ourselves, I think they’ll roll with us. They have thus far on four records. We’re not the exact same MC’s we were before. I like to think that our fan base has grown and the same people who were with us on Sumthin' 2 Hate are with us on COHESIVE.
DJ Sorce-1: Speaking of modern soul music, I love the whole “W2 Boy” mentality. Rapping about average Joe type of shit instead of insane wealth definitely makes me think of classic soul.
ST: Right. Shout outs to Kristmas (Kristmas is a dope Huntsville rapper who coined the W2 Boy movement. Peep him here.)
DJ Sorce-1: One of my favorite lines off of COHESIVE is when you talk about how, “Every two weeks I was only making $454”. When I heard that I was like, “Man, I’m going through that shit right now.” (Laughs)
ST: We just got out of that. I was going through that this time last year, so I definitely feel you. I had to take a look at my short term goals to get out of my job and just do music full time. I also do music videos, so it’s not like I’m just rapping full time. I just had to pick a different hustle.
DJ Sorce-1: You used to manage a gas station with your brother. Have you given that up since COHESIVE has come out?
ST: Yeah, I gave it up last May. That’s when we were hitting the road heavy. Being on the road and directing music videos kept the bills paid.
DJ Sorce-1: Clova, I know at one time you ran a barber shop. Have you had to give that up?
Clova: No, I still cut hair. I still do that.
DJ Sorce-1: You guys are both obviously pretty business savvy. Where do you guys see the money being in the rap game? I get a different a different answer every time I ask that question. Some people say you can still make money off of album sales, digital downloads and tours. Do you think that it has to be broader than that?
ST: Since 06-07 our theme has been multiple streams of revenue. It’s gotta come in from different places. It’s gotta be merch, CD’s, shows, placements, studio time, and music videos. At the end of the day, in order for you to be comfortable, you gotta be uncomfortable. You’re going to have to work and bust your ass to get it from different angles.
DJ Sorce-1: Is it still possible to eat off of rap?
Clova: I think you can. It’s all about investments man. A lot of people, when they do get their money, they do the wrong thing with it. People started a trend with buying fancy cars and spending 100,000 on this, that, and the other. I think if you invest your money right you can live off of the revenue from rap.
DJ Sorce-1: It’s kind of a cliché thing to say, but the focus on music seems to be much more on singles. Making a coherent album isn’t really a trend. So business wise, it was a risk for you guys to tackle a project like COHESIVE. What made you decide to put everything aside and throw all of your effort into making a great album?
ST: It was pretty natural for us, really. That’s what we grew up listening to, full albums. Like you said, lately, it’s been all about singles. In order to make ourselves stand out we had to do something different. We had to go left and put ourselves in our own lane.
DJ Sorce-1: When you were working on the album, did you try to cut yourself off from music that was coming from outside of your inner circle?
Clova: We pretty much just focused on us. We don’t really listen to nobody else anymore, for real. Unless we’re at the club and we hear people’s singles.
ST: We mostly listen to older music. Some new stuff filters through, but for the most part we listen to older music.
DJ Sorce-1: Are there any older albums that directly influenced the COHESIVE in terms of style and lyrics?
ST: Aquemeni and ATLiens. Those were two of the main albums we played to get in the right mode and know what we were doing musically.
DJ Sorce-1: It’s funny; I was going to ask about both of those albums, because I definitely see ties between them and COHESIVE.
ST: Outkast pretty much had the same format and set-up. They had their set of producers who provided their sound and a set of MC’s around them that could add different elements that ‘Dre and Big couldn’t. That’s what we did with the COHESIVE. On Outkast albums, if ‘Dre or Big weren’t on a song, the song was still jamming front to back. We took that way of working and applied it to us.
DJ Sorce-1: You mentioned the importance of having the right production. Can you tell me about the beat selection process? How much of a voice do you each get when you’re picking beats to use?
ST: I don’t know if there’s really a process. Sometimes it’s just magic. CP could be working on a beat where he only has a few sounds laid out. We might have heard it a month earlier and liked it, so we keep bothering him to finish it. It’ll get to the point where it’s done enough for us to make a song to it. And then by the time it’s on the album, it sounds totally different.
Our studio is a really big facility. It has eight different recording studios in it. We can go room to room, producer to producer, and ask them what they got. When we were recording the album, everybody in the studio was in COHESIVE mode. Whatever was getting made was for COHESIVE. If it didn’t fit, it didn’t fit. But for the most part we got first pick.
DJ Sorce-1: When you’re writing lyrics, do you write together, or do you do most of that separately?
ST: We don’t really have a routine for writing. We could be together one session, and then other times it could just be Clova or me in the studio. We could work on a song that someone started months ago. Or we write in the van sometimes, like we’re doing now. We’ll throw a beat on a write in the van.
DJ Sorce-1: Would you say that the kind of studio environment creates friendly competition?
Clova: Yeah, it does, but everyone gets alone. People come in and do what they do, have fun…everyone’s just trying to eat man. We’re just trying to make each other better.
ST: People want to make sure their record gets on the albums, so it is friendly competition. But like Clova said, we all make each other better.
Buy The ONE...COHESIVE by clicking here.
Click here to read Part 3.