RedfestDXB 2017:‘You really have to work hard to know who you are’, says rapper G-Eazy

G-Eazy will make his UAE debut on February 2, on the opening night of two-day festival RedFestDXB at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre

American rapper G-Eazy. Courtesy Bobby Bruderle
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It’s not enough to rely on creative talent alone to make it in the music industry. As the experience of RedFestDXB headliner G-Eazy – real name Gerald Gillum – proves, it takes a healthy dose of self-belief and a lot of hard work to stand out in the saturated hip-hop genre.

In the space of eight years, the 27-year-old American rapper has built an impressive career, progressing from a promising underground act to major-label artist, working with big names ranging from hip-hop stalwarts Wiz Khalifa and P Diddy to pop star Britney Spears.

His latest album, When It's Dark Out (2015), was an international hit, delivering US chart-topper Me, Myself and I and the top-10 banger Order More.

Now G-Eazy will make his UAE debut on February 2, on the opening night of two-day festival RedFestDXB at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. He will perform on a bill that includes Jamaican dance-hall star Sean Paul, Aussie pop twins The Veronicas, and Sit Still, Look Pretty American singer, Daya.

“For me to go all the way to Dubai is just something out of this world,” says G-Easy. “It will be the first time performing in this part of the world – the fact there are fans out there is amazing.”

You are still touring on the back of When It’s Dark Out. After more than 200 shows, what has being on the road taught you?

Just how big the world is. It is one thing to see something on the map, but to actually be there and walk around, meet people and see the fans just shows how crazy it is that music can travel that far.

When It's Dark Out is a tight album. It's fun and celebratory, but there is a deeper message that success comes at a price.

Absolutely. The theme came to me organically because that’s what I discovered first-hand. You experience that tax that comes with this work, and how it affects your personal life when it comes to relationships, the family and friends.

You and your team built a following independently and then a major label (Sony Music Entertainment) came calling. Is this a model you recommend to aspiring artists?

I always think that you, as an artist, ultimately define what you do. It all comes back to your message and how much you want to put into it. A major label can open doors, maximise your operation and put muscle to it – but it all comes back to you as the artist.

How do you get to the level where a major label will call?

You just have to make the music connect. You know, with record labels today, there is no such thing as artist development, so you really have to work hard to know who you are as an artist, how you want to sound, what your style is and what makes you different. Once you know that, then you put the work in and take your work where it needs to go.

Last year, you recorded with Britney Spears and performed with the likes of P Diddy, Chris Brown and Wiz Khalifa. Do you feel you have finally arrived after years underground?

That was insane and exciting. I am not jaded – I still get star-struck and I am still in awe of these people. To be in the circles of people that I look up to is an honour.

What’s the best career advice you have received?

That would come from Snoop Dogg. He told me to always stay humble and gracious – that is that way that I will stick around.

• G-Eazy will perform on the opening night of RedFestDXB on February 2, at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre. Tickets start at Dh395 from Virgin Megastores and