By Colin McGowan | 24 January 2010
I’ve spilled a lot of ink trying to exhaustively articulate the momentousness of G-Side’s Huntsville International (2009) (short version: it’s so trill). On a nondescript Sunday afternoon a few weeks ago, ST and Clova took the time to enlighten me on how Huntsville International functions as a credo that informs their work ethic and music-making philosophies. The guys also spoke candidly about their city, their tax forms, and what we can expect from G-Side in the near future.
Cokemachineglow’s Colin McGowan (CMG): I know Huntsville International was a mixtape, then it was a street album, and on and on. Do you consider it a full-fledged work? How did that whole process play out?
ST 2 Lettaz (ST): It did start out being a mixtape, and it took about six months from start to finish. It was only supposed to take, like, two, but then we just kept making records. At first it was just me and Clova in the studio, and then we got CP [of the Block Beataz] involved. When CP started hearing what we were doing, he started getting excited. He started seeing the buzz, and it was building, so he was like “Shoot, lemme get in here and do my thing.” And then the project ended up being most of whatever CP was doing when he came in. It’s not an album, it’s not a mixtape. It’s just a project.
CMG: You guys, with the titling of this project, seem to rep Huntsville really hard. What aspects of your city influenced your music?
ST: The thing about this was, it wasn’t about us trying to show people the city more than just taking us as the city and just taking it international. The city influences everything [we] spit, but we didn’t do it for the city. We did it for the world.
Yung Clova (YC): We tried to show our city the world and the world our city. On Starshipz and Rocketz (2008) we showed the world our city, but it’s vice versa on this one: we showed the city the world.
ST: Yeah, we got a chance to travel and see a lotta shit, so we just tried to bring it home.
CMG: So, G-Side sort of is Huntsville, and you embody your city, and you’re trying to take that global?
ST: Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that. It’s not just G-Side, though, it’s Slow Motion Soundz. ‘Cause G-Side is just the two guys that’s rapping. Slow Motion Soundz is G-Side and the Block Beataz and Codie G, our manager who’s out there on the grind every day.
CMG: How do you guys tie-in with other acts from your city and region like Paper Route Gangstaz and Yelawolf and some of the other rappers on your tape?
ST: Shit, we work with everybody ‘cause we see everybody. Not so much Yela, ‘cause he’s not quite from around here, but, like, PRGz, we see them dudes in the club, and it’s all love. I had a song with the PRGz on the Highlight Tape (2009). So, we try to incorporate the whole city into what we doing, especially now since people have an eye on it.
CMG: How much do those other artists in the city influence you? How does that whole dynamic work?
YC: It’s a little bit of a competition, I ain’t gonna lie. I mean, it’s like the regular rap game. Around here, I ain’t gonna say everybody’s trying to be on top, but everybody’s trying to produce great music.
ST: Yeah, exactly. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t trying to compete, but they doing the same thing, and that’s how you get great music. It ain’t nothing personal, but the rap game is a sport. I love the sport, and I want the ball when it’s crunch time.
CMG: You guys have talked pretty extensively about trying to make the best music in the world. Do you put any additional pressure on yourselves to do that? Do you take a lot of pride in trying to do that, and how does that affect the way you go about making your music?
YC: It’s both. We take a lot of pride in ourselves, and we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. We know the consumer is watching and they’re gonna put us under pressure. In that case, we try to produce some great music, man. Some soul music, really—that’s what we call it.
ST: We not just competing with Huntsville, we’re competing with the world. At first, there wasn’t anybody who was giving Alabama respect, so in order for Alabama to get some respect, we pretty much have to make the best music in the world. That’s just what it is. That’s the mindframe. We go into the studio thinking that shit is way past local…It’s global, so we gotta do this like we the best in the world. And I really think we are, and if we not, then we got someone to beat.
CMG: In what ways do you two complement each other or push each other as rappers?
YC: [ST]‘s more lyrical and I’m more just laid-back and swagged-out. I’m talking about what I know, and he talks about what he knows, but he puts in a way where you wanna get a pen and a piece of paper and try to write that shit down.
ST: He’s just more direct with his approach. My approach is that I’m gonna dance around and come up with crazy cadences, and Clova’s just gonna swag it out. So, the audience that isn’t necessarily into my style, which is that super-lyrical shit where I’m trying to really get into it, they might like Clove, ‘cause he’ll just ride the hell out of that beat and then he gonna sell you some shit. Don’t sleep, ‘cause he’ll say some shit. It’s just balanced; you can’t beat it. I know I can’t let him kill me out, and he can’t let me kill him out. It’s just magic.
And then the killer thing about it is, while we end up going so hard, both of us are competing against each other and competing on that beat ‘cause the Beataz are gonna give you some shit. The fuck you supposed to do with a beat like “Huntsville International”?
CMG: It’s funny, I thought on the first record that maybe you guys weren’t quite at the level of the beats, but on Tha HIP, you guys seemed to really step up to the plate and demolish those great beats.
ST: We got that from the bloggers. They were saying, “Aw, the beats are great, but it’s like the rappers are ehhhhhhh.” I was like “Okay, let’s go back in and step it up.” We used it as motivation. Even on the next record, it’s gonna be even better because now CP gonna try to kill us out on the track.
CMG: Is there anyone else outside of Huntsville you feel is raising the bar, setting a standard that you guys can aspire to or compete with?
ST: Actually, Baller’s Eve in New York. Those are my dudes, and they, in the middle of New York, play nothing but Dirty South music. They support cats from Huntsville, cats like Pill, and they even support cats like Freddie Gibbs. They support all that shit right in the middle of New York. For real, I take my hat off to them dudes.
CMG: There seem to be a lot of ways Southern rap has gone national and global. I know there are a few blogs over in London that push a lot of Southern shit. What other outlets are currently out there pushing Southern rap?
ST: Southern Hospitality is one of them. We headed out there next year, and already got the whole trip planned. We’re gonna see how many shows we can book in a week or two.
CMG: So you’re gonna tour in support of Tha HIP and do some stuff over in Europe?
ST: Yeah, I wanna do an independent tour over there. An all-Huntsville tour: us, 6 Tre Gangsta, Jackie Chain, and acts like Betta Half and all the young cats that’s coming up—PRGz, too—just do a whole tour of that scene over there. They show us a lot of love out there.
CMG: Do you have plans to do some national touring?
ST: Yeah, yeah. See, the thing about it is that things kinda slow down in the fourth quarter, so that’s when we dropped the record. So, like, next year we got stupid trips planned. It’s almost too much to name. Just keep up with us. G-Side TV, Huntsville Got Stars, and all that. We’ll keep everybody up to date. The Twitter. I tweet all day, every day.
YC: It’s kinda crazy. There’s a lotta places we haven’t seen and probably haven’t even thought about yet. ‘Cause after our first album, we really didn’t go nowhere, but then after Starshipz and Rocketz, we went to Cali, and, um, where else we go, man?
ST: Cali, Houston, the Carolinas, Baltimore and the DC area, and New York three times in one year. I had never been outside Alabama, but in one year, man, we’ve been to Atlanta, like, two hundred times this year. That was all just off the strength of Starshipz and Rocketz, so now we’re trying to see what HIP is gonna do. We had 10,000 downloads on our Limelinx link, and then there are two other upload sites that I know got it. So, I know we had over 10,000 listeners.
YC: That in about three weeks?
ST: About a month.
CMG: So what’s the G-Side live experience like?
ST: We actually trying to change our whole show format. We come from down South clubs, and performing in down South clubs is no more than sitting there rapping with a bad system. So, we’re trying to get a live band incorporated into our shit ‘cause that seems like the only way you can just rock out for real and do it like it’s supposed to be done.
CMG: A theme on the record seems to be getting a legitimate hustle. Like, Kristmas has the W-2 Boy thing going and you guys have talked on record a lot about going legit. When did you start to make a conscious effort to get money through music and 9-to-5s rather than through… other means?
YC: I’ve been a taxpayer since, like, ‘03/’04. I started working legit stuff once I started cutting hair at the barbershop. That’s when I started the W-2 movement.
ST: I came round a little later [chuckles]. It was whatever with me. I had a W-2 for a while, but the thing about it that I always have a job, and still do what I do on the side. It was stupid not to. How am I gonna limit myself to getting one type of paper. Like, “yeah, I’ma just sit around and sell dope all day.” Uh-uh. That’s not the move. I mean, you can still be a W-2 boy and be flipping shit on the side. You just get that income tax check, and you ain’t no dummy. And when everybody started rapping about dope, that’s when I felt like I had to stop rapping about dope. Even on Starshipz, you didn’t hear a lot; it was a part of our daily lives, but I didn’t over-glorify it. It doesn’t define me.
CMG: “I’m only 21 / And I’ll probably get more years than that if they find what’s in the trunk”: you seem to wanna show all sides of your hustle and not just talk about the financial side of it.
ST: Yeah, ‘cause that ain’t what was happening. That shit wasn’t all good. So, it is what it is, but now I’m on some other shit. I dunno, I try to leave that shit out.
CMG: Do you guys have any aspirations to become major label artists on the level of a T.I. or a Jeezy?
YC: We do if they give us the right deal, if they gave us control and the right deal…Who don’t wanna be major?
ST: Yeah, but understanding that we have the willpower—soon, the manpower—and the intelligence to do it ourselves. All it takes is time. Everything starts small and gets bigger. We understand that. It took time to make a Jeezy. It took time to make a T.I. We don’t need the majors. If the money’s not right, we’ll just wait it out and do it ourselves.
CMG: Since obviously you guys would wanna maintain creative control and not be subservient to some A&R.
ST: Exactly. I don’t want some kid telling me what’s hot and what’s not. I’m good.
CMG: Anything else on tap that we should know about?
YC: I got a mixtape dropping, but that’s about it. In the first quarter.
ST: Yeah, he got a mixtape, and I was thinking about doing a mixtape, but I think I’m just gonna do a series of random freeestyles. Like, you might just get one on a Tuesday or some shit. And Speed of Sound is the next album. I’m not gonna give no release date ‘cause you know how that whole thing goes. But it’s gonna be a musical motherfucking odyssey.