Huntsville, Ala. duo G-Side have come up in an old school way. They've released considered albums instead of haphazard mixtapes, and rap about victories on a smaller scale than almost all of their contemporaries, sounding more personable for it. At Pitchfork Music Festival, before ST 2 Lettaz and Yung Clova pumped up the crowd with their bottom-heavy take on southern rap, they took time to talk with us about being mentors for other artists in Alabama and the fractured nature of hip-hop subgenres in the South.
You're based out of Huntsville, Ala. How has Alabama shaped you as musicians and as people?
ST 2 Lettaz: Alabama is us. I mean, we were born and raised there and it gives us an advantage, it gives us a chance to bring a new sound that hasn't been experienced. I mean, nobody knew that Alabama made good hip-hop. They had Rich Boy and [Montgomery duo] Dirty, but that's actually a totally different sound and culture from where we're from. North Alabama is where is where we're from and South Alabama is where they're from. It's two totally different thing. It's really really gutter in South Alabama. Also, really really country. Huntsville is an engineering city, that's our claim to fame: rockets and shit like that. So it's kind of more technology savvy and it's less gutter than those places, so our music comes off with a certain elegance because that's how our city feels.
In what sort of ways, then, is the Huntsville scene different than say the Mobile scene?
Yung Clova: I mean, our sound is a little bit different because we've got [long-standing G-Side production duo] the Block Beataz, so we're kind of on our own sound. We're kind of on an island by ourselves. You've got Atlanta over hear, you've got Florida down here, you've got Mississippi, you've got Tennessee and we're in this one little circle by ourselves, so our music sounds a little bit different from everybody else.
ST: In Mobile, that sound is closer to Atlanta's sound, that harder sound. Ours is total opposite, actually. And it's more of a party scene down there. It's more a party scene in Birmingham and Montgomery and Mobile, so they make party records. In Huntsville, it's not. Everything closes at 2:00. So it's not a party city, it's a ride city. You ride around and blaze so we make riding music.
Mixtapes are the way that a lot of rappers have brought themselves up recently, but your releases have been more cohesive, more like albums. What were the reasons for that choice?
ST: To set us apart. Like you said, everybody does mixtapes. Everybody's got a mixtape droppin'. Nobody's got an album. I think some people are just scared to say, "This is my album," because they're scared to be critiqued too hard and they didn't put in all they could.
Clova: I mean, with the DJs [In Alabama], we don't have a lot of DJs that are gonna spin [our] music. You can't depend on mixtapes, for real. You've gotta depend on an album form to put it on the Internet, because they're not gonna play your album back home.
ST: And we don't make club records, so us making singles is just not what we do. It's kind of ass backwards for us.
Your lyrics are much more down-to-Earth than a lot of rappers. Talk a little bit about the choice to make your lyrics more personal.
Clova: We talk about our everyday life. That's what we build on. We don't write about stuff that we really don't do. We write about what's going on right now because that's what we're doin'. We're trying to keep it simple and understandable, but put it in a way that's dope.
ST: And you've gotta think about where we're from. We're from Alabama, so if we get to talkin' about fuckin' Rodeo Drive and all this Hollywood shit, no one in Alabama has any idea or has ever been to, ever seen, it's not gonna make sense to them. We try to keep it simple, we try to keep it so you can understand it, and the complexity is in the beats and in the soundscape behind it. So they kind of contrast each other and make a dope record.
Clova: And it gave us a taste. We've got artists back home and they're following in our footsteps and they hear us talkin' about the things that we're going through, then they can be like "Hey, I need to try this." They know what Pitchfork is now, or what Ballers Eve Radio is, so they wanna go to New York and be on Ballers Eve, so it helps with that, too.
Who do you guys want to see this weekend?
ST: I missed the two people I wanted to see, I wanted to see Curren$y and James Blake.
Clova: I just wanna see Odd Future. I wanna see how fucked they are in person.