*Please note that G-Eazy and MasafumI Watanabe’s parts are directly excerpted from the transcription of their conversation. They are not official translation of the Japanese article.
“Wild Speed” (Japanese title for “The Fast and The Furious”) has been an international mega hit. “Good Life”, a song by G-Eazy, appeared in the latest episode of the film series, with that, the Oakland-raised rapper has been gaining popularity here in Japan as well. While G-Eazy has done a lot of commerce-oriented modeling works, he is also featured in a remix song by a Bay Area rapper YG titled “Fuck Donald Trump”. This time, G-Eazy has visited Japan to join Summer Sonic 2017. But the visit has another purpose. G-Eazy recently collaborated with Bedwin and The Heartbreakers to produce apparel items and they launched a capsule collection while G-Eazy is visiting Tokyo. On the following day of Summer Sonic 2017 Tokyo, just before a meet-and-greet event at Bedwin’s flagship store “The Heartbreakers”, we had a conversation with G-Eazy and Bedwin’s Masafumi Watanabe about the collaboration. G-Eazy appeared in the Westin Hotel’s executive lounge at 4pm. He was, as opposed to typical celebrities, very humble and we were impressed by the style and the attitude.
Q. How was your first live performance in Japan?
G-Eazy: I think that was my favorite show ever. The nature of touring is very repetitive. You play shows almost everyday but in different places so naturally different rooms, different crowds and different energies. Internally, you try to give the best of every show, every single night but there are good nights and bad nights. No one has the best day every day of the year. But yesterday was the best energy I’ve ever felt on stage, it was like, a really special show.
Watanabe: I was there and saw that everyone was into you, into the music. That was a great show. After the show I went to see the other shows. I went down to see Foo Fighters who’s like a twenty year old band and it’s great. So many people, but it seemed not everyone was into the music, necessarily. But when I was your performance, every one of them was into the music. It was their destination to find you, to enjoy the music with you. It was very inspiring. My brand is not considered a big brand, not like Yohji Yamamoto for example. I started like ten-to-fifteen years ago and it’s still niche, a small brand, but I believe in having a style and our fans also have that style and they come to the store, they come to get our products and everybody knows what they want. That is why I was amazed by your music.
G-Eazy: I think its like you subscribe to a lifestyle, to an identity, to an aesthetic. I think that’s what we have in common is that you live it, you own it, you represent it, you embody it 100 percent. So from the fan side, or the consumer, it’s like that authenticity is pure, you know it’s evident. So they subscribe to that, they follow, that loyalty comes from never diluting that purity.
Watanabe: That’s what I think about when the audience links to you. They link to the music straight away because it’s very organic and very natural. They don’t think about being somebody who’s present, they just wanna get lost in the music. It kinda encourages me.
G-Eazy: I just think music brings people together whether you’re riding in a car and listening to something or going to a concert or even sharing music, sending a song to your friend saying check out this album. Music connects us. But it’s so pure when it’s being performed live because it’s in front of a big group of people and everybody’s individual energy is combined in this room. I have my relationship with a song and the person next to me also has their relationship to that song and you are communally sharing this experience and creating one big energy. I don’t say every night is a good show, it can’t be, but last night was really special.
Q. You are visiting Japan not only to perform at Summer Sonic but also releasing a capsule collection you collaborated on with Bedwin and The Heartbreakers. What do you think of Bedwin?
G-Eazy: I’ve been a fan of the brand for a long time and I think there is a shared likeness in terms of aesthetic, in terms of inspiration. There’s this vibe of mid-century, classic timelessness. I work closely with Brooklyn Circus who’s another brand that kinda shares that sensibility of like, a timeless Americana. They helped connect the dots for this collaboration. I still have moments where I just kinda have to stop and say, “Wow, this is fucking cool to be able to work with Bedwin to do this pop-up in Tokyo.” It’s like a dream’s come true.
Watanabe: One day, my colleague, Trevor Wayne, who helps run my international marketing and PR, said to me, “Hey, an iconic American musician is wearing our brand.” I saw the Instagram picture and said, “Oh, he seems like a cool guy, pompadour, very stylish.” That’s how I got introduced to his style first. Then, I started watching YouTube, listening on iTunes. Your music, it just blew my mind. It’s like, “Wow, his rap skill are amazing!” And the lyrics, what I heard, it wasn’t like someone trying to be somebody, he just represents how he feels, in my opinion. For me, I could see many similarities.
Q. G-Eazy found the vibe of fifties Americana in you. How do you think you were able to obtain that?
Watanabe: I was into the fifties for the music plus the design. All the mid-century designs when America was strong. At that time, America was very strong. Industrially strong. America was gleaming and the whole culture was expanding. I kinda like the mood of American aesthetic, especially the guys on the beach on the west coast wearing suits and like, the beatnik guys. Not a hard appearance, more soft, really. Which for me is inspiring because usually the image of soft is like shorts, t-shirts and sandals, but in the fifties it was like, outsiders go to the the beach and at the same time they were reading beatniks and novels. Anyway, America is huge for a guy from a small island, but I’m always inspired by the culture because I think America has diversity in the country itself. I talked with Gabe from Brooklyn Circus about the west coast and east coast. All those people who are living on the coast and how they opened the gates. It’s always like a mixture of culture there on the coasts, that is why people are flexible and open minded, and lots of artists can live there because of the freedom, I guess.
G-Eazy: I never thought about it like that. Why coasts are so typically diverse. It’s where a lot of bohemians exist, it’s been like the areas of creative hubs.
Watanabe: I think that is the key. Many people in the states never get out of their towns. They are kind of too secure. But on the coasts there are a lot of people with different values and they open doors for new things. I think that is the reason people from overseas come to the coasts a lot.
G-Eazy: Yeah, you got to move, you have to be exposed. I think if you stay put and isolate yourself you are not going out there. I’m blessed that I get to travel as much as I do because it brought me to Tokyo, right now. That’s all about being open minded in the first place. ‘Cuz you can go to all these places but if you are not open minded you just look for McDonald’s everywhere you go. You are not trying anything new, you are not allowing yourself to be inspired, you know?
Watanabe: TThose people, I wanna support those people. Those who are ready for meeting other people, other cultures, who have flexible mindsets and love creating things. Like, Nike people, Adidas people, they support all the athletes. People who play sports, people playing basketball, for example. I wanna support people like you. The name of our brand, “Bedwin and The Heartbreakers” represents that idea. When I went to North Africa I was intrigued by a nomad tribe there. I was born in Tokyo and there are loads of materials around. I love great quality speakers and amplifiers and so many clothing brands. But, I was wondering how cool it’d be if I could meet someone living in the desert. Maybe different from me, maybe similar. I just wanted to figure it out. So I went there and I had a great three days traveling with all the nomadic tribes, then when I came back and started a brand. That experience was very important to me, so, I never forgot about them. My fashion is always inspired by someone who once created great music. I don’t know why, but that’s how I grew up, especially in my teenage years and twenties. I was a sponge. All my teachers and professors are musicians. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the talent to be a musician, but at least I could support the musician and the travelers too.
G-Eazy: I think musicians are magicians, literally. Because music is this thing you can train yourself to understand, to play music. But the rawness and creativity behind the music as writer is magic. If I go to a studio tonight and make a song, that did not exist yesterday. Now it does. And it may affect somebody’s life. It may mean something to somebody. It’s like magic. That is why we like looking at musicians, we idolize musicians so much. It’s a kind of thing like, I don’t know how he did that, you know? When I hear a song that’s just so fucking good I’m like, “Damn, how did he do that!?” Like when I listen to Kendrick, I’m just like, I just wanna quit, haha.
Watanabe: Musicians are magicians, that is really great. When I was 8 or 9 years old in school the teacher asked me what I wanted to be in the future. I had a trouble with that, like, “What am I gonna do, what am I gonna do?” And then, I had three options: One, is a musician. Second, a magician. Third, a doctor. But I didn’t do any of them, I became a fashion designer.
G-Eazy: But you are a magician too. Like, making great clothing, same kind of thing. You have a creative idea of a piece that does not exist. And it’s the same thing, you can learn from the process of producing it. You can find the right textures, fabrics and materials, you can find the right factory to manufacture and produce the pieces. But the rawness, the idea of “I wanna show it in this way, this kind of feel, this kind of color, and I’m gonna go make it.” you know?
Q. How did you guys put together the Gerald and The Heartbreakers collaboration?
Watanabe: Me and his team were discussing back and forth and they suggested which direction they wanted to go. We shared feedback – how about this, how about that. And with only one month before his showtime, we didn’t know if it’d be enough time, but we worked in every detail. This team is really tough, they know what they want and what they don’t want. That’s how it should be, that is how you collaborate effectively.
G-Eazy: I think it’s easier to work with like-minded people, people with similar value, similar taste. It’s a balance of trust, you know, knowing that but also challenging each other. Two great people trust and challenge each other, that’s how you create a result.
Q. Who came to you with the concept “The Delinquents”?
G-Eazy: That was me and my friends. We were out one night and we were a little drunk, it was late at night, partying, we just talked about ideas and tried to find a way to describe ourselves as a crew, as a gang. My friend said “delinquents” and it was literally us. Bunch of guys dressed in all black, drinking whisky, just getting into trouble, not giving a fuck. The word made me think of the outsiders, mid-century badasses, almost like counter-culture, like being outside, just being defined.
Q. You first started your career as a producer rather than a rapper. Did you have an interest in not only performing but musical production as a whole?
G-Eazy: I used to do everything myself. I taught myself to produce my music, make my beats. I learned how to record and engineer, mix my music and obviously wrote it. I downloaded Photoshop from Limewire and designed album artwork. As well as designing my own merch, too. Both of my parents are visual artists and I’ve always had an appreciation for design. But I’m not really a designer. I’m not really good at Photoshop either. So now I work with team of people who are amazing at what they do, the best in the world. And we just kick ideas each other.
Q. Among your recent works, YG’s “Fuck Donald Trump Pt.2”, a straight up diss to President Trump, was especially remarkable. How did it happen?
G-Eazy: YG is my homie, I’ve known him for a long time. One of the best people in music. Really genuine dude. I talked with him last summer, he shot me a text, “Yo, I need you to jump on this remix.” and that was it. I think that song is one of the most important hip-hop songs in the past few years, honestly. Really crucial, anthemic record, really important to the times. It definitely means a lot to me. I perform it at every show.
Q. The US has changed a lot after Donald Trump won the election. The anxiety and anger you and YG expressed in the song seems to have become a larger distortion that’s widely spread throughout the country.
G-Eazy: It’s terrible what’s going on in the states. It’s fucking terrible. And it’s uncomfortable and it’s unsafe. It’s becoming really unsafe. You have somebody like Donald Trump as the president who’s holding the most important job in our country. A man like Trump who is a bigot, racist, terrible human being. It’s bad for our country because it’s creating a really big divide, it’s pushing these two sides further and further apart. And it’s creating anger and tension on both sides and it inevitably spills over. As artists we can speak or we can be shy and not speak. I think the biggest thing is being informed, knowing what you are talking about and speaking from the heart when you feel you are inclined to. When you feel that, it’s right.
Watanabe: I’m not a politician, I’m not even American. But when I saw that Trump became a candidate I was like, it’s like a parody or a movie, how can that kind of person become a president or a candidate? And when he actually became the president I thought it was a joke! Something I could not believe. All the Americans I know, they are great. How does a country like America have a president like him? Your lyrics in the song are very direct, very straight forward and sends us a powerful message.
G-Eazy: The record is direct because it has to be. It has to be a straight shot and cut through. Even the hook. I mean, it’s a simple chorus, it’s just anthemic repetitive chant. But that statement in itself is so loud and so powerful. When I perform it, listening to a huge group of people of the audience scream it, I feel like collectively it does something.
Watanabe: That’s the whole point, people can link to it and share in it. Artists can create the atmosphere. That, was well done.