Oakland, California native, G-Eazy, gave a lively performance on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon last week. He was joined onstage by Cardi B. Together, they performed G-Eazy’s latest single, “No Limit.” The performance indicated how far hip-hop had come, while reminding audiences what constitutes the rudiments of the genre.
Some watching G-Eazy’s performance on Fallon’s show might have mistaken him for a newcomer with an unnaturally smooth stage presence. The problem with that assumption is that G-Eazy’s career has been in progress for almost a decade.
G-Eazy has been releasing albums since 2009, reportedly while he was still in college. He’s participated in Vans’ Warped Tour, and collaborated with a number of stars in the music industry, including Bebe Rexha, Britney Spears, A$AP Rocky and Cardi B.
Even though he might not be a household name with all demographics, G-Eazy has not been toiling in obscurity. His albums have placed respectably on Billboard 200 and on hip-hop/r&b charts.
It would seem that a performer who jumpstarted his career while still in college would be taking it easy years later. That doesn’t seem to be the case. On Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, G-Eazy was promoting his newest single, “No Limit.” There is talk of a new album, titled “The Beautiful and The Damned,” but no release date has been announced yet.
Even though I consider myself a fan of different styles of music, I am on occasion struck by masterworks in genres in which I am not exceptionally well-versed. I know more than the basics of hip-hop, and can discuss at length the differences between rap (before 1993) and hip-hop (after 1993), but it is not in my wheelhouse. However, that doesn’t stop me from appreciating songs that seem to have gone right, and represented the genre in a way that feels authentic.
Needless to say, I was not prepared for G-Eazy’s collaboration with Cardi B. on Fallon’s stage. The performance was filmed in a black-and-white filter, making it appear like a video or documentary. When the lights came up at the end, I was shocked to learn that Cardi B’s coat was red and black.
But the performance itself was intriguing. One of basics of hip-hop that I appreciate most has to be the facility of language. That was one of the cool things about watching the Biggie Smalls documentary that featured home movies of rap battles–hearing how spoken language was used in an impromptu manner, and never a beat missed.
I got a similar feeling watching G-Eazy. His delivery was an up and down cadence that illustrated the laidback braggadocio in his lyrics. The phrases “pipe her,” “like her” and “wife her” were presented as if they were the most natural of rhymes.
His narrative of one-night stands went beyond the usual low-level (or not-so-low-level) misogyny that a casual hip-hop listener braces him or herself for. G-Eazy repeats multiple times that “it ain’t safe” for black girls or white girls, because apparently, he provides equal opportunity one-night stands. None of this will comfort detractors of hip-hop, but it does chart a somewhat new territory for white rappers.
One of the other trademarks I find in rap is the presence of menace. Menace doesn’t have to be violence, necessarily. It could be just rudeness. And there was plenty of that, especially when G-Eazy describes what happened when he told a girl to “kick rock.” And she acted like it was ” a boulder.” The figurative language wasn’t lost on me. It was actually, well, funny.
Inventive language is only part of the successful hip-hop equation. A catchy beat is paramount. G-Eazy had that, too. Of course on television, there was a live band, and according to some critics, the presence of the live drummer made the song better. But I have listened to “No Limit” via a streaming service, and the beat still works.
The instrumentation is a multi-faceted beat augmented by drumbeats and keyboards. “No Limit” is not only a performance opportunity for G-Eazy, but it is danceable at home or in the club.
Every now and then, a genre needs a fresh example to remind listeners and critics of what can happen within that genre. For now, “No Limit” is that example for hip-hop.