The Huntsville, Alabama duo responsible for making three cult-followed projects has quite the story on how they made it from a city without a music industry.
The Huntsville duo, G-Side, has been steadily working at building their brand, regardless of whether or not it initially pops in Alabama or overseas. Yung Clova and ST are utterly disinterested in those specifics. They’re also unconcerned with conforming to the school of thought that believes the “Atlanta sound” is the “Sound of the South.” They’ve always been into relatable lyrics, crisp delivery and genuinely good music. The childhood friends have been true to their style, collecting passport stamps for years now, but they always come back home to Huntsville.
In this age of “big town/small city” superstars, slackers no longer have an excuse not to shine in their own self-made spotlight. Rappers are coming out of the most random cities, respecting the size of their potential, forcing their way beyond the confined space of their familiar pond, as hard as it may be. G-Side is only the latest collective to do so, but on a much more entrepreneurial level. They’ve built a massive studio facility and have taken stock in a production team, the Block Beataz, maintaining a stronghold on Huntsville Hip Hop- they’re starting off right. With the recent release of their third project The One… Cohesive , G-Side is just another example of how relentless work and creativity transcend the muddled waters of a secondary music market.
Photography by Helen Pearson
The First Meeting- Cohesion: ST explained, "We knew each other but it was like one day after school at my house it was like me him and four other homeboys all got together. One dude was on the keyboard, somebody else was beating on the dresser with a brush and we had a little tape recorder and that’s how we first started dropping those first songs. We just sat there and freestyled until it got dark. I’m guessing this was like my freshman year of high school. I was 14 and Clova was like, 16."
Home: "Huntsville is a medium sized city, it’s got a lot of people, I wanna say like… maybe 200,000 people, but it’s so spread out, so people aren’t really on top of each other. There aren’t any really, really poor areas in Huntsville… In the outskirts there are, but the projects and areas like that aren’t as bad as Birmingham or Mobile- the bigger cities, but it’s still got a small city feel. It just has more of the ameneties of a big city. It’s a decent little city, it’s not really a hick town or no shit like that. The major industry here is engineering. We have an army base, so that’s where most of the money comes from, the engineering on the base and then NASA, the space rockets and all that. We ride past a rocket everyday on the interstate," said ST.
Huntsville Hip-Hop: "It’s a lot bigger than you think," began ST. "There’s a slew of artists. I couldn’t even name everybody if I tried to. Our new facility is 5,500 square feet and there’s about seven or eight studios in one building all run by different producers, so like, 90% of the traffic of Huntsville music comes through our studios, but there’s still 10% that don’t, that do their own thing. So that’s what pretty much keeps us on the road, is the economy that we’ve built around here with the other artists."
"We’re on an island, we’re on an island in Huntsville. There’s no music industry here. We had to create it. Our studio is just now as big as it is. This is the fourth spot that we’ve had in three or four years."
"Me and Clova after our first CD, we realized that we wanted to own all our shit, and so we got with Slow Motion Soundz and said, “Either we can get a piece of this company or we can branch off and do our own thing.” They gave us a piece of the company and a big part of the revenue is the studio time- like, the Block Beataz- that’s how they make most of their bread is studio sessions and making beats. So yeah, the actual building, the 5,500 square foot building is ours and it consists of smaller entities inside.
Slow Motion Soundz: "Well, after me and Clova first started rapping together, my mom passed- I was 15 so I had to move to Texas and graduate from high school and all that. I was just researching on the internet about Alabama Hip Hop and Slow Motion Soundz had ‘Lacs and Caprices’ that used to come on BET Uncut with T.I. I knew by the video that was Huntsville, so I looked them up and started e-mailing them and sending them demos and basically getting on CP’s [Slow Motion Soundz co-founder and CEO] nerves. I sent him my demo. He reviewed it, song by song and told me what I needed to work on and what was good and I told him I’ma come to [Univeristy of Alabama-Huntsville]," said ST. "I really wanted to just come over and be a part of the Slow but I told my aunt I wanted to go to school in Huntsville, and CP told me that once I got here, I’d be good. When I got here, I was like, ‘You can’t just get me, I’ma bring Clova too.’ And we’ve been rocking like that ever since."
Keeping It Together: Yung Clova said, "I was into sports more than anything. I was into basketball, football, I ran track, so I actually figured I’d go somewhere playing sports rather than rapping but ST was always writing and he was really, really focused on rapping at such a young age. I guess we had two different plans until I realized, like, shit… I wasn’t finna go nowhere playing sports so I had to do something. What happened was, he told me that he was coming back and I hadn’t been writing, I’d never been in a booth or nothing, so I was like, ‘You know what, before he get back. I need to start working on myself, my character.’ I had done a song called ‘Drop Off’ then I did a song called ‘Alabama Wave’ and something else and I said, ‘When he gets back, he’ll like these.’ I got my name offa ‘Drop Off.’" ST chimed in, "Those were the first two big records that we had." Clova continued, "Yeah! The first two! So I was like, ‘If I can get him to like these two songs, I’ll be straight. He’ll think I was doing something.’ [Laughs]"
Why G-Side: Clova explained, "It started off as being The Gutta Side. That was the side of the world we were on when we started off in Athens. It was a real hood place and that what we felt like we represented." ST deduced, "I think that ‘G’ stands for global now."
OutKast Comparisons: ST revealed, "It’s a compliment. I don’t think we necessarily sound like OutKast but people need something to use for perspective. They need something to compare it too. Me and Clova are totally different, just like [Andre 3000] and Big Boi are, our styles are way different but it gives you variety in a song, you don’t get bored with one thing, and you can basically get everything you’d want out of a song, in one record.
Atlanta Sound: "‘Excuse me Ms. Executive, but I’m from Alabama / That’s why my music isn’t quote, unquote Atlanta…,’" rapped ST. "Huntsville is a secondary market. We pretty much get all the music that’s funneled in from Atlanta. All the dance shit, whatever’s hot over there is what ends up being hot over here and so it was hard of us to get our shit played in clubs over here, or radio, because it wasn’t Atlanta. It was the same thing for labels where labels were like, ‘Well if it doesn’t sound like this…’ They didn’t know what to do with it.
The OutKast sound, The Dungeon Family sound, I wouldn’t say that’s the sound of Atlanta. I’d say it was a sound that came out of Atlanta… But I think that’s why we get comparisons too is because of our production team- it’s a sound, it’s not just two guys that go out and jump on everybody and anybody’s beats, trying to follow the fans. We have a sound."
No More Day Job: "I boomed CDs out of that Chevron [gas station]," recalled ST. "I can’t be mad at that. Like, the first CD I boomed like 900, the next one was like, 1,300… Out of one spot! The whole time that I been there I boomed like 3,000 or 4,000 CDs, so people knew me as that ‘rapping ass cash register dude,’ but now they respect the craft more, because I’m not the dude behind the cash register anymore. When they see me out, they see me doing shows or out on the road, they even saw me on the news and for a group of black dudes to be on the news, without having killed somebody or gotten busted for some dope, I guess it’s a pretty big triumph, so yeah, most people show love."
Light Years From Starshipz and Rocketz: Clova began, "We’ve travelled. We’ve seen more. We’ve done more and it just changed our character, being out, overseas, seeing different things. It gives you more to rap about." ST chimed in, "Instead of being trapped in that Alabama state of mind, we see there’s a bigger world now."
“No Radio” Theory: Clova states, "‘No Radio’ was that song where… I mean, real talk… We really don’t have no radio rotation down here, we really doing all this without the radio, so we’re really like, ‘Fuck the radio.’ This shit ain’t for radio. And we had to have that song like, ‘We still from the gutta and we’ll still kick yo’ ass too!’ We have to be like that… Especially, coming from Huntsville, nobody giving us shit. They all wanted us to sound like those Atlanta artists, but in order for us to be us, we had to pretty much say, ‘Fuck everybody and fuck how you feel, we’re just gonna make the music that we like to make.’ And hopefully, good music prevails at the end of the day. That’s pretty much what we banking on. The radio’ll have to adjust to us."