Yung Clova and ST 2 Lettaz are G-Side, the hungry hip-hop duo coming out of Huntsville, Ala. They aim to create a cohesive sound that is unmistakably Southern but also a product of the their unique Huntsville upbringing. As they're quick to point out, Huntsville is not Atlanta or Miami; it's a riding city with its own aesthetic. Though they've earned comparisons to OutKast, G-Side wants you to know: If you try to pin them down, they'll move in the opposite direction.
Complex spoke with G-Side at Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. Read the rest of our coverage of the festival here.
Complex: Tell me about where you two came up.
ST: Huntsville and Athens, Ala. Athens is like 10 minutes outside of Huntsville. It’s in the same metro area. It’s a really small, country town. Huntsville is known for space, rockets, and engineering. You got a military base, maybe four colleges. It’s a mid-size town.
Athens is the small, country spot outside [Huntsville]. That’s more where we grew up. That’s how we got our name—G-Side—cause it’s the gutter side, and Huntsville didn’t have a dirty side. It’s chill, not really a party city at all. Everything closes at 2 a.m. Police are on your dick all day, everyday. But it’s cool though; we ride past the rocket on the interstate. They rated it one of the best places in America to raise your kids. So, it’s straight. It’s got its ups and downs just like any other city. You know?
You've known each other since you were kids?
ST: We met in the Boys & Girls Club.
Clova: Ever since we were about 10.
ST: Yeah, about 10 or 11, and then rapping since probably like ’99.
Have you been interested in music since then?
ST: I was doing music when I was nine, just trying and practicing. I knew what I wanted to be.
Clova: I wasn’t rapping, but I was playing drums in church.
Are you into production too?
Clova: Yeah, I’m actually in it big time right now.
ST: He’ll probably have some beats on the next album.
But you basically work with one production team?
ST: Yeah, Block Beattaz. That’s kind of the final product—G-Side and the Block Beattaz. Block Beattaz are damn near a part of G-Side. Whenever we get beats from outside producers, 9 times out of 10, Block Beattaz will go in and alter them a little bit, just to make it all cohesive.
Is that something you guys care about—having a cohesive sound on the album?
ST: Yeah, we’re really big on the albums. You don’t see many singles from us. That’s kind of our thing that sets us apart from the others, our albums.
How else do you think your sound is different than other Southern artists?
ST: We listen to those other Southern artists, that Atlanta sound or that Florida sound, and we try to flip it and do damn near the opposite. Like I said, Huntsville is not a party city. Club music is not gonna kill it out there. That’s not what you feel. You don’t go and ball and throw hundreds at bitches all night. It’s a riding city, so we make riding music. We try to keep it gutter with the lyrics and talk about the real shit that we go through, not make anything up or fantasize or try to portray the drug game as something that it’s not. If we even talk about dope, we do it in real way, but we try to even shy away from that.
Clova: I mean, we’re trying to create our own sound. That’s the only way that we’re going to stand out amongst every city that’s around Alabama. You gotta think: Florida is up under us, Atlanta, Tennessee, and Georgia—all that’s around us. We need to make our own sound so we could stand out. We gotta be a little different.
ST: So it’s got that hard edge but then it kind of has that elegance to it, if you listen to the samples. We try to sample more up-to-date shit. The ‘70s samples, they’ve been done over and over and over.
That’s the New York sound right there. It’s the same concept.
Clova: New York sound with them down South 808s; everybody can listen to it.
ST: We try to market heavily overseas.
Have you had much success overseas?
ST: Yeah, we’ve done a couple of tours. We got a lot of love in the whole Scandinavian area, like Finland, Sweden, and Norway.
What’s it like touring over there?
ST: Crazy, especially being two country motherfuckers coming from Athens, Alabama. It’s a whole ‘nother world; it opens your eyes up.
What are your favorite countries or cities to perform in overseas? Which ones really stood out?
ST: Trondheim and Oslo in Norway.
Clova: Sweden went hard, too.
ST: Trondheim is a small city but we were right in the downtown area. It reminded you of some older Southern cities, like some shit you’ll see in Mississippi. Just the architecture and the way that the people were walking around in big dresses. It was a crazy vibe, like the little club we were in ended up packing out. They went apeshit in there. We didn’t even know we had a following there.
Clova: Sweden was kind of crazy. First of all, we performed in an old church, so that threw us off. But it was packed, just jumping.
ST: It’s real crazy, man, ‘cause you’ll do a show in Huntsville and it’ll be a hundred of your friends out there, but then you’ll go overseas and it’s 400-500 motherfuckers—they knowing your shit word for word. It’s crazy.
What do you think makes your work accessible to somebody in Sweden, somebody who didn’t come up in the South?
ST: It was all the Internet. I had an idea. We did an album called Southern Haters, our very first album, and we got a look on a blog. And then Hip-Hop Connection in the U.K., like the oldest hip-hop magazine there, we got a look in there, so I was like, "Damn, what if we took this down South shit and marketed it directly to the people overseas?" I call it the Reverse Beetles Theory. So basically we’re doing the same thing they did in reverse. It’s actually been working. And like I said we take the model that’s already out and go in reverse and do something totally different from what everyone else is doing, and they love it. They eat it up.
What are the next steps? What’s the next move?
ST: Well we got an album coming out 11/11/11 called Island. It’s going to be a real hip-hop album.
Clova: Other than that, it’s straight touring from here.
ST: We’re back overseas in October. Then we’ll probably do some of the festival circuit. I think we had a real good show here.