For about five years, we at NPR Music have been listening to G-Side, a rap duo from Huntsville, Ala., and the group's in-house production pair the Block Beattaz. Some of us rocked 2008's Starshipz & Rocketz until the tape popped, reveling in the sequined sound and mostly level-headed lyrics that alternate between the gruff and drawled deliveries favored by Clova and ST 2 Lettaz, respectively. We followed the four core musicians and their crew of contributors (collected under the Slow Motion Soundz umbrella) as they worked in various iterations and guested throughout the south, making songs that use tried-and-true materials to arrive at deliriously odd destinations. They're like your loony great aunt who still mixes patterns better than anyone else you know. One of the Block Beattaz made "Grind Baby," which flipped Weezer's "Say It Ain't So," and ST stole the show on G-Mane's "Hard," which itself lifts 8Ball & MJG's "Comin' Out Hard."
They kept getting better, and finding wider audiences. In 2010 we booked them for the party we put on every year at SXSW, and they slayed. We've reported on the business G-Side and Block Beattaz have been building in Huntsville,written about their songs and talked about them on All Songs Considered. And then, last September, after eight years of moving closer to the mainstream, G-Side abruptly broke up.
Over the next 13 months, all parties stayed active. ST dropped an EP almost immediately after the breakup and an album later in the winter. Clova formed a new collective that released 100 songs in 25 days last fall and put out a mixtape this spring.
Last week, just as suddenly, we heard from the group's manager, Codie G. G-Side was back together, putting in time in the studio. A new album, called Gz to Godz, is being prepared for early next year.
In a phone call from Area 51 Studios in Huntsville, Clova and ST describe the fracture of their bond as something personal — it wasn't a business decision. ST's words are: "We were both growing, and we went and tried to find our own identities as men, just in the world." Codie G sounds understanding when he talks about this time. "They both tried solo careers," he says. "Any artist would want to do that, I guess." Nobody blew up.
"There was never a big fallout or a fight," ST says. "It was always copacetic." So copacetic that they were still calling each other on their birthdays, only five days apart, late last month. "In that vibe," he says, "we just got to talking." Those conversations led to a question from Clova: "You ready to clock back in?" When ST responded in the affirmative, "it was all daps and hugs," he says. That evening they wrote "Forever." Two weeks later, here it is.
The song sounds different from older G-Side/Block Beattaz songs. It's choppier and more metallic, and the throttle is open wider. It's still out there, though, opening with almost a minute of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach. This was on purpose. "It can't be familiar to anything that you're hearing right now," says ST. "I think the music that comes out this time is gonna be a lot doper. It's gonna be little bit more creative, because we both kind of found out who we were as men and as artists. So we get in there and we talk the records out more than we used to."
I asked G-Side how their coworkers reacted to the news of the reunion. "I think he was more happy than we was, for real," says Clova about CP, one half of the Block Beattaz. "Felt like he was getting his child back, like your child been at a detention center for like a year-and-a-half and now your child coming back home." And I asked about their families. "My mom found out today," says Clova. "She called me crying, she was so happy."
"G-Side is definitely a family business. It was moms, dads, uncles, cousins, sisters, brothers, everybody is what made it happen," says ST. "Before MTV and before overseas, and before all of that, it was home. And I think that's what I missed most about being in the group, is it was like being away from home. Being away from the house you get homesick."