Everything was tee’d up perfectly for G-Eazy when he announced the arrival date for his new album The Beautiful & Damned a month and a half ago. With an eye-popping lead single with his paramour Halsey, “Him & I” lighting up the charts, and a collaboration with ASAP Rocky and Cardi B, “No Limit” following shortly after that, it appeared that Young Gerald was on pace to score the first No. 1 album of his career. Then it all turned.
Just three weeks after G-Eazy solidified his release date, trap legend Jeezy decided to slate his latest project Pressure for the exact same day. To be honest, I thought the move was absurdly hilarious given how similar their names are. I mean, Jeezy could’ve picked literally any other day of the month or year, why confuse his and G-Eazy most extremely casual fans and total newcomers? That revelation paled in comparison however to the news a couple of weeks back that Eminem, the most commercially successful rapper in the history of the genre had also decided to drop his first full-length project in four years, Revival, on the same exact day as G-Eazy’s latest.
The chances that G-Eazy is going to best Eminem on the charts this week are about as good as Biggie Smalls coming back to life to headline Coachella. In other words, it ain’t gonna happen. Looking back, G-Eazy actually has had an epically bad history when it comes to album release dates. His last full-length project When It’s Dark Out sold 135,000 in its first week alone, which was one of the better showings in all of 2015. The only thing that prevented it from hitting the top of the charts? Hurricane Adele and her million-selling return 25.
Here’s the interesting thing. Though G-Eazy’s sprawling, double-album probably won’t outperform Eminem’s equally long-winded 76-minute behemoth Revival, it’s the qualitatively better release. Now, don’t get me wrong Shady stans. I’m not out here suggesting that G-Eazy is the superior lyricist, or that Em isn’t one of the greatest rappers walking the earth, or that The Marshall Mathers LP isn’t anything less than a masterpiece, all I’m saying is that as a total listening experience, The Beautiful & Damned comes out ahead, at least for me.
In broad terms, The Beautiful & Damned is a concept record broken up into two halves. “One is more G-Eazy and one is Gerald,” he explained to me. “One is more fun… that side of the leather-jacket-wearing crazy rock star. And the other side is a more introspective look at the lifestyle and the celebrity and the sacrifices you make to get to where you are and the compromises and what comes with it.”
Normally, an album of this breadth carries the whiff of a stream-grab. In other words, an artist trying to pack in as much material as you can to try and boost their sales numbers. See Drake, comma Views, or even more egregiously Chris Brown, comma Heartbreak On A Full Moon for prime examples of what I’m getting at. By giving his own record a dual-thematic throughway G-Eazy mostly manages to shake this perception, even though it still would have benefitted from further editing.
The Beautiful & The Damned legitimately could’ve been two separate projects ala Future’s self-titled project and the follow-up HNDRXX. Maybe it should have? After listening to all 20 tracks a few times, I’m personally more partial to the brooding “leather jacket” side of the album than the sultry, baby-making selections that comprise the latter half. “Pick Me Up” featuring Anna Of The North is a particularly choice cut, in which G-Eazy’s voice downshifts throughout the track into a chopped and screwed pit of hell, echoing his own descent into a drug-fueled oblivion.
The area where The Beautiful & Damned really shines over Revival is in basic beat selection. G-Eazy’s project is a vibe. Shady’s is a slog. It’s a mish-mash of out-of-place trap beats, classic rock samples and shiny pop features. In other words, it’s a 45-year-old dude’s idea of what popular sounds like today. G-Eazy also avoids veering into more embarrassing lyrical lanes like Em tends to do on his latest project. During his song “Offended” for instance, Shady manages to reference Mitch McConnell, Rachel Dolezal, Kellyanne Conway, R Kelly and his own farts in the span of five minutes. Yes, it’s about as bad as it sounds.
A few months ago I talked to G-Eazy just before a show in New Orleans. We chopped it up over Bay Area rap, his new album, astrology, and then I asked him about his goals going forward. He didn’t even blink. “Take over the world,” he told me. “Literally, become the biggest thing in the world.” Even if it doesn’t go No. 1 this go-around, The Beautiful & Damned is a solid next step toward that goal.