Over the past three years, the great Huntsville, Alabama rap duo G-Side have released three full albums, with another, Island, coming in November. And even more impressive: They’ve done all this while working full-time at two not-exactly-glamorous jobs. ST 2 Lettaz shoots low-budget music videos now, but he only recently left his job at a gas station. Meanwhile, his partner Yung Clova throws parties and has a clothing line called Purple Tyrant, but cutting hair in a barbershop takes up most of his time. We caught up with both rappers to talk over email about the advantages and the drawbacks (well, mostly the drawbacks) to working those jobs.
STEREOGUM: How long ago did the two of you start working at the gas station and the barbershop? And did you see the jobs as temporary things when you started?
Yung Clova: I started cutting hair January 2004. I thought it would be temporary for me. I had big dreams in business marketing, and I went to a modeling school in Memphis called John Casablanca. I wasn’t really focused on rap.
ST 2 Lettaz: The gas station I worked at was known as the 24-hour liquor store around Huntsville. Legally, I could only sell liquor until 2PM, but after 1AM, I’d charge people 5 or 10 bucks extra, for myself. Also, if you didn’t have an ID, it was an extra 20. Can I send a special shout out to the girls I smashed in the stock room on the Pepsi crates?! Now, I do videos for local artists who can’t afford the really high-priced guys. I specialize in no-budget videos. It gives guys around here a chance to have a high quality visual internet presence where they otherwise wouldn’t.
Around ’06, while recording Sumthin 2 Hate, I got fired from Taco Bell for selling dro sacks from the drive-thru. I had a couple Iranian homies whose family owned gas stations, so they gave me a job. I started out cleaning toilets and eventually got my own store, pretty much ran it top-to-bottom. I always saw it as temporary. I never wanted to be that gas station guy. The more shows we started booking, the less I could be there. Eventually, I took what I had saved and bought a Canon 7D and said, “OK, I shoot videos now.” I dove in headfirst. Best thing I could have ever done! Whenever I ride past that store, I give ‘em the finger. I won’t even stop there for gas.
STEREOGUM: How much have your day jobs interfered with your music career? And is it hard to build up any sense of artistic inspiration when you’re drained from a day of work?
YC: My jobs messes with me all the time. I go on the road as a star and come back home and realize I’m still a country boy. I never feel like writing all the time because focusing on haircuts all day messes with my creative process. I work from eight in the morning to sometimes eight at night. That really takes away from writing.
ST: I was lucky. My job actually helped. I sold literally thousands of G-Side CDs out of there. But it’s hard to get on a track and pop a bunch of fly shit smelling like corner-store pizza.
STEREOGUM: You guys come from one of the most fertile rap scenes in the country, but as of yet, Huntsville hasn’t produced any huge commercial success stories. Does everyone in Huntsville’s rap scene work a day job? Or almost everyone?
YC: That’s why we call it Huntsvegas, the jackpot city. Everybody’s got some kind of hustle. They selling DVDs, CDs, cars, clothes, shoes, phones, TVs, laptops, just to pay the bills until they blow. I even know a rapper that’s selling Avon and air fresheners.
ST: Most Huntsville artists have jobs or sell dope. But we’ve built a small music economy down here. There are a lot of artists, being that Huntsville is a college/military town. Being able to do music full-time is damn near unheard of here, but we’re trying to change that.
STEREOGUM: Clova, since you’re still working there, how often do you think about quitting the barbershop?
YC: I think about quitting my job everyday. I promise you this: Whenever I stop working and can focus full-time on music, you will see the beast come out of me. People just don’t know how hard I will go when my mind is free.
STEREOGUM: How often have the two of you been recognized from your music careers while you’re at your day jobs? Does that feel good, or does it ever get embarrassing?
ST: I’ve signed many an autograph over the counter of that gas station. It wasn’t embarrassing at all, and the fact that they were fans despite my my occupation was gratifying. People respect me more as an artist now that I don’t have to sell them cigarettes and beer.
YC: It happens all the time. It’s so funny. But I can’t be the superstar that I want because people still know me as David Williams. And a lot of my success is happening over the internet. A lot of people I know either don’t be on the net, don’t have computers, don’t know how to us one, or can’t afford one. So until I blow on TV or radio, I’m still David Williams, not Yung Clova.
G-Side’s new album Island is coming 11/11 from Slow Motion Soundz.