Breaking Out: G-Side

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G-Side's ST 2 Lettaz (left) and Yung Clova, shot for SPIN's May issue / Photo by Jimmy Fontaine
WRITTEN BY
Amos Barshad

Before self-releasing 2008's Starshipz and Rocketz, David Williams and Stephen Harris -- a.k.a. Yung Clova and ST 2 Lettaz, the Huntsville, Alabama rappers collectively known as G-Side -- had never played outside their home state. But when blog love helped them land a show in Oslo, Norway, they learned that Scandinavia isn't necessarily so different from home. "Outside the club," ST, 25, recalls, "there was a couple fighting. And the girl was kicking the dude's ass. We were like, 'Somebody going to jail tonight.' But they finished, walked away. No police." Laughing, he adds, "I didn't feel safe."

The guys felt more comfortable in the hands of, among others, fellow 'Bama producers C.P. and Mali Boi (credited together as Block Beataz), who, on this year's The One...Cohesive mixtape, took an off-kilter approach to G-Side's laconic Southern hip-hop: Drums drop in and out, creepy choral samples flit about, whole beats are built on despondent violin riffs. It's an ideal complement to Clova and ST's sober, empathetic raps about awkward childhood incidents and quotidian details of their current grind. That winning combination, as showcased on the recent cement-hard single "What's It All About," has helped them hoof it outside of their home state, though not away from criticism.

"Some people think we skipped having local fans," ST explains. "Sometimes we could make [more money] throwing shows in [Huntsville] than we could elsewhere, but we'd go where blogs were talking about us instead." The deferred-cash strategy paid off: G-Side worked their way up from mentions on regional rap blogs to gushing reviews from such influential sites as Cocaine Blunts, OnSmash, Baller's Eve, and HipHopDX.

This spring, the duo will mostly stick close to home on a tour of the South. An as-yet-untitled album is scheduled for 11/11/11. They're even talking, cautiously, about major-label distribution. "We need to know that we're not gonna be pushed to the back so that other artists can flourish," says ST. "We're independent as fuck."

Well, almost: Clova, 26, is down to two days a week at the Athens, Alabama barbershop he owns. For him and ST, "It seems like nothing is unattainable. We can be anyone we want to be."

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