Just 48 hours after he walked the red carpet and delivered a sizzling, meat-grinding performance with Britney Spears at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York, G-Eazy performed amid the unmistakable smells of grilling and deep-frying meat at the Minnesota State Fair. What a difference two days can make in the life of a Top 40 rapper.
The real-life Gerald Gillum, 27, became the first hip-hop headliner in three summers at the fair’s grandstand, following a sold-out 2013 appearance by fellow pop-starry rapper Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The G-man came close to a sell-out himself, with 14,130 excited, mostly teenage fans — one of the biggest grandstand shows in recent fair history because of the general-admission (seatless) configuration in front of the stage.
Hip-hop fans could chalk it up as another victory for their often disregarded music, but there was not much worth celebrating in G-Eazy’s 75-minute set Tuesday.
Coming off like a scrawny, tight-jeans version of HBO’s “Vinyl” star Bobby Cannavale, the rapper repeatedly credited the huge turnout to the fact that he’s been a regular visitor to the Twin Cities over the past half-decade. He shouted-out local rapper Mod Sun and First Avenue for early support. He even sported a T-shirt for Pete’s Repeat Bar in Kasson, Minn. Let’s hope he doesn’t get a summer home here, though, based on his repeated self-proclamations that he apparently could afford one.
“I’m young, rich and handsome,” he bragged in the opening song “Endless Summer.”
It’s ironic G-Eazy would play the State Fair in the same year the Soundset hip-hop festival — where he played as a rising star in 2014 — moved to the fairgrounds in May and drew 35,000 attendees. This year’s Soundset reiterated how many smart, innovative, forward-thinking hip-hop makers there are nowadays. By contrast, G-Eazy’s fairgrounds appearance felt like a regression to a Jurassic period in the music when braggadocio and sexism were givens in hip-hop.
Sure, hip-hop is always going to have some coy and crass sexual energy, but G-Eazy’s sexuality was dimwitted and frothing. He dropped the P-word in reference to his many conquests in just about every song. In the third tune, “Lotta That,” he declared “I’ve got a lotta ho’s” over and over, loud and often enough for the farmers at the John Deere sales area a few blocks over to chant along in reference to the other kinds of hoes.
Toward the end of his set, he rounded out the song “Loaded” with video of women in white T’s being sprayed down with soapy water. One of the crowd’s favorite songs was “I Mean It,” where the chorus had him boasting about having sex with another dude’s “bitch.”
Maybe the most offensive thing about G-Eazy on Tuesday was his sheer lack of rapping talent. He spilled lines like ketchup out of a pump at a fast-food joint; just a sweet, mushy glob with no nourishment value. He spent a lot of his time on stage just standing with his microphone pointed outward as the crowd sang along to the prerecorded hooks by guest singers in his best-known songs, including Devon Baldwin’s part in “Let’s Get Lost” and Mark E’ Bassy’s chorus in the UB40-flavored drivel “You & Me.”
To his credit, Mr. G did show a little humility and humor when he made a veiled reference to Sunday’s TV performance with Spears, which went viral afterward because the pop megastar visibly swerved to avoid a kiss the rapper tried to plant on her. “Not every show goes well, and sometimes you try to kiss somebody on TV and... I don’t know.”
Kudos to the fair for embracing hip-hop again, but it, too, should tell G-Eazy to kiss off next time.