Interview: GLC – Hip-Hop Artist

Posted: May 4, 2009 in interview, music
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GLC

Date of Interview: 05/04/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

When GLC made his first mainstream appearance on Kanye West’s “Spaceship,” scores of casual hip hop fans found themselves frenetically asking: “Who exactly is this guy?”  And after re-appearing—two years later—on “Drive Slow,” Late Registration’s critically-acclaimed single, music lovers of all stripes found themselves clamoring to hear more of the Chicago native’s talents.

GLC’s immediate thrust into the public spotlight serves as a gentle reminder that there is no such thing as luck.  By all accounts, his life story and eventual success prove that “luck,” if anything, is simply the result of prior preparation that has been given the opportunity to present itself.  And once given the chance, GLC took off running and never looked back.

After the release of several dazzling mixtape offerings, XXL named GLC as the biggest Chicago artist in May 2008—increasing the rapper’s profile and national buzz for his long-awaited debut.  In anticipation of G.O.O.D. Music’s release of Love, Life & Loyalty, GLC managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on “Big Screen,” the origin of his stage name, and Chicago’s alarming homicide rate.

Clayton Perry: Your forthcoming album, Love, Life & Loyalty, will be released on Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music label in latter part of 2009.  Although multiple sources cite that you and Kanye grew up together and were childhood friends, none give any details on how the two of you connected and formed a musical partnership.

GLC: We got in touch through a mutual friend named Andre Frazier who went to the same elementary school as mine. He introduced me to Kanye. We had a lot of the same ideas. We love to check out the girls. We like clothes. You want to look good so you can pimp. We love music. His mother was like super just like my brother was. We had different avenues that we can relate to, so we kind of bonded at an early childhood.

Clayton Perry: Both of you collaborated on your newest single, “Big Screen,” which is part of True to the Game, an album that generates funds and raises awareness for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Beyond the music, what does that particular project really mean to you? And what life events attached you to the project?

GLC: Well, I have respect for my elders. When I grew up in the organization that I grew up in, we didn’t do certain things. We didn’t disrespect our elders. That was like a no-no. It’s something you just don’t do. We all realize that without the Negro League, the older generations that came before us, we wouldn’t be here. Therefore, I take my hat off to them and I express my gratitude for the way that they laid it down. The Negro League was formed because they allegedly were like, “You wouldn’t let us play in the majors? F**k y’all, we’re going to play in our own league.” I kind of like that style – you make your own way. You know what I’m saying? The way that I got attached to the project is when I received a phone call from a friend of mine who was consulting for the project. He said, “Man, I think this would be a great idea for you to do. It helps generate money for this organization, this-and-that and help raise the awareness.” I was like, “Yeah, count me in.”

Clayton Perry: As you were recording for the project, did you come across facts about the Negro League that you didn’t know beforehand?

GLC: Oh, yeah. Rube Foster, the founder of the Negro Leagues was from Chicago, which is my hometown. Looking back on all the things the League managed to do in the past, I just want to apply some of what I’ve learned to my company, Get It Man Entertainment, so that my brand can be as popular as the Negro Leagues one day.

Clayton Perry: Although you haven’t released your major label debut yet, you have managed to garner the respect of people from all over the globe. With such high expectations, how does that push you to become a better artist?

GLC: Oh, man, it’s my fuel. Even when people have low expectations, they make me say okay, if you have low expectations of me, I have to change their mind so they all understand and they can grasp the concept. I’ll just present them what they expected and give them a little bit more just for their patience and waiting for my project to come out.

Clayton Perry: At what point did you adopt GLC as your stage name?

GLC: I grew up in a gang and they used to call me Gangsta L because back then I was rapping and my name was Legend so it’s GL. My real name is Leonard. So instead of calling me Gangsta L or Gangsta Legend, GL just sounded real smooth. Then the C came in from my other rap name Crisis like losing your father was a crisis. Losing your mom at 12 – that’s a crisis. Going to funerals all your life, losing your uncles and aunties, people just dying around you every other month as a kid, losing your house in the fire, the diabetes, having to go to the hospital every other day, your friend getting shot at right in your face – you know what I’m saying? So many dire situations when you sit back and be like, “Damn, how the hell did you make it through that?” That’s basically what my whole life has been. That’s where the name came from. I decided to keep the name because I’m showing kids that hear the gangsta, crisis, all this negative sounding s**t, you can really be somebody walking around speaking at high schools and putting smiles on people’s faces. I am redefining what gangsta is. Gangsters were in politics this year. They have economic and political control of communities this year. That’s what I’m set to outreach; that’s what I’m reaching for.

Clayton Perry: Your debut album has been entitled Love, Life & Loyalty.  Since love is the crutch upon which one’s life and loyalty should be centered, I pulled a quote from Jean Anouilh dealing with love. If there’s a specific life event or recording experience that you can relate to it, please give me some insight on that.  It goes, “Love is, above all, the gift of one’s self.”

GLC: People often say God is love. People always say God and the love of God and this and that. It simply means you have to have love for life. Once you have the love for life then the Lord comes into place. The given order of things is to develop a love for life and belief that life is sacred. That’s where my album title comes from. It comes from my experience. I experienced a lot of hardships as well as upcomings. The upcomings, man, they really have accelerated my training. I remember looking at my father’s obituary back when I was a kid. His name was Willie Lee and they broke down the W-I-L-L-I-E. One of the L’s was love and the other was loyalty. I have love for him and loyalty, which is the given order of things for his life – although I never got to know my father because he died when I was eight months. I feel like the principles that my album entail are missing not only from the rap gang but from life in general. People are experiencing the recession right now so we need that. We need to put that back to the forefront so people can embrace it. I give the people something to embrace with my music. Life is love of tomorrow, love of my nephew which drives my loyalty. I’ll be driving my truck up the road tomorrow to go to prison to see him because he’s locked up in Nashville. I’m down here in Atlanta right now so I’m going to hit the road to see my nephew tomorrow because of love, life and loyalty. It is the motivation that drives people to better themselves. You know what I’m saying?

Clayton Perry: As your music moves from the underground to the mainstream, what are you most excited about and looking forward to?

GLC: I’m looking forward to the other artists to come behind me. The whole underground and internet market has been my driving force. That has been what kept me going and has me relevant in the eyes of many. I’m just following in the footsteps of the great Soulja Boy. He was put himself on the internet and ran away with it, man. Right now, I’m just doing the same thing. Except for the content – it’s a bit different. It comes from a wiser perspective, more like a standpoint of a man of honor, a man of dignity, a man that’s not down the street hustling, just like anybody that’s working a regular job. Because I’ve done that. But at the end of the day, the music is definitely the place for me because I’m enabling others to realize that you can get out and do anything. You don’t have to be in a position where you sit and complain about what a label isn’t doing for you. You can do it yourself, especially with the internet. The internet, man, is a blessing.

Clayton Perry: Looking at your current situation, how would you define success?

GLC: The thing is, I make music because I love making music. In all honesty, I really like to hear my voice. I got a pretty cool voice. When I hear it over the tracks, I’ll be like, “Oh, it sounded pretty cool there.” The girls will be like, “Oh, damn. It sounded pretty cool.” The ladies love me and the players respect me and the regular 9-to-5 guys, they respect me as well because I tell a story so compelling that they can relate to it.

Clayton Perry: A lot of people remember you first from “Spaceship.” What life events from these past five years have shaped the content of your upcoming album?

GLC: Well, my nephew got locked up. A couple of friends went to the joint. I moved around. I traveled across the world. I’ve been on a world tour. I got a lot of stamps on my passport. Garnered the respect from some of the people that do this for real. For the last five years, people have been following me on the internet and they’ve been able to see me grow and develop and expand. Man, it’s just been a blessing. I’ve gotten a lot wiser so I’m not coming into the gang blind like so many artists do. I’ve been on the internet and on the streets doing my own thing and creating my own buzz. People have been accepting. My attitude is gratitude to the fans because at the end of the day, everybody has an option. You can choose to have GLC and ride with me and the movement or you can denounce it. People from all walks of life have been embracing GLC. It’s a blessing. I remember going over to Europe and doing tours, just last year actually. Man, you come out on stage, people go nuts like they’ve seen the Beatles. It’s mind-blowing.

Clayton Perry: In your travels abroad, what has been the wildest experience for you?

GLC: I visited Montreal for the first time in 2003, when I opened up for Kanye. After I got done with my set, I was signing autographs and a girl pulled her shirt up and showed off her chest, so I signed it. [laughing] Another time – I believe I was in Stockholm, Sweden – and I went inside of a burger chain when a young man shouted “GLC! GLC!” He said, “Welcome to Burger King.” He was just really excited, man. He didn’t know what to do. It’s just mind-blowing. Everyday something wild happens. It’s all beginning to sink in. People are really becoming more aware of GLC and my brand and what I do. The world is beginning to see the concept. You know what I’m saying? I’ve been a star. At the end of the day, people will see the sun but in reality, the sun ain’t nothing but a star. It just had more exposure so people can see it and say, “Oh, s**t. The sun is shining as bright as hell.” What about the other stars that you haven’t had a close-up on yet? You know what I’m saying? I’m one of those.

Clayton Perry: As you learn to cope with all of your newfound success, how’s the transition been for you?

GLC: It’s been great, man. It’s been super-smooth because at the end of the day, I’ve always been a people-person. It’s not new. Other people tend to act different or act funny. Back in the day, GLC was on this s**t. It’s just like what I’ve been doing with my life, just on a global scale. At the end of the day like I say, man, there ain’t no guarantee that you’re here tomorrow so you treat everybody nice because you’ll never know who’s who.

Clayton Perry: As you navigated the musical landscape, how have these past five years affected the way in which you approach the business?

GLC: You reach a certain age in life in general where everyday should bring about a sort of change in your life. Everyday when you go to sleep, you feel like you learned something new, you were productive. You shouldn’t go to bed with the same s**t from yesterday or the same amount of wisdom from yesterday. Something new should be established. It could be knowledge, it could be a new woman, it could be a new pair of shoes, it could be a new website or something. There’s so much information out there for you. When you find yourself around people that haven’t really embraced technology or embraced the modern world, they’re going to say, “You changed. Man, you ain’t the same.” I have changed. I got to be wiser. I think that’s pretty cool. I think that’s dope. So anybody that has changed as long as it’s a reform for the better, I’m all for it. You know what I’m saying? Yeah, I have changed. I’m not the same guy. If I were, then somebody put me in a psychiatric ward.

Clayton Perry: Looking forward, what do you want to bring to the music industry that no other has brought to the table?

GLC: I want to bring the freshest album called Love, Life & Loyalty. It’s going to change people’s perception of guys who grew up in the hood, or guys who grew up in the south, or the “land” as we say in Chicago. Anybody who grew up under those dire situations in a bad neighborhood don’t have to be bad. People will say I’m a gangster this and that. They don’t really understand the difference between a gangster and a gangbanger or a street punk. Gangsters evolve. They find some way to evolve. It’s sort of like a blueprint, like a guide to reach new levels of prosperity.

Clayton Perry: Is there a particular track off Love, Life & Loyalty that you think best represents the recording experience?

GLC: “The Big Knot” with Rich Boy and Bump J. There’s another track with Rich Boy as well – “Cold As Ice.” Those records are kind of crazy. I tell stories on my album. I tell stories of triumph. I tell stories of despair. I tell stories of love. I tell stories of celebration and the good life. I tell stories of the Lord and how I remain triumphant in the midst of it all.

Clayton Perry: On the path to success, what do you consider to be the biggest obstacle you had to overcome?

GLC: Losing my mom when I was 12. After that I was diagnosed with diabetes at 14. I lost my father at 8 months. Obstacles like losing your house in the fire or anything that you can think of that might be f**ked up, that might be happening in a person’s life, that probably happened to GLC.

Clayton Perry: Through the ups and the downs, what keeps you motivated?

GLC: My mom. She’s my angel watching over me. I won’t let her rest until she knows that I’ve done my duties because she watching over me is a full-time job.

Clayton Perry: What do you consider to be your ultimate duty on this earth?

GLC: One of my ultimate dreams is to stop the killings in Chicago. We’ve got a president that is from Chicago, a black man that’s supposed to bring change to the world, but the numbers are up from last year. It just doesn’t make sense. People know the effects of the recession. People are broke. That is just a known fact. If you ain’t got no money, you’re going to rob. You’re going to kill. Everyone’s talking about the recession like it came out of thin air. That’s some bulls**t. I encourage people to wake up. People tend to see life not as it truly is. I ain’t going to. Hopefully through my movement and my voice, I’ll be able to aid in waking up the masses.

Clayton Perry: Do you wish other rap artists saw their role in the world the same way in which you do?

GLC: I’m going to tell you this. I’m not going to speak about other artists. I don’t want to spend my day or my time worrying about what another man is doing. To be sitting around and like, “Damn, why is that rapper doing that?” People do what they want to do. At the end of the day, I don’t have any control over what another man does with his life. All I can do is my part. Fans would say, “If I was this person, I would be doing this.” Man, just do it. That’s what I do. I just live it. I don’t go around talking this s**t. That’s a huge flaw in society. People are always talking about what should be or why this and that or what happened over here or why is he wearing this. I don’t want none of that. My nephew’s in jail. I got another nephew that ain’t got a father and I’m their father. I got to make moves in order for them to be straight. That’s what I’m worried about. Hopefully, when people see me lead by example as opposed to sitting and talking about what should be done and what shouldn’t be done, change will come.

For more information on GLC, visit his official website: http://glcitymusic.com/

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