There is a motto adopted by many in hip-hop that if the music isn’t hard, it’s soft, a clearly obvious statement but one that holds magnitude nevertheless. The Bay’s beat-maker turned rapper G-Eazy (“Young Gerald” Gillum), while not the hardest out there, has embraced a mild vicissitude for his second studio album, When It’s Dark Out (Dec. 4). The RCA artist’s debut, These Things Happen, conditioned listeners to a cushiony music backdrop against his embattled thoughts on love and leisure, but this time, the music and lyrics are noticeably harder; however, even that won’t distract listeners from the fact that When It’s Dark Out has more than a few glaring shortcomings. Caught up and entangled is G-Eazy in love, general young adult confusions and, most troublesome, misguided ambition that makes him materialistic and obsessed with outrageous amped up partying. This album is a darker, more brittle version of the first G-Eazy LP, where the revels and romance have been corrupted further with more fame and more celebrity wealth and where the tranquil style of music from before has been built upon by some sluggish, industrial trap and drill.
Raging, throwing a tantrum for a Phantom, bragging and demanding things happen in the intro and in “Random,” G-Eazy perfectly sets himself up to release more aggressive energy brought on by covetous anxiousness and frustration in the tappable “Me, Myself & I” single with Bebe Rexha. Making himself look like more of a spoiled brat, his major concerns are for a big house, a Lambo and a Ferrari in “One of Them,” where he explicitly states, “I’m blowing this money, f*ck being resourceful.” What follows is quite predictable: falling out of and away from love, hater-hating, epic night out celebrations and kickbacks and the like. “What If” asks some slightly provocative questions yet G-Eazy never gets to the most important questions of this world, and “Sad Boy” is of course a mopey relic of his recent past. A few sex/love songs later we get to “Everything Will Be OK,” dedicated to healing broken ties and a lesbian relationship in Gillum’s childhood home. It’s an obvious one-up for the gay movement but one put in place more to trigger an emotional response than to make one think, especially with its slow sappy DJ Dahi beat. Fortunately, G-Eazy ends the album mostly on his feet. The decent “For This” works towards what you want and getting there in surreal fashion, but not so much can be said for the contradiction-ladened “Nothing To Me.”
It would be interesting to ascertain if at any point G-Eazy has ever used a ghostwriter for his songwriting. His styleless, unchallenging rhyme-flow literally begs the question. When It’s Dark Out has its share of pretty choruses and compelling thoughts, but it’s no doubt been seduced to the dark side, and G-Eazy seems to think that’s no big deal. He is too focused on his own self-centered relationship feelings and his own selfish wants and desires, and a few times, he sends mixed messages. For example, early on he is dreadfully consumed in tangible possessions and then proceeds to do a complete volte-face, denouncing things like jewelry and such in “Nothing To Me.” Which one is it, G-Eazy? Opulence or austerity? When It’s Dark Out is a fair album if your thing is young, wild, and free diversions from real life, but to be accurate, it’s a disappointing hip-hop album and almost a failure. G-Eazy has scarcely fleshed out the concepts and themes of These Things Happen with the only new draw being tones of unbridled, inexplicable raucousness absent from the first project. In 2014, he told The Guardian he “never wanted to gentrify hip-hop,” but it’s clear his label (RCA Records) does, and G-Eazy is absolutely going along for the ride here, catering to the wanton lust and gluttony of the bourgeoisie class and hardly ever thinking twice about it.