G-Eazy drops ‘Summer in December’ in anticipation of upcoming album

Artist’s moody piano track alludes to reckoning of Jazz Age, pitfalls of fame

RCA Records

G-Eazy contemplates the disillusionment of fame and continues the trend of alluding to the Jazz Era with his latest track, "Summer in Dream."

Courtesy RCA Records

In the last five or so years, popular culture has been obsessed with the 1920s. Maybe it's because “The Great Gatsby” has been on high school required reading lists for the last couple decades or because hit shows like “Downton Abbey” and “Boardwalk Empire” prominently display the lavish lifestyles of the time. But regardless, the posh appeal of the interwar period shows up across media everywhere. 

This ‘20s aesthetic even went so far as to blend with hip-hop music in Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 rendition of “The Great Gatsby.” The movie — still set in the ‘20s — openly used hip-hop like Jay-Z’s “100$ Bill” or Fergie, Q-Tip and GoonRock’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” in lieu of jazz, which would traditionally be found at the parties and in the speakeasies of the era. For a long time, this was the high water mark in merging the ‘20s and hip-hop, the point that seemed to penetrate deepest into the cultural consciousness. 

G-Eazy may be trying to change that. 

Nov. 23, Eazy’s new track “Summer in December” dropped in anticipation of his upcoming double album “The Beautiful & Damned.” The album’s title is a heavy-handed allusion to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s book of the same name. According to G-Eazy, the album essentially reflects the duality of both the novel and the era, “when everybody was drinking too much, partying, and living this crazy lifestyle” as well as “realizing how hard it is to sustain in this crazy world they lived in.”

This acknowledgement of the pitfalls of fame and the luxuries it brings is nothing new to his artistry. One of G-Eazy’s most well-known songs and arguably one of the most influential in pushing him into the mainstream, “Almost Famous,” is essentially his musings about the ephemeral nature of fame as he tiptoes on the cusp of celebrity. 

He is even so open as to, in 2015, describe to The Cavalier Daily his personal struggle with fame, stating, “no matter how many times you've heard the story about artists going from nothing and then end up having a hard time adjusting to fame, there's still nothing that can personally prepare you for how crazy it gets sometimes.” 

However, his previous three releases betray the serious topic matter his album is supposed to espouse. September slapper “No Limit” featuring A$AP Rocky and Cardi B still maintains clichéd lines like “always lit, yeah, I’m never sober / It’s been three days in a row, your b—h coming over.” And the first of his Soundcloud drops after he announced the album’s release date, “The Plan,” doesn’t do much better with bars like “liquor and women, two things I don’t chase,” and admittedly hilarious celebrity shoutouts like “I’m courtside, I got floor seats / Next to Rihanna like ‘Oh sheesh!’”

The second song and the title track of the album, “The Beautiful & Damned,” fairs better and includes genuinely heartfelt lines like, “this is everything that comes with celebrity / Criticism, ridicule and the scrutiny” and “I just broke up with my female / On tour, had to do it by email.” But, the overall track generates mixed messages about the seriousness of its content due to its fast, commercial, club-thumping beat and just a truly questionable number of references to his astrological sign — “I know a Gemini can be confusing” and “to understand a Gemini / Angel, devil, it’s both him and I.”

But in “Summer in December,” the record surprises listeners by introducing itself with a ritzy piano, which seems to float into a glissando as Eazy begins rapping. Interestingly, the piano track is intermittently layered over by scratching noises — the kind generated by turntablists and DJs moving vinyl back and forth on turntables. The whole production is going for the perception of a certain glamour and taste.

This introduction serves to both allude to the Jazz Era and show the gravity of Young Gerald’s melancholy fame. Though the popular music of the ‘20s was more akin to the upbeat “Let’s Misbehave” by Cole Porter, the smooth jazz introduction still brings to mind Gatsby’s Roaring Twenties. The fact that the instrumentation is akin to something that could be heard at a benefit dinner is reflective of how the ‘20s are perceived now, regardless of the realities. Even Googling Fitzgerald’s “The Beautiful and Damned” brings up an endless stream of book covers filled with black tuxedos, cocktail dresses and pearls. The smooth jazz — although anachronistic — fits the larger work.

The piano introduction also signals to listeners of Eazy’s intentions for this song to be a serious one rather than a generic club banger. As Theodor Adorno describes and attempts to refute in his essay “On Popular Music,” most people simply see classical or piano music as suitably highbrow and therefore “serious.” This — coupled with the fact that smooth jazz instrumentals do not particularly lend themselves to radio air time — allows Eazy, in the first few seconds, to show that this particular song is an exercise in artistic catharsis and darker in tone than his most recent discography.

The lyrics, like the production, are moody. And G-Eazy waxes poetic for the length of the entire track. This track, similar to 2009’s “This is Me,” is G-Eazy at his most vulnerable. He talks about everything, from meditations on the life he gave up — “In another universe I coulda’ had a stroller and a car seat” — to the delays in releasing his album — “So please pardon my tardiness, I'm tryin' to put my heart in this.” Furthermore, in the chorus, G-Eazy uses weather as a vehicle to juxtapose the imagined glamour of Los Angeles — the girls, the celebrities, the beach — with the realities of living there, rapping, “the sun will shine 360 days / but I don’t always feel that way, today I need some gray / yeah, uh, please protect my soul before they weather it away.” 

The song, like Fitzgerald’s books, is awash in disillusionment and jabs at the forceful realities in the so-called “land of opportunity.” While Eazy may have trouble explaining his emotions through the medium at times — hence the forced line, “But I balance like a gymnast, like Simone in the Olympics” — his anguished yet frustrated tone indicates that, at the very least, it's heartfelt. The song does its job in maintaining the larger album’s theme and acting as a standalone piece. 

In the coming weeks, as more singles likely drop, it will be interesting to see if G-Eazy can maintain his balance in showing the rich duality between the luxuries of being a celebrity and the internal stress it causes him. While he’s a certified expert in demonstrating the “fruit snacks and cups of Patron” lifestyle, his work in showing emotional depth and authenticity for such a wide commercial audience remains largely untested. 

“The Beautiful & Damned” will be released Dec. 15. 

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