Huntsville duo G-Side stay indie above all else

by Ryan Snyder

For nearly eight years, Huntsville, Ala. duo G-Side toiled in the blanket anonymity of their hometown hip-hop scene. It’s essentially a music scene the Dirty South forgot, an ideal characterized in the concept for their name, Gutta Side, and cemented in the oft-cited “Inner Circle” lyric “Well excuse me Mrs. Executive, I’m from Alabama/ That’s probably why my music isn’t quote, unquote Atlanta.” The pairing of Stephen “ST 2 Lettaz” Harris and David “Yung Clova” Williams might be born and bred in the South, but G-Side’s sound is as far metaphorically from Atlanta’s as Huntsville is geographically. With production duo the Block Beataz, G-Side forms the core of Slow Motion Soundz, an independent Huntsville label that creates swirling, nebulous beats to play the perfect foil to their alternately rugged and cerebral lyrical tag-team.

G-Side didn’t have a proper release to their credit until 2007, but since then they’ve maintained a steady flow of acclaimed work that’s led them to tour Europe and earned them a spot at this past weekend’s Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. With their next album Island given a November release date — and set to contain beats from Portland producers Blue Sky Black Death — YES! Weekly caught up with ST 2 Lettaz on the cusp of what would become a celebrated set at the Pitchfork Festival.

Y!W: The title of your next album, Island, I’m taking that as a reference to your sustained independence?

ST: Yeah, yeah. All of our album titles have several meanings but this is more stripped down. The island is Huntsville, you know what I mean? Another album, we were international, we were in Spain. This time we’re home. We’re back at the island, man. We’re just doing what’s real to us on our own. We’re not worried about commercial success. We’re not trying to make a string of radio hits, just things that our fans can appreciate.

Y!W: So no designs on getting just filthy rich through hip hop then.

ST: Nah not quite. We’ve been doing this so long that when you put out an album, whatever you get paid at the end of it is not going to buy back the time that you put into it. It can never fully repay me for everything I put into it. Unless I just hit Jay-Z status.

Y!W: You were kind of doing that on the micro. Doing the grunt work yourselves, holding down real jobs, does that make the success you’ve had that much more satisfying?

ST: It does. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it now and it will be worth it in the end. We plan on staying the course. Clova still has his barbershop. Me, I’ve been shooting music videos for local cats around here (he shoots with a Canon 7D, by the way).

Y!W: Is it kind of about not being accountable to anyone but yourselves?

ST: Yeah, that and it’s about just being ourselves. We had to go to the island so we could just be ourselves, where no one could judge us for who we are. Just being some Huntsville motherf**kers.

Y!W: It must’ve been only a few years ago that it seemed like it was hard just getting out of Huntsville, and now you’ve toured Europe. Was that a profound experience for you?

ST: Oh man, we lost our minds the first time we went to Europe. We went from zeroes to heroes so quick it was scary. We were happy to be there, but we left with the impression that we could get back.

Y!W: The Pitchfork Festival this weekend, is that an audience you ever anticipated having?

ST: No, not at all. When you go in and start making music for yourself and your fans, and then more people start to listen, you know, cats in the hood don’t know what Pitchfork Festival is. They hear Pitchfork and they automatically think some gang shit. We kind got taken in a direction we never thought was available to us. But this is probably the biggest show of our careers to date. A lot of writers, and a huge crowd. I think we’ll show them why we were picked to be there.

Y!W: It seemed like you started reaching outside of Huntsville for beats on The One…COHESIVE. Is that a portent of how you’ll approach future albums?

ST: Yeah, more producers started hearing about us and they started shooting us beats. That all started really with Huntsville International, and we had a problem where it wouldn’t sound consistent all the way through. So now when producers send us tracks we let the Block Beataz go in and add their touches, then collab back and forth with the outside producers to make something totally new.

Y!W: So Block Beataz are always going to be a staple of G-Side recordings?

ST: We’ll always be doing our thing together. That’s the sound. That’s us. ST, Clova and the Block Beataz. It’s kinda the way you feel while riding through Huntsville. It’ll be a perfectly sunny day and all of a sudden it will pour down rain. It lifts up and you’ve got a hazy, humid-ass day. That’s the feeling we want to have with our music.

Jazzy Joel Productions will present G-Side at The Clubhouse in Greensboro on Tuesday, July 26.

Follow Ryan on Twitter @YESRyan