The Tampa Takeover: An Interview With Gatsby Of West Egg [Exclusive Interview]



Written by Adam E. Smith (@theadamesmith)

On the heels of his exclusive full length release thebluetape here on yesterday, Gatsby connected with the Tribe for a Q&A about his back story, unorthodox approach towards production, linking up with West Egg, and what he has planned next. Check it while you bump the album here.  Read the entire interview after the jump.

How did you meet D.A. from your first group P.I.T.? Are you still in contact? Any chance of working with him again in the future as a flashback type project?

Funny shit. I met D.A. through It’s a terrible website, yo. I used to lose all of my battles over bullshit, but it was cool. D.A. hit me up because I had this crew with my homies D Lux and RCS called T.R.E.P.O.U.N.D., which stood for The Realest Ever Pissing On U Niggas, Damnit [laughs]. Immature as hell, but maybe a little clever. We started doing tracks immediately.

D.A. and I are still in contact. He’s one of my closest homies even though he’s still in Detroit. He has a group he raps with called 130 Dirt, real heavy shit but they got a local buzz going. I would always want to work with him, but I would want to do it right, like face to face in a studio. Make it perfect. At this time its just difficult getting mixing and everything right sending shit back and forth. But that’s my homie.

What catalyst brought on your experimental live instrument phase as Francis Ferdinand Copolla and The Usual Suspects? More importantly how did that lead to your return to rapping in 2010 and subsequently joining the ranks of West Egg?

Well, I was in a rock band called the Mammoth and Me, this alternative rock and jazz thing. My homie that was in the band went out to the Army, and I was kind of floating around, just playing music out of these storage unit studios [laughs]. I met up with this dude named Mel, cool cat and we just vibed and jammed and recorded and what not, and we told Benny he should rap on it. That never materialized, but Benny kept telling me I should try my hand at rapping over it, or doing production without instruments.

How did that era contribute to your unorthodox approach to production now, and do you think you’d ever give the live band shtick another shot?

Well, I’ve been playing instruments since I was in middle school. Violin was my first instrument and I love romantic era pieces, plus my pops always played vinyls in the house. I just like the sound of emotion and being around so many types of genres from life experiences, I try to paint a feeling, capture a feeling, an emotion. These past few years have been rough with family loss, illness and a heartbreak so I just try to capture that with different, latent sounds.

I would love to do the live thing again, but it’d have to be edgy and I feel like my mind state isn’t there to accomplish what I would want to do.

On previous tracks like “skillet.” the verse sections of the production deviate from the one before it, yet still provide the same space for each emcee. How is your approach to the symmetry of beats different from most producers?

I get bored easily. One thing I’ve learned from a lot of my influences is variety and having personality to your craft. When I listen to James Blake and hear his glitches and his switch ups it’s inspiring. I don’t want to be a cookie cutter beat maker. I want to be a producer. I want my sound to travel and be diverse, so I try to add elements here and there to flesh out emotions in beats. Nobody wants to hear the same fucking melody for 3 minutes.

I usually make all of my beats alone. I’m inspired by mundane shit. Like random noises or scenery. I usually write in my head while I’m driving. I feel calm then. So much shit has happened to me these past few years so I just want to chase the calm when I can. People ask me why I love The Great Gatsby so much, but I always thought it was quite simple. He was a man of silent passion. A passion that ultimately killed him, but he was accepting of it. Heaven or hell, right or wrong, he chased his passion. That’s an idea most couldn’t comprehend.

What was your original intent and goals when joining West Egg? 

When Benny and I founded West Egg, it was fun. It was ‘get away’ shit, cured the boredom, really. But at some point that changed. I feel like at our first show it just became real. I realized I hated my job, that my now ex-girlfriend would probably not be around for much longer, that school sucked, but this rapping thing was real. Seeing people clap for the first time is exhausting in a feeling.

What messages and overarching themes are you trying to translate with your bars and instrumentals?

Passion I think is it. [The character] Gatsby had passion he was willing to die for. Granted, he’s imaginary, but it’s an ideal that sticks with me. I feel like every production I release has an emotion, it makes you feel something. Whether or not you like it, or like what I rap about, I want you to feel it. Subject wise, I like to put abstract concepts in relatable terms. The track “kennedy.” is case in point.

Tell us about thebluetape’s enigmatic title and what your aimed to accomplish with your first full length project?

There’s a passage in The Great Gatsby where Nick speaks on Gatsby chasing “his blue lawn”. It’s an idea of chasing perfection. I feel like the album sounds blue. It is regal, idealistic, and somber. I just aim to be respected. Nothing more to it.

You work with fellow Tampa emcees Scott Aye, Hometown Hero, BennyFlocka, Spray Lodge, R.C., Craig Tillman, mandaprime, and James Diotic on this record. Tell us about how you came to be in cahoots with that extensive crew.

I work with family and those I respect, but most importantly those I can make good music with. Scott, Hometown and myself spoke about it once and they brought up a good point. People like to do music together to be seen, but we’re not trying to accomplish that. It’s all about honing our skills and making the best product possible. I don’t expect to be on Hometown’s next project by default, it’s up to him how the sonic appeal and themes play out. If I fit, I fit. If I don’t, I don’t. I support either way. People should make music that way, not by namesake.

The people on this album all came about through friendships or Pablo our videographer. Pablo put me on to Bluuzone [Scott Aye and Hometown Hero’s crew], and he put them on to us. We met up at a show we both were performing at and it just happened. I’ve known almost everyone else through school or just friendships that have formed through the years.

Collaboration seems to be at the center of your art, yet this is cohesively your solo statement project. What do you look for when syphoning through your hand selected sonic partnerships?

I’m trying to make the best music possible, not make a solo album. I had ideas and voices and concepts picked out from early on, and I just wanted to harvest that to make something definitive. There is a lot of collaboration but it’s all family, people who I’ve slept on floors with, got drunk with, built bonds with – so it’s love in these collabs. I look for a bond when I’m making these tracks. Not to mention, I produced all but two tracks on the project so I definitely had a grip on the sonic approach with album flow and how the features fit, and with working with the other two producers Scott Aye and Timeless One. I made sure it all just went well, at least in my opinion. I was very picky with how everything was laid out.

Although it’s becoming apparent that eyes and ears should be on West Florida’s budding hip-hop scene, it isn’t very well documented at the present. What is the state of the Tampa hip-hop scene right now? Where does West Egg and yourself fall into that rap ecosystem?

We fall way off into left field [laughs]. Tampa hip-hop is a very interesting thing right now – a melting pot is the best way to put it. New blood is definitely in effect and I think we’re all just chasing our dreams and establishing our names. Obviously there is us, West Egg and Bluuzone, but you got Vinny Virgo, an incredibly dope dude that definitely has his own style. I like his confidence over shit and he drives in this stoner lane, but he operates musically everywhere. He’s like the Josh Homme of rap [laughs].

Mighty Jai is hella dope and I definitely want to work with him when the time is right. He has a project called Dream$ $old $eperately which just gets me on the title alone, bruh. Fuck, how did he come up with that? Shit is dope. You have RS Clique with Chevy, Tripp Alderman and Kay Pots who are coming up and ill. ES Pizzle, Moxberg Biggz, Beyo and Prince Golden are dope too. Those are people that kind of operate in the capacity the West Egg does, with new creative sounds. I don’t venture further past that, because most of the other sounds in the scene, no disrespect, doesn’t draw me in and excite me honestly.

Are there any OG rappers or local legends among you that have inspired your push to put Tampa on the map?

See…[laughs]. I honestly don’t listen to too many old heads in Tampa, simply because we don’t do the same thing. We don’t make the same music, don’t have the same crowd, nothing. Not to say I don’t respect them, but honestly I’m not concerned with making “Tampa hip-hop.” With that being said though, I do respect the hell out of Mighty Jai, and he’s not even a true OG rapper. I just really look up to that brother.

What do you and West Egg have planned next? 

The world man. I’m working on a collab project with Wrathmatics out of the other Bay Area [laughs], and as I’m rapping on that. I’ll be producing for Spray, RC and James for their respective projects. Plus collabs with the network of people I’ve met. We’re just trying to get it, and if thebluetape goes well, expect to see theredtape soon.



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