The spirit and energy that Gizzle brings into a space is electrifying. The space we happened to be in was a rather uninspiring convention center, but it could have been anywhere and she still would have lit it up. She radiates warmth and you can see why she’s been this successful, because talent only gets you so far in this industry. She’s been co-writing with all your favorite artists for years: Kanye, Nicki, Diddy, Ty Dolla Sign, Travis Scott, Jeremih, Trey Songz…really just everyone who makes good music. Diddy has taken her in as part of the Bad Boy Family and you know he only co-signs winners.
Gizzle recently released her first solo album, 7 Days in Atlanta, all written, produced and recorded in one week, and you should really get to know it. There’s a texture to her voice that adds that special something over and above the mad lyrics, delivery and production. A favorite track of mine is Oh Na Na, with an enchanting beat and a hook you can’t get out of your head, it’s the formula for fire. But the killer track is What They Want - my goodness – I doubt any song encompasses Atlanta + the West Coast more perfectly than this.
We felt pretty amazing after speaking with Gizzle. We talked about her ‘7 Days’ project series, why you don’t have to wear a dress to be sexy and why it’s important to believe that everything happens for a reason.
UHH: You’ve actually been in the game for a really long time, mainly writing and doing features. Why did you decide to become more of an artist in your own right?
Gizzle: I just felt like it was time, I felt like even with all the stuff that I write and I’m able to work with different people and create these things, I didn’t really feel like the message that I want to put out into the world was coming across, per se. I started as an artist so it’s just getting back to that feeling and that hungriness, and that desire and go crazy. I kind of got my feet wet with the features and I saw people who responded who were like, ‘we want more, we want more’, so I really had to find something that I could be passionate about and get behind, that wasn’t just like, ‘let me drop my mixtape because people want to hear me rap’. I wanted to create a movement, a project, that included the things that I love and I’m passionate about, so that’s how 7 Days in Atlanta came about. It’s essentially my version of a mixtape but an album. I feel like people say a mixtape and it takes the pressure off if it doesn’t perform well; I don’t put that type of pressure on myself. I think to go to a different city, it’s a serious project so we’re going to do different cities for the foreseeable future. So doing it in Atlanta in 7 days just puts the fire to you and it also forces you to be present in the studio, present when you’re going out and meeting people, present when you’re eating food, because all of those experiences are creating the music for that week. We did 7 Days in Atlanta, but I’m going to record 7 Days in Denver at the end of the month. I just wanted to be able to say the things from my voice that I feel are important.
Why did you choose Atlanta as the first city to create this project in?
Atlanta is like a second home for me. I’m going to do cities that have a growing buzz or scene but people don’t necessarily think in their first mind about going to do a project there, so that’s why we picked Denver, there’s cool shit happening there. I feel like that will inspire me to make some cool music. Atlanta turned out easy, I just called my producer and my DJ and was like, ‘I just want to come down there and I want to make some music’, and he was like, alright. So I just went! Then we made the project. I actually had the idea about 6 months before I went, so the summer of 2016, I had different idea of how I wanted to do it but when I got down to Atlanta for that week I was like, ‘shit, I did it’. It was very organic, it was natural, it wasn’t hard at all. That’s how I like to do things, I want it to be smarter not harder, and just for it to come to me. I’m very proud of it, it came together and it gelled well, and Atlanta just turned out to be that way. There’s got to be more niche cities for the other things, but I am going to do LA at the end of the year because I’m from LA.
What was it like growing up in LA with West Coast hip hop - was that your main inspiration or were you into a bit of everything?
Growing up I was really heavily influenced by RnB, it’s still one of my favorite genres to write. I just like the stories and the vulnerability of it, so I came up on that. Then of course in LA because of the culture, definitely had to listen to West Coast music, it was 2Pac all day and local, regional artists. I also have family members who were in the music industry coming up, so I was able to see them and kind of know that the dream was possible. I’ve got a big family, both sides, and we get together twice a year on my mum’s side and everybody always asks me, ‘when did you want to rap?’, and I always tell them it was from a poetry reading that I did, where I wrote a rap and everybody responded so crazy like, ‘do it again’. So I thought, ‘oh wait, I like this’, let me write so I can get better. But I have my family there telling me, ‘nah you were like 7 or 8, you were telling us you were going to be a rapper’. I’m like, ‘I don’t remember that…I don’t know if you’re just making it up’, but I remember that pivotal moment. But coming up in LA I always feel blessed because I feel like I was in the right environment to do what I wanted to do and know what it takes, and learning how to deal with people. I’m not from a small town and in order to make waves, you got to get to know everybody and you got to make your move. So I started battle rapping around the city, I just wanted to get my name out there, I was willing to do whatever I had to do.
Do you think being a female in the hip hop industry is an advantage or a disadvantage?
I feel like for me, it’s so funny because I never really thought of myself as a female rapper. I know what I am and I know how people have to group it to digest, but I’ve always thought of myself as Gizzle. I feel like sometimes it could be both; when someone doesn’t want to give you the credit that you deserve then they go, ‘she’s a good female rapper’. But I’m one of the best rappers, period. So for me I love being a woman, I love being a strong woman, especially in this industry, I love being a businesswoman. I appreciate the strength in being a woman, we can deal with a lot more, and I think we can always summon that strength when we’re put in situations where it might seem like a disadvantage, but you know, Beyoncé said it best, “girls run the world”.
Do you think the industry is moving away from the over-feminine artist image and it’s now shaken-up enough that we’ll see more artists with images like yourself coming through?
I think life in general is leaning towards individualism and individuality, and I think most importantly, people respect authenticity. If it comes across as authentically you, then I think people are receptive to that, and I feel that’s where we’re moving just as a society. When I first started in the industry, 16 years old, I’ve always been kind of a tomboy, always had a little swag about myself, but when I wanted to rap they wanted to doll me up. I did the photoshoots with the hair and the nails, and I did it because I was willing to do whatever they told me I needed to do in order to be successful and in turn, help change my family’s life. But once I did it, I got to a point where I got the deals but I turned them down because it didn’t feel right, I was like, ‘I’ma just do me’, because it feels good and it was natural. I would go into these sessions, weave done, nails done, sitting with my legs open like, it’s not real! So I think it’s a blessing that the world is becoming so open-minded and at the end of the day, it has to boil down to your talent and your dedication to whatever your craft and your dream is. Some people think I’m sexy though..!
Yeah of course - you don’t have to be in a dress to be sexy, are you kidding?!
You’ve had a very successful writing career so far, and some of your credits are pretty amazing, like Real Friends and Saved. How does it feel to have your name on those projects?
I feel very, very blessed. I always tell people, ‘God’s my manager, the universe is my agent’, and I’m always surprised at the opportunities that present themselves to me, and the songs that might go on and have a life of their own, because honestly I just get up and do the work. I’ma go to the studio everyday anyway, so things just start to come of it. Some of the things I’ve been able to do and be a part of is humbling, in one word, and very satisfying. I always thank God for having direction and knowing where I want to go with my life. As long as you stay on the path, no one can really stop what’s for you. When I think about different things I’ve been able to do, sometimes it’s hard to understand, but it’s for me and I believe that as long as I’m doing the right things, everything will work out. It trips me out because everyone’s like, ‘what are you working on? What have you done?’ and I’m just like, it’s so much, I literally forget. I’m a firm believer that you’re supposed to be in the room, you’re supposed to be exactly where you are at that moment at all times, so don’t be intimated by who else is there, don’t second-guess yourself, don’t second-guess God, just be in that moment. I’ve fanned out a few times, secretly though…! Like I wrote songs with Pharrell, that’s crazy; I wrote songs with Timbaland, that’s crazy; Timbaland and Missy coming up for me, creatively it was like, ‘oh my God’, you know? I haven’t got to do a song with Jay Z yet, who is the biggest influence of my rapping career, but I got to meet him, he invited me to his house, he heard my songs…so those cool little moments that you’re able to do, I remember them. I remember believing it was going to happen but you never know when it’s going to manifest, you’re like, ‘dang, T.I.’s in my top 5, we got a song together, we just shot a video together a month ago’. He’s been my friend for a while but I still don’t think he knows how much his music got me through, or how I used to ride to it, and now we’re homies – it’s a good feeling, it’s cool.
That’s mad. Who do you think you’ve learnt the most from having worked with them?
I learnt a lot from T.I., Puff Daddy – you can’t be around Puff Daddy and not learn a hundred million things. I believe all people have wisdom and those gems in them if you listen, and I listen to conversations because I love words, so I listen to the things people say and a lot of times they just glance over what they say, but I’m like, ‘ooo there was some power in that, you don’t have to know but I needed it.’ So with Puff, he’s just one of those people who’s going to rattle something off and it’s going to click, and you’re like, ‘that’s crazy, you’re just talking.’ Ty Dolla Sign, we’ve been friends even longer than me and TIP and working with him I’ve seen the way he’s grown and his determination and how he’s still such an even person. He’s a good dude, I’m so happy to be a part of his journey and to just see it continue to propel into what it is, because he deserves it, and when you know people personally it’s kind of extra special, you know what I mean?
You mentioned Puff Daddy, how does it feel to be part of the Bad Boy family?
I’m an affiliate, not signed to Bad Boy but we’re family. It’s one of those things, we always joke me and Puff, that it was love at first sight. You know how you meet someone and it feels like you know someone…we got each other, from the day. He’s always been very supportive of me, always helped to push me – that’s one thing I learnt from him, keep pushing until it’s good, until it’s great. It’s such a blessing to have someone so accomplished, so genuine in your corner, no matter what, I know he’s in my corner and just appreciate all the support with everything I want to do. If I can’t figure out how to get it done myself, I know if I call him he’s going to try to help me out and make it happen, but also let me spread my wings and figure it out on my own; it’s like the big brother I never had.
Aside from continuing your ‘7 Days’ series, what else do you have planned for the year?
There’s so much going on. I’m trying to pick new and interesting things to challenge myself as a songwriter, so I’ve been working on an album with Guy Gerber, he’s a legendary DJ/producer – it’s more house and kind of EDM, it’s just a different vibe for me. I have a single out right now with this Swedish production duo called Jarami, they also did the Marc E. Bassy single, and they also just did the new Frank Ocean, Chanel single - we have a great song called Know No Better, so we’ve been working on that and shooting the video. Shooting videos from 7 Days in Atlanta, like I said, recording 7 Days in Denver, and we already have the next couple of ‘7 Days’ already planned out. We’ve got a couple of songs that I wrote on Fast & Furious…I got a song with T.I. we just shot the video for, just shot the ‘Melanin’ video before I came to SXSW. I’m just working and I just want to keep creating good music, good things, and create experiences to go with my music for my fans, for my friends and for my family, you know – make cool shit!