Album Review: G-Eazy’s ‘The Beautiful & Damned’

Mike Nied | December 15, 2017 1:16 pm

G-Eazy struggles to resolve two dichotomous versions of himself on his third LP, The Beautiful & Damned. Inspired by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name, the project offers the brooding hitmaker an opportunity to find his true self in the music. But in order to do so, he must face some hard truths that threaten to overwhelm him.

It has been two years since the rapper released his acclaimed When It’s Dark Out. The album birthed a career-defining hit with the moody “Me, Myself & I.” His first top-10 single, it reflected on the trials and tribulations he experienced with fame.

Fame remains a central theme of his latest project as he explore how it became his chief vice and his salvation. It is fitting, as his path to notoriety spawned the destructive alter-ego he struggles with. Comprised of a lengthy 20 tracks, the album offers the 28-year-old a chance to bare both sides of his soul: G and Gerald.

“Ever seen a devil with a halo? Ever seen an angel with some horns? Everybody got their own demons. Everybody fightin’ their own war,” featured vocalist Nash hazily announces on the album’s title track. The song introduces the concept of Eazy’s conflicted selves and provides stark evidence of how they are affecting him.

“When you move this fast as I’m movin’. All the toxic things that I’m using, all the substances I’m abusing. All the sex and the drugs and the booze. The decision is mine for the choosing, but I can’t understand what I’m losing,” he cryptically realizes over an atmospheric production.

The remainder of The Beautiful & Damned places listeners in the midst of a war as each side struggles to claim power.

G, exposed on tracks like the inescapable lead single, “No Limits,” has positioned himself firmly in Hollywood’s fast lane. The cocky, braggadocios alter-ego is constantly chasing his next high. Whether it comes from money, women or drugs does not matter.

This side is defined by an overreaching hubris, which allows him to make bold declarations with absolute confidence. “I’m laughing the whole way to the bank. I just take, take, take. Sweeping up this case; I need a rake,” he spits over an incandescent beat on “That’s A Lot.” Luckily, he has the skills to back up his bold claims.

“But A Dream” and “Legend” spark similarly brazen brags. A traditional hip-hop midtempo, the former highlights his lavish lifestyle. “I would die a legend if today they JFK’d me,” he boldly proclaims. The latter is more of the same, albeit with a more thrilling production.

Considering that the A$AP Rocky and Cardi B-assisted lead single has steadily climbed the Billboard Hot 100 since its release, clearly the public is here for this side of the rapper. However, other songs reveal it is starting to wear on the artist himself.

“I’m so high I’m numb. Living fast, I’m lapping ’em. Liquor, drugs and sex addiction. I’m all of ’em wrapped in one,” he declares on the Kehlani-assisted “Crash & Burn.” Though he previously bragged about his ability to keep up, here the rapper feels the weight of his decisions and fears an early end.

This signifies one of the first introductions to Gerald. He represents the more refined side of the rapper’s persona. Whereas G is all defiance and larger-than-life bravado, Gerald is responsible for the morning after some of his rougher nights. And he is exhausted by his alter-ego.

It is evident as he battles urges alongside Charlie Puth on the exemplary buzz track “Sober.” “Oh I know that I’ll regret this when I’m sober. But every shot I’m getting closer, getting closer,” Puth sings over a striding beat. Eazy’s verses are equally conflicted as he realizes drinking has lasting consequences.

Others close to him are starting to feel the effects of his wild choices. On “Fly Away,” a brokenhearted highlight on the LP, he parts ways with a lover who can no longer handle his lifestyle. “Ignoring phone calls, when she hit me I don’t answer. ‘Cause I’m faded, I ain’t tryna listen to another lecture. These drugs are the only way I’m escaping from the pressure. You don’t know what it’s like for me. You got no way to measure,” he laments over sparse beats.

Featured vocalist Ugochi delivers a particularly compelling chorus. “Little bird, spread your wings and fly away,” the up-and-comer croons, her voice distorted by a filter as she encourages Eazy’s lover to protect herself from his inevitable fall.

These fragile moments shine on The Beautiful & Damned. This is evidenced by two other highlights “Pick Me Up” and “Summer In December.” The former features Anna of the North and compares love to addiction. “Vices got me in a vice grip,” he declares, while his collaborator offers him an irresistible high. “If you come hit it once be careful now. ‘Cause baby once you pick me up, you can’t put me down,” Anna coos, the perfect foil to his hard-edged delivery.

Meanwhile “Summer In December” comes the closest to a hip-hop ballad as the hitmaker dreams of gray skies to recharge under. “‘Cause you don’t want to see heaven yet, where Janis Joplin knows your name,'” he raps, another allusion to his fear of dying young like other fast-living artists before him.

“Eazy,” the album’s closer, picks up the beats per minute but maintains the earnest lyricism. Over a production reminiscent of his earliest work, the artist writes letters to his younger self. They deliver a fitting conclusion and offer a rallying call that implies G and Gerald will be able to survive side-by-side.

Despite being Eazy’s most personal album to date, The Beautiful & Damned features an impressive number of collaborations. One of the most promising is his duet with real-life girlfriend, Halsey, on “Him & I.” The project’s official second single is a moody bop that presents the pair as a modern day Bonnie and Clyde. It is already soaring up the charts, proving they have the magic touch together.

Equally compelling is the Drew Love-assisted “Love Is Gone.” Here, G explores his role in political conversations. “I’m not no politician, but they listen. Somebody inform ‘em. All the kids gotta find out what’s really important. I’ve got a platform and a voice and a stage to perform on. Music could be a good escape, but outside it’s been storming” he decides.

The Beautiful & Damned offers an unflinching glimpse into the life and times of the promising hitmaker. The project is his most personal and mature to date, and it presents a fully fledged glimpse at the artist as he reaches an essential moment in his life and career.

As he finds himself at a crossroads, he will have to decide how to proceed in life. The LP presents unspeakable darkness, but Gerald does not seem ready to bow his head and accept defeat. Instead, he stubbornly continues to pursue his dreams and appreciate the world around him.

Armed with some of the hottest beats of the year and the most chillingly earnest lyrics, he is incredibly self-aware and ready to soldier on. The LP proves himself capable of establishing a legacy that will last and proves beauty can exist in all situations. After all, would we be able to truly appreciate unadulterated bliss and beauty without a little bit of conflict to put things in perspective?

Score: 4/5

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