Weekend in Los Vegas is G-Scott’s depiction of a glittery, synaesthetic 21st birthday weekend located somewhere between the City of Angels and Sin City. In real life, hip-hop emcee Gerald Scott Bailey (G-Scott), had not been to either Los Angeles or Las Vegas and instead spent the night of his 21st birthday working a shift at his job at a pharmaceutical gelatin plant in Calumet City, IL.
But the separation between aspiration and reality has steadily shrunk during Scott’s seven-year career, especially since the day last fall when he came home from work to find a Facebook message from fellow Gary rapper and Young Jeezy affiliate, Freddie Gibbs. Gibbs had heard Scott’s first two mixtapes, Billionaire Block Boy and G-Scott vs. The World, along with Scott’s instrumental work and wanted to sit down with young artist. The meeting ended with G-Scott as the newest recruit on Gibbs’ Str8 Slammin’ imprint. While the signing provided additional momentum for the April 27 release of Weekend in Los Vegas, unexpected tragedy complicated the project.
Gary emcee Hilton Johnson, known onstage as Tron, and G-Scott had been partners and friends since second grade. As founding members of the hip-hop crew Billionaire Block Boys, Tron had appeared on “Voicemail,” a popular skit off Scott’s first mixtape. The two had plans to collaborate again for Weekend in Los Vegas. On March 16, days before the meeting, Tron collapsed on a basketball court, felled by a sudden seizure. Unresponsive when an ambulance rushed him to the hospital, Tron woke and looked around for a few minutes before passing away.
He was 20.
I sat down with G-Scott during a video shoot for Weekend in Los Vegas in Bloomington in mid-April. Doug Funny, the military industrial complex and photosynthesis are topics of discussion. Scott’s music speaks to his peers in late high school and college dealing with the high highs and low lows that accompany the introduction to adulthood.
G-Scott handles the majority of the production on Weekend in Los Vegas, where the soulful, space-age beats showcase both Gary’s proximity to Chicago and Scott’s past aspirations to become a video game designer.
“I started out learning to design video games in junior. high and kept with it until about the middle of high school, when my focus switched to making music,” Scott says.
The Gibbs stamp of approval shouldn’t influence listener’s content expectations, as the signing is based more on musical respect and common city than similar subject matter.
But he doesn’t avoid talk of his city, and instead confronts its admittedly blemished reputation head on. When he’s talking about Gary, Scott says his window “only got shot through once.” He grew up in a working-class Christian home, the son of a mill worker and a mother who owns a babysitting company. His mother would not let him purchase parental advisory CDs when he was younger, which complicated his access to classic hip-hop. Instead, he grew up in the church, listening to gospel music, hymns and oldies.
He’s aware of preconceptions of Gary as a violent place, and acknowledges it in certain places, on one track rapping, “It’s either Arm and Hammer or armed with hammers.” But instead of getting caught up in the fear and violence, he uses himself and his lines as a foil against stereotypes and preconceptions about Gary. As he raps on Weekend in Los Vegas, “The streets taught us not what to do.”
“[My] whole message is no matter what your situation is, as long as you dream big, you can still make it out of wherever,” says G-Scott.
Scott mines the mystique and morality of drugs and alcohol for those who are open to learning lessons outside of school.
Some of these lessons are exhibited on his release, Weekend in Los Vegas, which is divided into three parts, marking Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Excitement and anticipation build to release Friday, but sunset brings the unexpected dismantling of a relationship. Cue the video to “The Market,” which channels the end of an affair in black and white. “The Market” was directed by Jeremy Wallace, better known as Jace, an Indianapolis videographer.
“G and I are to music video music videos what Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are to films, and if not [yet], then we will be soon,” says Jace.
Saturday finds G-Scott unattached, with a renewed determination to rally his spirits and celebrate freedom. “Folded” is a toast to life that shows the world at its best, a crossover single that samples Phoenix’s hit “1901.” The videos are key depictions of G-Scott’s aesthetic, which in this Young Wonder production, performs the remarkable feat of bringing pleasure to a place as mundane as a laundromat.
Yet, as consumption continues apace, the night transitions from being one that Scott won’t forget to one he may not remember. An ear tuned to the varieties of modern party rap allows G-Scott to gleefully create “Ha$h,” the hedonistic Pimp C tribute track with his personal, private strip club.
“My Mama told me rap about more than money and bitches. Now what I’m doing? Rapping ‘bout money and bitches,” begins “Studio 54,” which features a bombastic, strobed-out beat by Macktastic that brings to mind the blue intro scene to Belly.
“Pussy, money and fame. What’s one thing they have in common? All of ‘em can leave you fucked, but you ain’t shit if you ain’t got ‘em.”
On Sunday, one is left to come down from these boozy heights, sober up and plan for the future. “Nobody Knows” singles out Hoosier women for special love in a track that bears more than a few similarities to Tom Petty’s “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” as Scott tells listeners of an “Indiana girl with her head to the sky.” Her bright smile and hard work serve to mask the continuous difficulties she faces at the hands of careless men. Scott is an empathetic storyteller who would prefer to talk to the girl who he wakes up to in the morning instead of sending her packing.
His polished, poetic lyrics may lead some to be surprised when they find out G-Scott began his hip-hop career as beat maker, first for the Billionaire Block Boys and then for a generation of Gary rappers. It was only when he left for college at Ball State without his emcee friends that he begin to rap over his own tracks.
“I try to keep the majority [of tracks to] myself, because I’m not really for the feature thing unless it fits with what the song is trying to convey,” says Scott.
Live shows exchange engineering and effects for an energetic display of Scott’s heart as he conveys the passion he felt when creating the songs and celebrates commonalities rather than empty, acquisitive boasts. He has done a share of Midwest touring as an opener for Big Sean, Lupe Fiasco and Wiz Khalifa, as well as headlining his own shows.
This Saturday, he’ll debut in Indianapolis for the first time in an opening set for Cleveland’s Chip tha Ripper before embarking on the rest of his promo tour for Weekend in Los Vegas.
During a recent trip to Barber Kings in Merrillville, Ind., his barber Vil had Scott’s music playing. Scott was honored to hear that Vil had taken the time to listen. Little moments like that are all that wants.
“If I can gain at least one new fa he n of my music or at least one person relates to what I’m speaking on and I can provide motivation for people to go after their goals, that’s good enough for me.”