When most college students pull an all-nighter, it’s to finish a term paper or cram for a final exam, but when Indiana University Northwest student Gerald Bailey is up all night working, it’s often in a recording studio. Bailey has a knack for quietly subverting expectations. He currently majors in telecommunications, but he produces and performs hip-hop under the name G-Scott and recently signed to fellow Gary, IN, native and gangster rap revivalist Freddie Gibbs‘s Str8 Slammin label. He works at a gelatin factory (“Not the actual Jell-O gelatin,” he notes. “It’s kind of like pharmaceutical stuff.”), but he’s opened shows for Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and Travis Porter. Right now, he could probably use a nap. “I didn’t get home until about 4:30,” he says. “I was in the studio last night working on the project.”
The project is Weekend In Los Vegas, a mixtape that G-Scott will release this April and his first batch of material since signing to Str8 Slammin. Despite the Gibbs connection, those hoping for more violent crime narratives and brutal, noir-like lyricism should look elsewhere: Far from being a Gibbs clone, G-Scott is a smirking everyman, a party guy with a not-so-secret nerd streak. For example, though Los Vegas is ostensibly about G-Scott’s upcoming 21st birthday and the raucous adventures that come along with it—the mythical place in the title comes from combining his two fantasy party spots, Los Angeles and Las Vegas—the tape is actually constructed like a concept record, complete with clearly defined sections describing different days of the weekend, a far cry from Gibbs’s sprawling, nihilistic releases. If Gibbs is Casino, then G-Scott is The Hangover.
Rapping over beats created by G-Scott himself and a handful of select local producers, the album draws on blurry, unconventional textures from bands like Phoenix and the Antlers, but G-Scott is quick to say it’s not a “hipster style.” More so than the eclectic beats, the story is central to the tape. “There is Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” he explains. “And the whole three-day weekend follows the story of why I started doing music in the first place. The first day, Friday, ends with a breakup, or something happens with me and my girlfriend, which sends me into this downward spiral into Saturday. Saturday is kind of the fun, party, trippy, crazy tracks. And then Sunday is like the morning after, waking up and trying to put everything back together, the solution day.”
This emphasis on long-form narrative and story-telling can perhaps be traced back to one of G-Scott’s geekier interests: video game design. He’s particularly interested in RPGs (Role-Playing Games) and when asked about his favorite RPGs, he’s quick to name Chrono Trigger, an acclaimed 1995 Super Nintendo game from Final Fantasy creator Yuji Horii that’s known for its intricate plotting and innovative use of time-travel. G-Scott has even sampled bits from the game’s soundtrack, along with bits from Sonic The Hedgehog. “I started making video games [in] junior high and high school,” he says. “I was really into computer programming and video game design and Web design, and so just with that, it is still something I like to do or still am interested in, but in some other ways me picking up beats kind of took the place of it.”
G-Scott may have traded in his gamepad for a beatpad, but that doesn’t mean both activities don’t work a similar part of his brain. “When I was doing the whole video game, computer-programming thing, you still have to be creative,” he explains. “You have to come up with different ideas as far as putting together what you want to see happen in a game or what you want to see things look like. It is pretty much the same thing in music if you are making beats or rapping. I look at it all like, I guess, an art, how an artist would approach a painting or anything like that.”
Despite his escapist tendencies and his video-game aesthetic, a very real place still lurks in the background of G-Scott’s musical conscious: Gary, IN. A once powerful industrial center and the birthplace of the near mythical Jackson music dynasty, Gary has fallen under hard times as jobs leave and crime moves in. Last year, a New York Times article described how the city has become a go-to spot for Hollywood movie directors looking for locations of desolate urban blight and decay. Both Transformers: Dark Of The Moon and A Nightmare On Elm Street filmed there, but the city itself doesn’t have a movie theater. Despite these hardships, music remains a vibrant part of the community’s identity. “In Gary I would definitely say there is a rap scene,” says G-Scott. “But as far as style of music, a lot of people out here are more on what Freddy does, as far as the gangster-type rap, and a lot of the younger generation of artists are more so trying to branch off and do a different style, which I guess I am considered in. But I wouldn’t say that there is a lot of people doing what me and him are doing.”
On a somber, conscious track “The Introspective Theory” off of Los Vegas, G-Scott raps, “Watching Lupe on O’Reilly made me wanna be a Factor/Not writing raps for the bitches/Just writing rhymes with a purpose/I just hope that when it’s over it was worth it, never worthless.” In referencing Chicago rapper and major-label cautionary tale Lupe Fiasco’s appearance on the Fox News program The O’Reilly Factor, G-Scott identifies both an inspiration and a possible aspiration. “I remember seeing it,” he says. “I didn’t get to see it live or watch the whole thing, but just watching different interviews and watching that interview kind of made me not want to do the whole stereotypical thing all of the time as far as rap [goes]. I want to do the whole thing about partying and stuff, but also about change and the world and make people think and see a situation in different light.”
It’s a tough goal, but G-Scott wears his ambitions lightly. He understands that change doesn’t come over night. He’s still got classes and work at the gelatin factory. He could probably use a break or a vacation, but he shows no signs of slowing down. “You know it’s boring,” he says. “But when I am not doing anything at work, I have the time to think about tracks and music. I was on break the other day and wrote a verse for a song.”