He had a dream to be the Cole’s and Drake’s of his generation, because he believed even an African youth in Tanzania deserved to have a role model within reach. And he set out on the long, windy and rough path to make this dream a reality, for him and his peers. Two years after his debut project, Random Rhythm came out, Tanzania’s leader of the Nu School, George Gavin walked us down the pathway to what is becoming the biggest wave in East Africa. It’s a blend of soulful vocals, creatively and strategically arranged instrumentals, poetic prose and a musical mastering that can easily pass for a veteran. With a carefully chosen line up of producers, Gavin introduces us to his world as he pushes further the desire to leave a legendary mark on our hearts through music. Admirable is the courage with which such a young man would bare the truths of his youthful life, highlighted by the random recklessness that mirrors that particular phase in life. The joy of growing up and finally feeling like you’re responsible for your own freedom and happiness.
To say that George has grown musically, will be simplifying things more than deemed necessary. It’s evidently felt from the first note on the intro to the last key of the final song.
It’s a bit surprising how an artists as young as George could be this musical. The ease at which he tells his stories, knowing and trusting how his peers will receive and relate to them is commendable. Yet, more surprising, is how he is in tune with how his peers affect his approach to music and the way he allows himself to be absorbed in to something positive, purposely offering his contribution to what he believes in. Here is a lil chat with Gavin as we sat down to break down his latest project, Before We Die. It’s in two part series, the second bit being song by song breakdown as he shares what it was like working on every single on the project and the artists involved.
Let me ask, why is it a concept Album, Gav?
Umm well…a concept album is a body of work that follows a clear specific theme or message front to back…like all the songs are placed with the specific intent of creating or complimenting a narrative. Like Kendrick’s GKMC. And that’s kinda what I did with BWD…I created 3 narratives…2 of which play out in the same sense…of a story from beginning to end. Think of BWD as a book, and all the songs (at least on the standard version) are chapters.
So, what are these themes you’ve explored on BWD?
This project is a triple entendre and revolves around the concept of young love.
The first meaning is the more surface level one, It stands by its title, Before We Die…meaning the depiction of feelings/moments we live through before we die…falling in love, being in love, being detached, wanting someone etc. With this plot in mind, the tracks are very much intended to stand individually to signify different moments in your life.
The second plot holds truer to the concept of Before WE Die. You know how when you get married they call you one? That’s the approach that the artist uses in the sense of when you listen to the whole tape from front to back up to track 11 which for the sake of concept is the intended outro (Never Again) it’s about meeting someone, wanting them and slowly falling in love with them. Being in love, reaching an all time high and climax and then drastically starting to fall out of love with that person…until you get to never again which is the moment the “me in you & you in me” AKA WE dies…so it’s sonically a documentation of young love and before the love between y’all is lost.
The third plot is similar to the second but instead of it being long term as the second plot this is a lot more short term. If the second plot happened in a period of weeks/months, the third perspective happens in a night…and the WE isn’t the love between you and the person but the moment. So the project plays out as meeting someone (Searching For Love) and you spend the night wildin out and wooing them (JMY, Lamborghini)…even getting corny enough to tell them you actually feel something for them (Fallen Angel & LOVE) until the moment they let you go home with them and smash (Precious & Good morning). ATHP to Never Again are the moments you’re leaving//dropping them off and realizing it was just a moment and amazing though it was, the moment is over and done with (Never Again).
Now the second and third plot can be linked depending on the listener’s perspective. When you meet someone, fall in love with them, imagine a whole life time with them and it doesn’t end well, you sometimes wither and draw back from emotional connections. With this in mind, the project almost plays like a vicious cycle, of falling in love and falling out of it (second plot) and losing yourself in lustful moments (third plot) over and over again until you find someone and fall in love again. And so the story goes…
Tell me about the first song you recorded on the album, and how the process was like.
Well…the first track I actually recorded was Fallen Angel…even tho I rerecorded it like a year and a half later. Recorded it in January of 2015 hivi…before or around the first time the first tape (Random Rhythm) came out. And ended up writing the best song I think i’ve written for that year…even tho it only saw the light of day 2 years later
At which point did you know this was going to be a concept project?
How the concept project came together was like, in the beginning me and Domi were tryna figure out the followup to the first tape…and I’ve always been a writer first, “rapper” last…so we were crafting up a dope concept (which is currently scrapped) and to kinda hold the people down we wanted to do an EP. Cuz Random Rhythm was so “hard” and boombappy and kinda me tryna prove to everyone that I can rap…We wanted to do an EP that was more musical…have songs for girls cuz I mean shit I’m pretty good at that. And so came the idea for the 5 track EP…calling it Before We Die with the second plot in mind. And originally it was Searching For Love, Fallen Angel, Shade In Paradise, The Static & and some outro we scrapped. So it was still searching for something (SFL), falling in love (Fallen Angel), hitting the drama and bs of it (SIP) and losing touch or falling out of love (The Static) followed by a conclusion. Didn’t know AVID back then so it was me singing a different hook on FA (which was trash tbh), and SIP had a completely different beat but same lyrics.
Talking of AVID, who introduced you to him and how did you two hit it off?
Brian…after he recorded HOE, he told me about bro…we went to his crib and recorded a couple things that are never dropping…but we hit it off. That’s when I brought Pablo…and slowly we became the Wu Tang that we are.
What was the difference in production between Random Rhythm and BWD?
My approach to music was different. With RR, I wanted this very old school boombap sound…it was influenced by Nas, Pac, Biggie & A Tribe Called Quest. BWD was a lot more musical…just more melodic…more beautiful…it wasn’t influenced by hip hop or rap music. It was influenced by like Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake & Frank Ocean. Just R&Bish, electronic, almost poppish music. Felt like I already proved I could rap…wanted to focus more on my musical side, my poetic side.
Was that the intention all along, to be more musical or it came after some experience?
I think so…I listen to some things on RR and I’m like oh shit I really really meant that…like the first track I ever dropped as George Gavin for RR, first thing I said was “Not a rapper, just a storyteller.” And I kinda feel that more than ever…only time I really feel like rapping lately is when I’m with the BSM bros…but I don’t really wanna “rap” anymore. I just wanna make music and blur genres…cuz I don’t really care to know what lane I’m in. This is what hip hop is kinda lacking to me lol. Its like…there’s guidelines and so many rules to hip hop. I kinda just wanna make music, and not care whether its a hip hop sounding one, pop sounding…as long as I’m getting my point across. I don’t wanna be governed…once you’re a rapper or emcee there’s like rules and regulations to the shit…and I feel like other genres don’t really experience that as much. And its a beautiful thing…it makes hip hop as a genre so cultural and I love that…but I don’t wanna let that limit me…cuz I grew up on a lot before hip hop.
Your colleagues are becoming more and more musical too, judging by their recent releases. Is it something y’all agreed upon?
I think its more inspired by one another…we going off of each other’s creative energy. Like i cant sit here and act like I wasn’t inspired by Baby Boo and Masaki Theory. And I’d like to think I’ve inspired my homies too.
Who was the first producer you ever worked with?
This guy called Kaz…he made half of RR. Just some homie I went to school…he doesn’t even make beats anymore i think
How did RR impact your life and career though?
It put me in a conversation…of those that know, I guess. Some people call RR a classic…even tho its gonna be the weakest project I ever put out. But yeah it got certain people to notice me…ranging from the industry to like underground artists and just fans who were looking to finally invest time in the new TZ wave of music.
Is there anything you’d go and rework on it, if you had that possibility?
I feel like I couldn’t celebrate it as much because there’s more I should’ve done. Rushed it cuz I was pressured to…but I learnt my lesson from it so its all good. The people around me…I announced it too early, so it was always “When’s this shit dropping.” People enjoy that project and I have to be content with that.
RR explores the typical youth in you, living life and having fun, has that changed?
Naaah…its still my life, I’m still reckless…the music is just a lot more focused and narrowed down project wise. Its kinda like finding different ways sonically, lyrically and melodically to give updates on life. The difference in sounds just lets you know…. Well it lets me where I’m at in life. Like I listen to RR and celebrate who I was when I wrote those songs…I’ll never be that person again…so the music is something to remember him by. That’s kinda why BWD was dropped so hush…cuz I wanted to just work in silence…and talk about it when i had it ready. Maybe not the best marketing strategy…but as an artist it was awesome.
Does this express what goes on around you and the people you interact with? Like do you believe you represent your peers?
I think so, idk…I’m in tune with whats going with em…I’m not how much I represent that. The Static was about my friend and his relationship…I have friends that have gotten pussy off of Dhamiri & Precious already so yeah haha.
And how is life as a young musician getting more and more recognition for your work?
Its dope man…especially when i apparently don’t have the artist look whatever that is lol…people really do be expecting my music to be trash when i tell em i make music…the astonishment is always priceless. You gon hear about it on BSM pt 2 how some girl didn’t believe me when I said I made Dhamiri…deadass thought I was lying to finesse some pussy.
What’s your fanbase like, currently?
Umm… mostly just Dar… Like Dar and maybe Arusha kidogo…whether its people from those areas or just people originally there who are abroad for uni or living abroad. A few people in SA cuz that’s where I’m at…and I’m seeing Nairobi pick up on me now…I think mostly because of the work Mars did on the tape. And the type of people? Just the youth man…kids that envision a different sound from the city…kids that were kinda like me a few years ago on some “I wish we had Drakes and Coles”…before me and my bros decided to be those niggas for our city fr. [CONT. TO PRT 2]
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