CLASSIC STATUS, PART I: G’STA

The New Orleans hip-hop legend primes for his rebirth


“If you’re able to grow and you want to be great at what you’re doing and take criticism, you’ll be able to grow.” — G’sta

Sean Self — a rapper, producer and record-label owner known as G’sta — has long been considered one of the penultimate musicians from New Orleans, Louisiana since his career officially began in the late 1990's.

Since founding his So Stimulus Entertainment and Productions label in June 2000, G’sta has built a prolific solo career and obtained massive respect from fellow hip-hop legends as a behind-the-scenes visionary: projects with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Amaru Entertainment, Outlawz, Layzie Bone and Nappy Roots underscore the full story of the musical imprint of G’sta.

Beyond his artistic output, Self remains steadfast in his insistence on mentoring the youth of his many communities as well as offering advice to any up-and-coming artists with similar aspirations.

As a survivor of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, G’sta is releasing his next project on August 29th, 2015 in conjunction with the ten-year anniversary of the storm. Don’t Shoot Tha Messenger is a full-length collaboration with longtime friend and mentor Thomas Williams — a.k.a. Blaknificent — a fellow New Orleans, Louisiana native and hip-hop legend; both currently reside in Houston, Texas. Soon thereafter, a second project entitled Classic Status will be released.

The Classic Status interview series is in four parts:

Part I of the interview series — a conversation about the past, present and future of G’sta — begins below.


G’STA

  • Born in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Thirty-five years old

RELEASES

SELECTED PRODUCTION


ON PAIR OF UPCOMING PROJECTS

Got the mixtape: Don’t Shoot Tha Messenger. Got the Classic Status album. I want to double-back and re-put out the other mixtapes that I did, just to let people know now that everybody back on this “classic” shit — I been on top of that since 2010. I also brought back the old-school sound, like the ’90’s sound. That was the main thing I wanted to do: I wanted to be able to bring back that kind of sound, and I actually did.

Then I got on this Don’t Shoot Tha Messenger joint, I’m on this right now. And it’s crazy. It’s gonna be a cold album, bruh.

ON NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

We gonna put the tape out on the 29th of this month. It’s gonna be the ten-year anniversary of Katrina. It’s gonna be very, very, very special because throughout the course of all that, I looked at a lot of people from my city… New Orleans is a great place. We got our own culture, we got our own way of doing things — even our own sound.

It’s like one big ghetto. But we learned how to survive in that. We still made the best out of it. My childhood was the bomb! All my friends, the majority of them are still living. We got relationships all around that place. It’s just too much separation and I hate that. I don’t like division too much, because we’re stronger together.

You can’t force people to see it that way if they just don’t want to see it that way. You gotta just be able to lead by example.

ON DON’T SHOOT THA MESSENGER

You know what’s going on in the world right now. And that’s why I kind of got off the topic of the Classic theme. If you noticed, I’ve been pushing Classic Status for the last two-three years now. There was something about this whole concept that I had to touch because I’m going with the era and what’s going on in society right now.

I kind of want Classic Status to be more of the hip-hop lyrical tip, as a producer and as an MC — like, grab the mic and let’s go toe-to-toe, bar-for-bar type of shit. But this is more social content. I kind of wanted to do more of a social awareness record.

That’s why I took the Malcolm X look, the messenger look and just everything about that. That’s what I’ve been on. Just studying and doing a lot of research on history and capitalism — there’s all types of shit that’s fucked up out here, man. And we need to talk about it.

Then I look at my age, and the fact that I’m at an age right now where I have to be a certain kind of artist when I get in artist-form. I could produce for a six-year old and make him a star, but as an artist I got to be able to reach my crowd. And if the youngest ones catch on…

It’s all about how you put it to them. I could go to the hood, and talk to people in the hood and kids in the hood and be able to sit ‘em down and they’d listen to me because they know what I’m talking about.


Know that I been through it, I saw it; if I could change, you can change into something better.

I didn’t want nobody to be like, “Sean, he’s gonna be real bad. He’s not gonna be shit.” Because I done been through all of that. And I hit them with the attitude like, “Motherfucker, I’m gonna go and make me a record. Pursue me a music career. And I’m gonna be great at it.” You know? And they count you out.

So my job was to prove them wrong. I don’t want you to count me out; I’ma prove your ass wrong. I’ma do the right thing. Because some people throw it all away and be like, “Fuck it. You think I’m this way? Then I’m this way. Fuck you.” And just wild out. I want to show them the opposite. The total opposite of what they expect from me and what they can expect from me.

I don’t want to come out like the ordinary, bro; I want the come out like the opposite. If they going that way, I’m trying to go this way. And I’m gonna go this way and I’ma watch y’all go that way. Watch all ya’ll end up coming back this way.

That’s just part of being an individual. A stand-up guy; a man first. I’m a man before anything. I’m a man before I’m G’sta; I’m a man before I’m Sean.

I did something totally different. I only got one rapper that did a collabo on here. Everything else is pretty much spoken word. I laced it up. I didn’t want to do too many skits or special features on it, nothing like that. It’s sick. I think it’s gonna make a splash, man. It’s real hip-hop.

I never really used spoken word on any of my projects before. I incorporated some of it into what we were doing because I think it can work. I got my little step-daughter, she’s doing poetry; Copious Green, she’s on the album. She did two pieces on the album, then I worked on some stuff for her, too. She’s incredible. Her spoken word is just crazy.

The album is entirely produced by Thomas Williams. Me and Blak go way back — actually he’s one of the first people I grew up in the studio with. A couple years older than me, and I used to look up to him on production.

He was the first backpack producer. He’s like a New Orleans Dilla. He’ll remind you of J Dilla.

We sat down and I told him, “Man, I’m thinking of doing this Right Message, Wrong Messenger project.” And he was like, “Man, I’m working on this thing called Don’t Shoot Tha Messenger, and I got all the tracks!” and I was like, “Hmm. That sounds kind of interesting; that’s along the same lines as where I’m at.” So I’m like, “We gonna roll with Don’t Shoot Tha Messenger.” He sent me the tracks, and I was vibing off the tracks.

Nif is monumental; that’s Day One right there.

ON “BLAKNIFICENT” TRACK

He sent me this one track — I was thinking about rapping about this girl that was lost. Turned out in the streets, came from a broken home. Came from an abusive family. Then I listened to it again. I said, “I’ma dedicate this one to him. I’ma pay homage to him.

That’s my favorite one right now, and what I’m spitting on it is all real. All the people that I shouted out on that song, when they hear that? They gonna probably bust out crying.

And that’s my little niece, man — sixteen-years old — singing the hook. Sixteen. She did great, man. She did an incredible job. She’s phenomenal.

ON SO STIMULUS ENTERTAINMENT

It came about in 2000. Thought about it in ’99, because in ’98 or ’99 I was supposed to go to No Limit Records. That’s when it was really hot. And I didn’t go — my uncle kind of blocked the deal, because he was pretty much like my mentor at the time. They came out and told him they wanted me to come — and I was very valuable then.

I ran the studio, I was doing all the production. I was the nicest one around, I knew where I was going. I was putting it down back then.


And they wanted me to come, but they had too many hands in the pot before it even got to me. So they fronted us the money to order a thousand CD’s of World of Syn, and across seas they went crazy over it.

ON INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

I don’t know how my first two albums got overseas. The first one never even came out on the market. The second one — the World of Syn joint that came out ’98-’99 — we was kind of out-the-trunk with it at the time.

But we got it around, man; it spreaded. And it got overseas and come to find out it was MySpace and Facebook and all these social medias started popping. They finding me like, “Yo G’sta, is this really you? Yo, can I get that World of Syn album? Can I get an original copy?” I’m like what the fuck… ?

They still support my old shit. They like my old shit which is crazy because I’m like, “Do y’all know how old this shit is?” They love it, man. If you go on YouTube and you see all of the videos of my first joints, I didn’t put none of that up there — it was them! I have an iTunes album page; they even put my albums out under some other name! It’s crazy.

ON CAREER RESURGENCE

I don’t know how to feel about that, to be honest. I don’t want to burn myself out. I don’t know… It takes a lot to keep it afloat, put it that way. I talked to Layzie about this, and I kind of saddened him.

Like, “Lay, I been really thinking about my days after rap, man. My whole life been surrounded by music studios, and recording, performing. And I can’t believe I’m at point in my life right now where I’m actually thinking about falling back.

He inspired me. He told me, “G, you can’t do that right now, man. First of all, you too fucking talented. The type of talent you have, you could wait ten years, put out an album and it still be relevant because you got that type of talent to adapt. That’s the type of talent you got. Everybody can’t do that. And second, I can’t see you doing it.

Me and Dizzy Wright are on Layzie’s solo record on a joint called “Battle of a Real MC.” Layzie is talking about he wants me to finish producing his album — his Perfect Timing album. I really haven’t had a chance. I got over sixty, seventy thousand mp3’s on my external drive, for real. I got a large music library. I gotta sit down and send him some tracks; I got a few tracks he wants me to send him.

ON SELF-RELIANCE

I been a one-man army my whole life. I cannot depend on any one person to hold me down. If I wasn’t mixing these records, who else is gonna do it? It wouldn’t come out on the 29th, that’s for sure. Been like that forever.

Everybody that smile at you is not happy to see you. Know that.

I got an athletic mentality; very competitive. What motivates me is knowing that I’m one of my own fans. I’m one of my own biggest fans. I know that I can get down. I feel I been misled, I been cheated — all type of shit out there. But I feel like that I need to lay it back down and I need to make that shit known. Let it be known that I’m not going anywhere. I’m consistent. I gotta be consistent. Consistent and persistent, both of them.

If not, then what? Who gonna ride for me? I always had a history of intimidating people with my ambition. And that’s pretty hard — it’s not a good feeling, because I’m the type to stand there and be like, “Hey motherfucker, I’m standing right here!” I’m not gonna let you just walk over me or anything like that. I’m right here — and I’m nicer than your mans. And your boss.

ON TAKING INSPIRATION FROM OTHERS

Not anymore. I used to, but not anymore. I get inspired by just hearing good music, man. I been inspired by a few people, though. Kendrick Lamar inspires me; J. Cole inspires me. J. Cole is the truth, man. Artists like that.

A lot of older MC’s inspire me. Chuck D inspired me recently. I never met Chuck D a day in my life; the man walked up to me and was just like, “Yo! What’s up, man?” I looked to my side like… wasn’t nobody standing to my left. This is Chuck D talking to me! I was like, “Chuck, I’m doing what you do; I’m being a messenger right now.” And we started running it.

He told me some real shit; he told me, “Man, just keep doing what you’re doing.” That’s from Chuck D, man; that’s from Public Enemy Number One.

Being around those kind of artists, being around those type of mentors of the game. Doug E. Fresh and all them. Me and Dougie go back fifteen years, so seeing him and being able to kick it with him last month was pretty cool.

The legends inspire me. Lay and them inspire me. That’s my dog; like he told me, “Do your thing, boy. You’re too fucking talented.

ON CREATIVE PREFERENCE

Just like life: you can’t share your spirit with everybody. You can’t share your vibe with everybody. Say for instance I get somebody that’s humble — they ain’t gotta be the best artist.

For instance: Dizzy Wright. Dizzy wasn’t the best rapper out the youngin’s at that time. His brother KJ was a better rapper than him. His little brother’s crazy with it.

Dizzy was humble. His antennas was up all the time and he soaked a lot in. Now look at him: all that game he soaked up and became something.

His situation was so bad at home… I really respect Dizzy Wright right now for what he’s doing. I known that kid since at least twelve, thirteen-years old. He wrote his first rap with me. I raised that kid, man, pretty much. He doing his thing right now heavy. I’m proud of him big time with that.

You gotta be able to have that kind of energy that’s compatible. For me to catch it, it don’t take me long.


I can hear you rap one line — one verse and I know if you got it or not.

You don’t have to have all the talent, you just have to have something. If you’re able to grow and you want to be great at what you’re doing and take criticism — you’ll be able to grow. I can work with you like that.

ON YOUTH MENTORSHIP

I got a lot of goons out there doing their thing that’re inspired by me. And I remain humble about it. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day — it’s all about inspiring the next person, the next life to be great. To find their inner greatness.

They look at my hustle and a lot of them want to be in my position. But I’m like, “Dog, it’s gonna take you a long hustle to get to this. It’s a grind, man.

Some people get lucky; some people get it handed to them. They be the people that eff it up. It’s a grind, man. I’m built to have to stay on top of my business.

Because if not, it’ll never get done. It’ve died a long time ago.

ON OUTLET FOR YOUTH

Me being fortunate enough to have an uncle at a young age that was in the music business that had one of the biggest studios in the city of New Orleans. The circumstances and situations I was growing up around at that particular moment in my life — I could’ve been dead or in jail easy, before twenty years old. But I had an outlet to do music. A lot of kids are not fortunate enough to have that. It’s kind of hard to say in terms of passion, because they don’t know.

They starving, their momma’s probably out there being a thot. They ain’t got no father-figure. They getting raised by the streets.

I was one of the kids fortunate enough to do music. To go to the studio; have access to go to the studio and turn that shit on whenever I wanted to. Be able to make a beat or write a rap. Record a rap on the mic or whatever.

My actual goal and my aspiration: to build for the youth. I want to build an art center. I want to build a studio where kids off the street can come, capture their inner talent. I would like to give the kids something to look forward to. I grew up playing sports, but my thing was music.

While they’re going to the park, I’m going to the studio. I think every kid has to find their inner talent. I just encourage everybody to have a purpose — especially the youth.

Because guess what: we all gotta die. But what’re you gonna live for? What’re you gonna live for? We all got an expiration date on our life. So we all gotta be able to stand up here and say, “I’m doing this with my life. I’m living it that way.

Because at least you die trying. If it happens to you before your time — at least you died trying. At the end of the day, you gotta find something to live for.

ON ANTI-ROLE MODEL

My tactic is just to get out here, and become not just a role model. I don’t want to be a role model, that’s just playing a role; I want to be an actual figure out there that people can look at and say, “He did it. If he did it, and he came from here? Same situations and circumstances that I come up with? I could do it.” And I want to be able to stress that to them so much. I would love to be able to be active with the youth.

It’s just about getting them to understand what we’re doing. Because a lot of them don’t have anybody. They feeling you gotta be from that atmosphere to feel like, “Dude ain’t to be played with. I already know how he get down.” And they’ll listen to you a little bit.

We gotta be able to encourage ourselves; be a blueprint for the youth. So if I can be that for them with what Im doing? God bless it, and I really dig that. One thing about this new youth: they’re not scared, and they’re very ambitious. And with that alone, they can do something great. If they can just channel it into a positive light, be able to make something happen on a positive note? They can do it.

If you tell the kids long enough that they’re gonna be great — they’re gonna be great.


Written By: Matteo Urella / August 2015

Photography: