Growing up in El Barrio, G. Alium experienced a rough upbringing in his community, but found refuge in music. He describes his sound as melodic trap and the content of his lyrics reflect his lived experiences.
He wears his heart on his sleeve and isn’t afraid to speak about what he feels, which is evident through his music. “Everybody feels like you have to be this hyper-masculine tough guy, like nah, that’s not me. If I feel some type of way, I’ll let you know, that’s just me.” His latest EP, 444, takes listeners on a journey through said emotions and lived experiences; it’s a great representation of his authenticity and versatility.
Tell me a little bit about your background.
Well, my real name is Gianni. I come from East Harlem, I don’t know if you’ve heard of El Barrio before, so it’s like Spanish Harlem; Puerto Ricans mostly, a lot of Spanish people, then kind of got taken over by Mexicans. The part I come from was kind of rough. So, you know… I was raised in a rough environment and I went through a lot as a child. I don’t know if you can hear me through my music, certain aspects. But yeah, you know. Growing up here you see a lot and you learn a lot on your own. It’s a battle every day, but you fight through.
It’s rough around here, I grew up surrounded by gang violence, gun violence, poverty, and there’s not a lot of opportunities around here for the youth. So if you don’t have the right mindset and the right upbringing you get sucked into the streets. At one point I was affiliated with these things at a young age, I thank god for keeping me safe and for giving me the wisdom to step away early. I’ve seen things you’re not supposed to see as a child like: shootings, brawls, and knife fights. That’s not normal, but it was for us. Also you have to walk around always on point, there’s a lot of envy in these streets, and a bullet doesn’t have a name so you could get caught up at the wrong place at the wrong time. Imagine dealing with these things daily, especially at a young age. Everyday when I step out, I pray, and move militantly cause you really never know.
This is slightly off-topic, but I visited New York for the first time in 2019 with my best friend. It was very different, but I enjoyed it. We spent a lot of time in Harlem. That was our favorite spot.
Yeah, the vibes are dope over here, don’t get me wrong. It’s a lot of good people and good vibes. But you know like the— it gets rough. It gets rough. You just got to be strong…especially mentally, too. You never know when— it’s just certain things happen without it even being intended for you.
How did you get your start in music?
I’ve always been like a big music person growing up. My parents always listened to a lot of music. I grew up listening to a lot of Jay Z, Biggie, Michael Jackson…you know…112, Bad Boy, all those artists.
As I got older, I had met somebody that was a DJ, so he was into making beats. So, like around fourteen or fifteen, I made my first beat and recorded myself. I never found that I was passionate about it until later on, but it was just something that was always there. As time went on, I met a couple more friends, one of them rapped. Then I went through a heartbreak, and that sparked something. I wanted to do a song, so I wrote my first heartbreak song. It’s still on my SoundCloud and you know after that it was just like, alright this is something that I like doing, so let’s keep pursuing it and go from there.
Who is G. Alium the artist?
That’s a tough question. I would say I’m me. I consider myself an in-the-moment person. I’m very emotional, so it’s more— I’m very in-tune with my feelings. It depends on how I’m feeling in certain aspects and certain days. Like, one day you’ll get a goof side of me, real silly. Sometimes you’ll get a more serious side, or I could be a loner sometimes where I don’t want to deal with nobody and I just keep to myself. Sometimes I can be outgoing. I’m just a whole bunch of people in one, if that sums it up. You see how some people have like two personalities, but as an artist, well, I’m just me. Some days I’ll make a love song. Some days I’ll make a trap song. It’s just how I’m feeling, like everything just depends on my feelings and emotions.
You touched on the artists that you grew up listening to, but who are some of the artists that you’re listening to today?
I like Roddy Ricch a lot, Future, I was a big A. Boogie fan when he first came out. I listen to a lot of Young Thug. Certain pop songs catch my attention, Halsey, I like her voice… Diplo, Marshmello. I dip and dab everywhere.
That’s good though because that keeps you versatile.
Yeah, definitely. I try to be as versatile as I can.
How would you describe your sound?
A lot of people compare me to several people, but I consider my sound as melodic trap.
I agree with that! It’s very melodic and I woke up listening to the EP. I was like, I have to get my day started [moves arms in air while laughing].
[Laughing] I appreciate that, for real. But yeah, I’d say melodic trap. Have you listened to anything else besides the EP? A lot of people sleep on the love songs that I have out also.
Of course! I listened to some of your earlier works and then I had the most recent release on repeat.
I got better.
When it comes to the writing process, where do you draw from?
Things just come to me. Like right now I could be sitting here with you and my mind would probably wander off, I’ll prolly get a couple lines I’ll try to write it down. Sometimes I’ll get a flow, record the flow, and then find the beat. It could be different things that come to mind, then I come up with the melody and flow, and then I’ll find something that’ll fit that.
So, it’ll just depend on whatever you’re experiencing or whatever comes to you in that moment?
Yeah. Kind of like that, but even then, I could be in a good mood then think of an emotional lyric. Like, oh okay… let’s get this done then.
What aspect of the music making process do you enjoy the most?
Recording. That’s the best, mostly because I get into the studio and I feel like that’s my second home. I feel good when I’m there. Before, I never used to like my voice, but then I got used to it and started to think like, okay my voice is good. I like to play around with it and try different things when recording, make it sound different.
Wait, so you didn’t like your voice at one point?
Yeah. I didn’t. I used to hate it, but everyone would tell me like, you sound crazy, like an angel. I was like, what are you talking about?
That’s interesting. You do sound good. It matches the— I don’t know… if your voice was different, I feel like the sound of your music wouldn’t be the same.
Yeah, I get what you’re saying. I appreciate that for real. But yeah, I never really liked my voice, but now I enjoy it.
How would you describe the music scene in New York, or specifically your borough?
It’s like a whole bunch of crabs in a bucket. Everyone’s trying to get to the top and they’re not supportive. I feel like if we all support one another more, people will elevate and grow and the music scene would be better, but it’s not like that.
The support that I have now is surprising to me sometimes because a lot of people always used to doubt me, you know, or talk down on my name, but I’m getting there. But there are a lot of people that I have good relationships with around here and they’re good as well, but it’s still mixy out here. I get more love from outsiders, to be honest.
Why is it always like that? When I talk to other artists it seems like this is a common theme and you would think that people would just be supportive. I don’t know if it’s egos, jealousy, or you have this fake support. They really don’t want you to do better than them. How are you navigating that?
I just keep to myself. I’ve learned— because I’ve went through a lot recently. I’ve learned that you have to focus on doing you, not worry about what the next person is doing, and not worry about whether they’re supporting you or anything. In time, there’s going be people supporting you when they believe in you, so I just continue to work hard. 50 Cent said “get rich or die trying,” so that’s been how it is. Whoever supports— supports, whoever doesn’t— doesn’t.
That’s how it has to be! If you weren’t making music what would you be doing?
Nothing else, because I can’t do no nine to five. Probably producing beats, but that’s still making music. Or probably stocks, real estate something like that. I can’t work for nobody, that’s just something I can’t do. It never works out. I either get fired or I quit.
[laughing] So maybe that’s a sign that you have to be an artist. You have to make music. Now, let’s move on to discussing your projects! You released an EP titled, 444. What’s the concept behind it? What space were you in when you created it?
I was going through a lot of emotions around that time. Well, I usually am that’s just me, but 444 stands for manifestation and guidance. When my grandfather passed away that’s when I started taking music seriously. I started seeing these numbers and did my research and learned that it’s an angel guiding you and telling you to keep doing what you’re doing and that you’re on the right path and have spiritual guidance. I took that to the heart as my grandfather speaking to me.
The EP itself is just me trying to show people my versatility with the four songs. I didn’t want to make it too long either, so it was just like I can show people that I could rap and do the bars. It’s mixed emotions and some songs just talking my sh*t.
Now, we’re going to move on to the part where you do a track play-by-play. So, for each of your tracks just give me a quick rundown of what it represents.
Gotcha! So, “Last” is the first song. “Last” is basically about real-life situations I’ve gone through with friends. It was like, do you really have friends in this world? You know, since people can backstab you. I was in my bag with that song; there’s real-life situations behind that song. “Year”, that’s more of me melodizing, playing around with words, but still involving real-life situations. Then “Being” is more of a heart filled melody, basically saying that when it comes down to my family, I’m all for it. “Broke” was more of me being versatile and showing people that I have bars, like I’m not just a singing and melody kind of person. My favorite song of those tracks would be “Being,” I’m not going to lie.
I like how you titled the tracks, I caught that! That was a subtle creative touch.
I appreciate that. I don’t even know how that came about.
What’s the importance of having good visuals for a single? Your video was dope. I loved it.
I feel that it’s a big deal. You have to be creative and different, that’s my take on visuals. My first two visuals it was kind of like regular and I’m like I need to do something that’s going to have me stand out. Me and the videographer came together and I’m like, bro we have to do something different. Visuals are important because a lot of people will hear your song, see you posting on Instagram, but they’re not paying mind to it because they’re not seeing something. I need to do something that’s going to grab people’s attention. I feel like it plays a big part because it’s regular among a lot of artists’ videos in the industry now.
I feel like if you have a strong song and a dope visual to accompany it, it makes it—
It makes it way better!
Like, I can experience it fully. What can we expect from you in the future?
A lot more dope visuals and merchandise. That’s what I’ve been working on lately. Really focused on my next visual as well. I’m planning on dropping an EP soon, I just don’t know when. I want to get more involved in the community, but the thing with that is I’m not really a very outgoing person. I’m shy and keep to myself. But I’m fighting that so I can be more in tune with my community. It’s a battle, but yeah, it’s going to happen.
Have you always been reserved? I think that’s interesting since you’re in a field that forces you to be outgoing.
I’ve always been to myself. I don’t really like people, I don’t. As I get older, I try to be more outgoing, but I don’t know. People just weird!
[laughing] How can we stay connected with you?
Through my music, Instagram as well. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so if you stay connected with me just pay attention to what I’m doing and what I’m speaking about. All of my music is real-life situations and filled with emotions. I try to base my music on having people connect to me and feel me. I’m not into rapping about money, clothes, woman, etc. all the time, you know, even though that’s what people like to hear at times. I feel like I create a stronger bond with my supporters, I don’t like to call them fans, but you know, I don’t hold back my emotions anymore.
Yes, let it out! Put it in a song!
Nah, definitely. I feel like that’s the best way to be. Everybody feels like you have to be this hyper-masculine tough guy, like nah, that’s not me. If I feel some type of way, I’ll let you know, that’s just me.
It shows your transparency, your authenticity.
Yeah, I try. I try my best. I appreciate you and I thank you. You’re like the first person I’ve done an interview with based on my music, so I thank you for that.
Stay connected with G. Alium via Instagram. Stream their music on all major platforms.