Getting to know G5-Gi: The Buffalo.com interview
blog by Ben Kirst • April 25, 2012 @ 6:59am
“I’m just a cool dude.” Sean Corey, better known as up-and-coming Buffalo rapper G5-Gi, is leaning forward on a patio chair at Soho on Chippewa Street on what is turning out to be an unseasonably warm spring afternoon. He is wearing a black New Era cap, a dark blue warmup jacket and—after taking a moment or two to ease into the flow of the interview—an aura of relaxed confidence.
Corey is explaining how he avoids the problems associated with street life, issues that this 23-year-old product of the city’s East Side understands far too well. He began by explaining that he is, as previously noted, a cool dude.
“Everybody respects that,” he continued. “They respect the fact that I’m a cool dude and I don’t start trouble. I don’t come around with trouble. I’m just a cool guy.”
Corey is right—he is pretty cool. The younger brother of Buffalo underground hip-hop pioneer Alumni, Corey has been experimenting with music since he and a friend rigged up their own home studio with a Play Station, a CD burner and a second-hand mixing board over a decade ago.
Corey released his fifth mixtape, #March23, on Friday, March 23—his own 23rd birthday—and was joined by his friends in the F!rst Class hip-hop collective for a live performance in front of a capacity crowd at Noir Ultra Lounge (88 W. Chippewa St., Buffalo).
He created a viral buzz over the winter with the release of “Chad Kelly,” a track extolling the virtues of the heavily-recruited, Clemson-bound quarterback from St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute in North Buffalo. He plans to release a new video within the next few weeks and is hammering out the details of a summer tour with the New Orleans female-MC duo Plane Jane.
And while Corey doesn’t have the widespread popular acclaim—yet—he has certainly created an interesting life for himself—touring with a then-unknown Drake, rocking Super Bowl week with Curren$y in Miami and building a unique bond with Buffalo Bills wide receiver / MC Stevie Johnson. He’s had some colorful experiences, and it’s shaping who he is as an artist.
“When you hear a G5-Gi song, you don’t know what it’s going to be like—like a song about my life or a song about me being in the club—but every song is about something that I’ve learned, that I’ve been through,” Corey said. “That’s how I generate my songs, just looking around, being downtown. That’s how I make my music.”
Buffalo.com: Talk about the thought process that went into the newest mixtape.
G5-GI: People know that I can put together a great song. But this time, I wanted to dig deep and show people that I can actually rap and I can tell stories. Like, I was listening to a few of Biggie Smalls’ albums, and a lot of his songs were stories, they weren’t just raps. He was telling real stories, you know?
It’s kind of funny, because I’m in the position where I am making the music that I want to make for myself and it just so happens that everyone else likes it. That’s great. I feel like I made it just off that simple fact alone, without a major deal or nothing.
What are the stories that you are trying to tell?
Just everything that I’ve been through. Growing up as a kid, living the Buffalo life. Growing up, relationship problems, problems with my baby’s mother, family problems…it’s the everyday story for the people that can’t express it, that they can’t tell everybody else.
When did you get started in music?
About 10 years ago. I was about 12 when I first started. Back then, there weren’t too many people doing hip-hop (locally). The people that were doing hip-hop were in high school and they were battle rappers. The battle rapping scene was pretty big then, like how they have break dance competitions—kids used to wait for the bus after school every day, like at the Central Library, under the viaduct—and they used to have battle raps there every day. And my brother was a big part of that.
That’s what the scene was back then. That’s what it was all about. It was about battle rapping (and) about making great music, not about shooting videos and doing shows and what you’ve got to do now to be successful. People enjoyed it. It was about getting your name up, and your credibility and enjoying it.
Who were your influences?
My brother is the reason why I rap. Everybody knows him as Alumni—that’s his rap name—and he plays the part for why I want to be an MC, because watching him do it was amazing to me. Back then, I wanted to do everything my brother was doing. That’s the little brother effect—you look up to your big brother, and I wanted to do everything that he was doing.
When I first started, it was terrible. I didn’t rhyme, I couldn’t rhyme, but I stuck with it because I had other people around me who were motivated. So I stuck with it.
My brother ended up dropping a CD when he was in high school—he went to South Park—and he sold 300 copies of the album that he made in his house, in my mom’s attic. He named that record Ghetto Intelligence, and that’s where I got the GI in my name from. I matched the G5 with that because it was cool then to be fly as an airplane back in the day. I’ve just been that ever since.
What was it like trying to get started?
I got to thank my mother for that. My mother, she allowed me at 12 years old, to have my own studio in my house. I’ve never had to record at anyone else’s studio.
Back then, though, I didn’t know anything about recording off of computers. We had a Play Station, a CD recorder with the two decks and I had a mixing board that I got from my friend’s father, who had been a DJ a long time ago. We hooked the mic up to it. It was just so hard then, because to make one song, we had to burn, like, five or six CDs. We used to make all our beats right off of the—I forget, I can’t remember the game—an MTV game that you used to be able to make beats off of, and sample music and all this extra cool stuff.
It was hard, but we enjoyed doing it. And by that being so hard, that’s what makes it so easy for me now. But I want to thank my mother for that, because it kept me off of the streets, and from doing bad things, because I grew up in an area where if you weren’t in school, you were selling drugs—that’s just what it is. Standing off my front porch, that was out there for me. Right off my front porch. That studio in my mom’s house kept me off the streets, made me want to do music.
What kind of music are listening to now?
When I get into project mode, I try not to listen to music because I am easily influenced. And once I’m easily influenced, I kind of start to sound like other people. I try to push out other people’s music until I am actually done with my project, then I give everybody else a listen. But it’s hard, because I’m in the clubs every weekend, breaking records. I’m so influenced by the music I hear in the clubs that I can take those ideas home and use that type of format to make my music better.
How did you get connected to the other guys in F!rst Class?
Chase Dinero, that’s my cousin. Me and him always rapped, for the longest. I met Jae Skeese through Chase Dinero. We were just kids that wanted to do music. We had the means, we had our own studio, so we just did it. And it just happened.
Everybody else that came around—everybody else was somebody that we grew up with, just the cool people that we grew up with. Kenny—Kenny B., he does almost all of the production for F!rst Class—he started off as a DJ. He used to DJ for WBLK, he was like 13, DJing at WBLK. He was the real deal. But he fell away from DJing. His Technics kind of collect dust now, and I’m mad about that, but I’m not tripping. He makes all the beats. He makes solid beats.
How did you get hooked up with Steve Johnson?
I met Steve though Ashton Youboty, a cornerback who used to play for the Bills. One day, I was at a party, and (my friend) was like, hey, that’s Ashton Youboty right there. Word on the street is that he is into music, he has his own studio—you should go holler at him. I went over and talked to him, and he was like, alright, in the morning, we’ll listen to your music. I’ll come pick you up. I didn’t expect him to really follow through with that. So I called him in the morning and he was like, get ready, I’m coming to get you.
(Later) Steve came to the studio, and me and Steve just clicked. Our first time in the studio, we had to do like two or three songs together, and ever since then, we just been tight. Like super-tight, like brothers.
When we did Why So Serious, we didn’t know Steve was going to get famous like he was. Like, Steve was just regular Steve Johnson. No one knew the fame that he was going to get. We were just doing something for our ears. We didn’t expect him to just blow up and for the tape to just blow up and do that.
In your honest opinion: is Steve Johnson a legitimately good rapper?
He’s great. That’s another thing—you heard your Shaq, you heard your different athletes that tried their hand at music and they weren’t so great. But Steve can actually rap. Steve can really make good music. He’s influenced by so much—he’s from California, and the music scene is crazy there.
Do you feel like you’ve learned from him?
Oh, yeah, but even more so outside of music. Watching him be a family man, being a father to his kids, being a man, period. I have learned so much from him. Watching him grow, watching him handle fame—I’ve learned so much from that.
What’s the story behind the infamous “Chad Kelly” track?”
(laughing) I didn’t expect that, man, I didn’t expect it. Chad Kelly (the New York State AA Football Player of the Year) is a fan before a football player, and thats a good thing. He respects my craft, I respect his craft, we respect Stevie’s craft, that’s just the way it is.
We kind of linked up with Chad through Steve—we used to go to his games and just check him out and watch him. He didn’t even know we were there half the time. We would just go check his games, and ended up just being like a little brother to us. Not just like Chad Kelly who’s playing football, but it’s more like a little brother-big brother type thing.
So one day Chad Kelly’s at my house, and we were just cooling, we were like on Netflix or something, and I’m thinking to myself, I had a few beats from a friend of mine, and I had them loaded on my iPad. I’m listening to them and we’re just chilling, and one of them caught my ear and I’m like…I’m looking at Chad Kelly and I look at my iPad, and I look at Chad Kelly and I look back at my iPad, and I’m like, (singing) “Chad Kelly…Chad Kelly…” and it just comes to me. I’m like yo, bro, let’s go to the studio right now, we gotta go upstairs to the studio right now, and he’s like, why? Whats up? What you got? I said, just trust me on this one.
We werent expecting fame, for it to do what it did. I wasnt expecting that at all. I was just in song mode. I had the song and I was like, we gotta do this. If I forget this, I’m gonna be mad at myself.
So we did the song, and we dropped it. He just posted it on Twitter and it just went nuts. It went wild. We did 35,000 downloads. I just had it on Soundcloud. We did like 35,000 listens in one day, and that was amazing. I was getting phone calls from radio stations in South Carolina (Kelly plans to attend Clemson University, located in northwest South Carolina) who were saying they were playing this song. Me being the underground rapper, I dont care at all. I said, hey, go ahead.
Yahoo Sports picked it up, CBS Sports picked it up, radio stations were playing it, Clemson definitely fell behind it. All Chad has to do now is ball out, shut the critics up and win his Heisman. Like he’s going to do.
Last question—what do you think of the hip-hop scene in Buffalo?
It’s getting there. It’s growing. There’s a new artist from Buffalo named John Boy—he’s my first cousin—and he just signed with Soulja Boy. He’s booked for shows pretty much every weekend from now until the middle of summer. That’s big.
When Drake first dropped his first mixtape, So Far Gone—that was pretty much when he first signed to Young Money—no one knew what was going to happen with Drake, but they knew he was a great dude, making great music. And they reached out for a So Far Gone tour, by a stroke of luck, I was able to get on it. I was probably the first artist in the world who had a drop by Drake, saying you know, “Shout out to G5-Gi, best in Buffalo.” That was big.
I feel that I’m doing a percentage of what needs to be done, as far as it being a growing situation. (The scene) ain’t big, but I am playing my part. It’s at a point where people are just coming together, hip-hop wise, hip-hop music, coming together and making it happen. And Buffalo is going to show people. We are.
Photos by Eminent Public Relations / D.Jackson.