From around 2015, Gi Major has been attached to the Grime scene after being introduced to the sound by her DJ, Aions.
Gi Major's musical journey started when she was a child, listening to music in the car on long drives with her mum. Their musical taste consisted of R&B and Soul music. Playing artists like Toni Braxton on the cassette player, they would drive around for hours singing along. During her teenage years when CDs became a thing, she got gifted The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill which she says was 'the catalyst' to her starting to rapping. Now a fan of Eminem and Missy Elliot she would spend her time spitting along to their music, before writing her own lyrics to freestyle and rap with her friends, as well as performing spoken word pieces at school shows. Her first studio session at 17 sealed the deal for her and after that she was one hundred percent invested in music. Moving to New York at 18 is what she believes brought the truest essence out of who she was as an artists.
Fast forward to 2015, business partner and producer/DJ Aions introduces Gi to D Double E's Aim High freestyle. "I remember thinking the flow is dope, but what is this?!". Naturally, she now counts D Double E as one of her favourite artists. The journey into Grime started with playing out at bass events that included Dubstep and Hip-Hop. At one particular gig she watched her friend Dutchguts spit over 140bpm beats in awe, and urged by Aions she got up and spat her Hip-hop bars along to the music and absolutely killed it. The next day Gi formed the collective Earthtone with Dutchguts, and Aions along with their friend Oskuro. For two years the quartet, threw events where they played Hip-hop and Grime. As Gi gained a wider understanding of the latter she started to write Grime bars. Earthtone is now a live Grime act consisting of Gi on mic duties and Aions on the decks.
We were able to connect with the woman herself whilst she was in London to talk all things Grime, the London scene and find out about how New York takes to the British sound.
What's the reaction to Grime in New York?
Grime in NYC is a consistently growing scene that me and my team have been cultivating since 2015. I would say with the help of UK Drill and Trap, more and more people are relating to the music and understanding the depth of the verses.
Pre-covid we were throwing a monthly event series called ON THE LOW, with an open mic cypher. Hip-hop artists would come up and Aions would play Grime, but blend it into 140 Drill and Trap beats so the rappers would be more comfortable on the mic. MCs would come up to Aions and be like, "Yo what trap tune is this?" when he would be playing a Spyro tune. It was really cool to see people taking to the sound.
Do you feel the London Grime scene has accepted you?
It's been nothing but love since the first time I touched down in London in 2018. I feel more accepted in the London grime scene than I do in some of the other scenes I collaborate with back home. There are so many MC's & DJ's that have taken me in out here and have passed me the mic and helped me build with people. I'm forever grateful for the way I've been treated. I didn't expect to be taken in like this and to be honest and I don't even feel I deserve it at times, but i've grown to understand that these people are now my family / friends, and they really do love and support me and my music. I think I'm in love with the scene just as much as the music.
The scene sees you as a Grime MC but what do you identify as?
I am and always will be a cross-genre MC. I have a deep love for hip-hop and R&B and my ultimate goal is to create a live performance that incorporates all of these genres seamlessly. I would love to collaborate with artists from any and every genre. You'd be surprised what's on my Spotify playlists. Ninety percent of the music I listen to isn't even from genres that I make music in haha.
Name some of your career highlights.
Performing at Outlook festival in Croatia was easily one of the most meaningful moments in my career. When the American Grime crew invited me out I knew I couldn't pass up the opportunity. We ended up performing every single day of the festival, sometimes multiple times a day. That's when I really knew the London grime scene accepted me. My other career highlight took place this past October in NYC when we got booked for Resonator Festival. It's a collaborative festival and we got teamed up with MNFST Drumline. If you wanna see something crazy, go type in "EARTHTONE x MNFST LIVE @ Resfest' on Youtube. Easily the most energy i've ever felt on stage. 140 bass music and a live drumline. Energy.
What artists have you collaborated with?
In relation to UK grime I've done some amazing work with Jon E Clayface, Logan, Smiley, Dizzle Kid, OH91, El-B. In regards to live sets I can't even name every DJ & MC I've been on radio with out here. I will say, one of the most exciting parts of making my album was getting Narsie from Leaf Gang to spit over a grime track. In my eyes, he's one of the most prolific hip-hop artists out of Brooklyn but has never spit grime.
Who inspires you musically?
Currently my favorite artists are Boogie (or WESTSIDE BOOGIE), Benny the Butcher, 6lack, Flohio, and the late Cadet. Boogie reminds me to stay versatile and make whatever music I want as long as it's authentic to me. Benny the Butcher reminds me of my undying love for hip-hop, but most importantly to work hard and never get lazy with my lyrics and to keep putting my foot on people's necks haha (figuratively not literally). 6lack reminds me of my truest essence and eternal love for R&B. He really brings me back to myself and his lyrics touch my soul. Flohio is easily one of the coldest MC's to touch the mic and reminds me just how powerful women are and how they can and do compete at higher levels than a lot of the men who get credit out here. Lastly, Cadet. Cadet reminds me to tell stories. True stories. And to always speak in truth with clarity and heart. He was one of my biggest inspirations as a lyricist and he moved me spiritually because I could literally visualize his stories as he rapped them; almost as if they were movies.
And also, my friends. When I see my friends create it pushes me to create more. I think they're really cool people and I'm very lucky to be surrounded by them.
What's your rider?
Hahaha oh man my rider! I like to stay light and healthy before I perform so it's nothing crazy. Me and Aions are pretty cheap dates so currently it's as follows (+ or - a few items that we send a follow-up email for if you feel me haha).
- 6 bananas
- 12 Pack of Water
- Assorted Fruits and nuts
- 6-Pack of Ginger beer
- Bottle of Brugal Rum
- Bottle of Don Julio Tequila (white)
What's your favourite thing about the London music scene?
Probably the fact that artists from London and the UK in general have birthed so many amazing genres of music and communities. When I hear DJ's spinning live on the car radio out here I still can't believe it. We don't have radio like that in the US. A lot of the scenes out here in the UK that are ingrained parts of the culture are still very underground in the US. So when I get in an Uber and hear D&B playing live on FM radio I still get goosebumps like damn this shit is sick!!!
What's an Earthtone set like?
Grime sets the foundation of the performance with little surprises sprinkled in around it. We usually like to start off our sets with a jazzy NYC vibe or even an obscure dark and ominous bassy tune. We definitely like our presence to be known once we've taken over the stage. The entire set is improvised like most grime sets except we find pockets where we can slow it down and I can perform some of my other genres of music. Our rehearsal usually consists of us picking out which tracks will help us transition into tunes from different BPM's so that I can mix some hip-hop in there. Then me and Aions have some fun and run through R&B tunes together to see if we can work some of those in to get people vibing.
Our icing on the cake is our collaborations with saxophonists, vocalists, drummers. We love to bring live instruments up on stage to really take things to the next level. Some of our most favorite sets have been while sharing the stage with other musicians because it really helps our live performance to stand out amongst the rest but most importantly, its really fucking fun. Grime and live sax is a vibe.
What's the underground New York music scene like?
Honestly, it matters if we're talkin like 5 years back or now. The scene has changed a bit due to DIY venues getting shut down and it affecting the ability for different crews to throw parties without taking too big of a financial hit. From 2015 - 2018 there were a ton of us just venue shopping and throwing one off parties at different locations we found around the city. Convincing bars to let us take over their spots and bringing in major sound systems that they didn't even have enough power for haha. All in all, you can't really speak on the underground scene in NYC without mentioning specific parties and crews that are pivotal in maintaining it. There are just so many great people who have kept events going over the years and gave people a stage and a microphone, or a warehouse and a sounds system. Reconstrvct is a party that can easily be called a staple in the NYC underground and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that the party itself exposed the city to a bunch of UK and European sounds (outside of house and techno) that we weren't hearing very much elsewhere. That's where I heard dubstep in its purest form for the first time, along with d&b, jungle, and bass music in general. Dubstuy sound is another crew / record label who has been putting on for the city for years - throwing events with their signature sound system and continuously pushing sound system culture from the roots up. Then there's Worst Behavior Records, another label that throws proper bass events (women run by the way). In terms of EARTHTONE, we throw an event called ON THE LOW that focuses on Grime, Dubstep, Garage, Hip-Hop, and R&B. We curate a pretty versatile night in that regard but I will say, there is never an EARTHTONE party without bass music being at the forefront. Low-end drives our night and dictates the energy of the room.
Tell us about your LP Major Moves.
It's Gi Major in her pocket. That probably means very little to my newer fans, but to me it means everything. This project really symbolizes my growth as an artist and the cultivation of my distinct sound that makes me stand out. The visuals for 'Ghost' and 'Bruh' are probably some of my favorite visuals to date. I really feel like everything came together on this project and I'm closer to myself than I've ever been before. I owe a lot of the inspiration on this album to Sofasaur, an otherworldly grime producer from Russia. He produced 3 of the 8 tracks and when he started sending me beat packs is when I started getting super busy with the pen. His beats bring something out of me that helped me find my own personal approach to grime. Major Moves is a heavy project both lyrically and visually. It's deep, it's dark, it's honest, It's even fun, but most importantly, it's me... so that makes me happy.
What are your plans for 2021 and beyond?
Honestly, my next step now that I'm back in New York is to execute all of the plans I've had circulating in my mind for quite some time. I usually don't think in terms of years or time, but 2021 is going to consist of making even more major moves than I have been. It's go-time for me, and I'm ready to take more risks than I've ever taken before. I've realized that the more I take care of my mind, my body, and my spirit, the more blessings come my way. So I will definitely continue to cultivate my relationship with myself and with God and I will be sure to keep my faith at the forefront because that is one of the most important moves I've ever made. Oh yah and I'll also be making a crazy amount of music and visuals and cool shit with my friends.