London emcee Gee Bag has been releasing music since 2000. We caught up with him to talk about what drew him to Hip Hop culture. How he got in the game, and his new album Respect Your Elders!
For decades you’ve been an avid fan of Hip Hop culture what was it that drew you to the culture?
In the early eighties, I was about six years old, thats when I was influenced by the culture. This might seem a bit unreal to believe but my daughter is six years old and she has musical heroes that she adores at the same age.
There’s a combination of things that drew me into Hip Hop such as dancing, fashion, rapping, music, etc. OK, so Hip Hop was born in 1973 and I was born in 1977. My earliest memories were hearing Doug E Fresh and The Get Fresh Crew’s The Show for the very first time in my garden. I ran inside like a maniac to hear it properly.
I must add whatever I’m saying is in no particular order but just a general brainstorm. Watching movies like Beat Street, Breakin, Tougher Than Leather. Having books on how to body pop, and speak the slang. I had Heavy D and The Boyz, Nice and Smooth albums on tape after my sisters came back from Camp America. Listening to E.T Boogie and seeing The Rock Steady Crew Hey You video on TV. I can go on and on like Ariston!
As well as being a recording artist you also collect vinyl, tapes, CDs, etc. What was the first Hip Hop record you brought?
To be honest with you I can’t say what was my first Hip Hop record I ever purchased. It was such a long time ago and my memory isn’t the greatest at the moment.
Where you in a crew 35 Above when you first got in the game? How did that start?
35 Above was the first group I was in that actually released a single on vinyl back in 2000. Prior to this, I was in a group while I was at school with Unique Hastings but it was more of a hobby thing.
35 Above was a Hip Hop group that was formed before I joined with Unique Hastings. The original members were KLM, Drew, Jude, and then eventually Blest. L Dolo from Champions Of Nature was also one of the founders but left very early on before I even joined. I met Drew through a mutual friend from School around 1994 – 95ish.
You’ve been releasing music as a solo artist since about 2006. So far what have you released?
As a solo artist, I released my first single on vinyl back in 2006 called Raindrops/Still Rockin. That was shortly followed by my debut album No Worries on CD which was mostly produced by Mister Jaes.
I then took a hiatus from music and then dropped my second album in 2014. The album Show & Tell was exclusively produced by Downstroke on digital and limited CD’s. Me and Downstroke then released a 4 track EP on vinyl called Heavy Baggage on Revorg Records.
This then brings me to the present times of 2020. I dropped my most recent offering Respect Ya Elders! which was my second solo release on Revorg Records.
Like you mentioned, in May you released the album Respect Your Elders! produced by IllInformed on Revorg Records. Tell us about the album?
The album title is more of a statement, simply to respect those that have come way before me. There are a few skits touching on the subject of life, age, and wisdom. I do have a thing against ageism on a whole but didn’t express it enough. I was going to call the album Hermetic Laws years ago but thought nah that sounds too deep!
There’s an array of features on there from your brother Doug Sure (from ITV’s The Voice) El Da Sensai, Rodney P, Phoenix Da Icefire, Verbz, and much more. How long did the album take to put together?
The album took a long time to get done in its entirety. I didn’t really keep track of when I started recording it but I know it was over a period of 3 years or more. I think it might have been 5 years God knows or maybe he doesn’t?
One thing is for sure is that I wasn’t content with the first couple of recordings I did after listening back hence the delay. I recorded 3 times in 3 different studios and finally was satisfied with the Revorg Lab with The Strange Neighbour.
The album is released on double 12″ vinyl, CD, cassette as well as a digital download. Being a collector of music yourself, is this something that you were adamant about with this release?
Prior to this release, I’ve only had an album released on CD and digital format. So, when Strange agreed to put it out on all formats I was over the moon. It was my heart’s desire to have an album on wax but if this didn’t happen I would still have been grateful to put another album out anyway.
What’s your favorite format and why? Vinyl, CD, cassette, or digital?
I grew up buying cassette tapes, CDs and vinyl and nowadays I’m so used to listening to stuff on digital due to convenience. I still love buying vinyl and I don’t have a tape player so I guess the vinyl and digital are my favourite formats. CDs are jarring because they can get damaged so easily.
You featured on a posse cut by New York artist Osyris Antham titled Nine Worthies End. to the Cypher. Tell us about the track and how the collab came about?
That’s so funny because I didn’t even know the name of that track. I met Osyris in 2017 in Czech Republic whilst competing at the End Of The Weak World Finals. He’s such a great emcee and entertainer. We kept in contact ever since, he asked me if I wanted to jump on a track of his and I agreed.
I recorded my verse over here but I think I now need to look that track up and have a listen to it. I’ve been so busy sometimes I can’t keep up. I can’t even remember how the beat goes but I definitely know it wasn’t a boom-bap beat but more of a trappy beat.
I see that you performed at the famous Apollo Theatre in New York! Tell us about that!
I went to New York in 1996 when I was around 18 years old with the group 35 Above, It was an eye opener. We performed at the Harlem Apollo Theatre at some Amateur Night or something but we did well and never got booed off stage.
I’m sure we rhymed with a live band and was then offered to go to North Carolina and Chicago all expenses paid at a later date. Due to a tropical storm on the route to the destinations plus me and Drew were messing with some chicks we missed the opportunity.
What’s next for Gee Bag?
Well, I got a 7″ vinyl single dropping with Jazz T on Boot Records called The Goodfoot. That’s due to be out on December 4th and pre-orders have gone live on the Boot Records Bandcamp. Also, look out for the video when it’s released in December which I filmed and directed myself.
Thanks for taking the time out to do this interview. Any last words?
I wanna give a big shout-out to you Jai Boo. I grew up reading Hip Hop Connection and seeing you and the Wolftown Crew in there all the time.
To anyone reading this interview never give up because life is full of surprises, I’m a living testimony to that. Be grateful for what you have in life and always treasure the most valuable bank you could ever have which is your memory.
Keep positive and keep making connections in this Hip Hop community. Love and Peace!!
Interview by Jai Boo