EST Gee’s cinematic hood chronicles have quickly propelled him to stardom as one of the faces of street rap.
The CMG rapper returned last week (Sept. 16) to unleash his I Never Felt Nun project, via Warlike and CMG/Interscope Records, which serves as the third installment of the gritty series — after the rapper netted his first solo Billboard 200 top 10 effort last year with Bigger Than Life.
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“You saw the nice side of Kentucky, but Gee’s bringing you to the other side across the railroad tracks,” Warlike CEO and Gee’s manager Nigel Talley tells Billboard. “It’s just a little darker and a little more dangerous.”
EST Gee – born Albert Stone III – is guarded in conversation and never raises his tone as he puffs on a Black & Mild cigar inside a private room at NYC’s trendy Sei Less restaurant, sipping a cherry-colored tropical drink between questions.
While a majority of rappers lean on theatrics and social media antics to promote their music come album time, Gee remains laid-back, preferring to let his haunting street gospel do the talking two days prior to I Never Felt Nun’s arrival.
“Rappers are entertainers, too,” he says, peeking up from under his Balenciaga cap. “I think people like to beef up stuff they got going on with them to entertain people. I think a lot of stuff that I got going on, it ain’t entertainment — even though it might be entertaining.”
Gee paints 21 vivid pictures as he takes listeners on a harrowing trip through the ‘Ville. Nine of those are produced by his right-hand beat maestro (and fellow Louisville native) ForeverRolling, who he met in early 2019 fresh out of jail, and their musical chemistry has been undeniable since.
ForeverRolling makes sure to note that one of EST Gee’s rap superpowers is that all of his songs are done in one take. “Every verse you ever heard is in one take,” he claims about Gee’s studio efficiency. “He don’t do punch-ins, and he’s very particular about how he wants his stuff to sound. He gotta have his Black & Milds when he recording, for sure.”
The 28-year-old recruited a unique ensemble to join him and complete his story on the set, with fellow Louisville dignitaries Jack Harlow and Bryson Tiller making appearances. He crossed the Purple People Bridge connecting Kentucky and Ohio to recruit Machine Gun Kelly, and headed to Atlanta for collaborations with Jeezy and Future, who he believes is his generation’s JAY-Z.
“Future is one of the people that we always listen to. He’s like our JAY-Z,” Gee proclaims while talking through his shiny grills. “He just treat me the same, and he don’t treat me no different when I see him. And I like that.”
The menacing “Shoot It Myself” serves as Pluto and Gee’s fourth official collaboration, and fans are clamoring for a full-length joint project at this point. Nigel Talley estimates that the two have about 12 tracks together sitting in the stash.
Machine Gun Kelly was a name many didn’t expect to see on I Never Felt Nun’s tracklist. MGK dropped his guitar and got back to his rapping ways for the ominous “Death Around the Corner,” which finds him reflecting on his father’s passing.
He previously spoke about being a fan of Gee’s music, and is no stranger to working with street rap legends — dating back to his 2012 Lace Up debut, where he collaborated with DMX and Jeezy.
“I think somebody at the label had gave him my number,” EST Gee adds of how he got in touch with MGK. “[MGK] called me and had a show in Louisville, and he wanted me to come out. He was like, ‘Send me some stuff.’ He jumped on [the song] and when he met me, he was saying his EST fan base was gonna like us collabing.”
Looking down at his burly assortment of icy chains worth a Manhattan penthouse, Gee admits he’s proud to have three of the biggest artists from his hometown and surrounding area grace his project. “I think at that time I already had Bryson [Tiller] and Jack [Harlow] on there, and I was telling [MGK] that’s like: I have the biggest artists from where I’m from – not just rap, but music period,” he continues.
Jeezy turned back the clock to give listeners the same feeling they had when pressing play on TM102: The Inspiration in ’06 for his show-stealing verse on album closer “The Realest.” The scorching assist signified a passing of the torch in a way, with Jeezy stamping the Louisville spitter. “He looks at me like the guy now,” Gee confidently states.
While DJ Drama was once interested in signing EST Gee to his Generation Now imprint, the two are reportedly supposed to lock in for a Gangsta Grillz tape at some point, which has come back around as a trend in hip-hop once again. Gee falls short of confirming that will be his next project, even though he says it’s something he “was trying to do a long time ago.”
After releasing two projects within six months, Geeski will take off the remainder of 2022 and wait out the rest of his probation – which has six months remaining on a five-year sentence – and focus on building up his EST (Everybody Shine Together) army after signing two new artists. “I want his brand to be looked at like a CMG or QC,” Talley concludes.