It’s a Celebration
Deezie Brown and Jake Lloyd throw a gala
Unless hobnobbing with the upper crust, you've probably never been the guest of honor at a "gala." That word – pronounced with a long vowel if you want to sound properly fancy – describes a lavish party: red carpets, black ties, mink, pink, and cufflinks.
Some heavy linguistic contrast thus comes into play with the title of the new Deezie Brown and Jake Lloyd collaboration, Geto Gala. The former, a rapper/singer/producer specializing in diving deep into Texas-centric themes (revisit "Slabs, Screw, and Stories From the Country: Deezie Brown & EC Mayne Soundtrack Bastrop County," Aug. 14, 2020), recalls when the phrase struck him.
"It was watching the Met Gala and not understanding how to get an invite: 'What, do I gotta be a celebrity to go?'" he reflects. "So me and Jake wanted to make something that's for everyone, for the people in our communities – your janitors, your construction workers, the people working 9-to-5 – so we can celebrate the hard work we've been doing all year."
Interspersing tuneful hooks with clever, inspired bars, the project spotlights struggle as subtext to a rejoicing of Black excellence, perseverance, and ownership. At times, it transports listeners to a banquet, where the creators might stand, cigar in mouth, toasting their successes. Literal or visualized, it captures the feeling of a single night.
The joint EP also serves as coronation, its arrival following a triumphant year for each of its creators. Brown's collaborative album with EC Mayne, Candy Blue Like Screw, emerged as a rich documentation of Bastrop County culture. His golden-voiced counterpart enjoyed a breakthrough cycle himself, Lloyd Pack flexing the dynamic potential of his singing and songcraft.
"I think 2020 was my best year, really, as far as the reaction to my music," the Austinite offers. "For both me and Deezie, it put us in front of people's eyes more than ever. We would've done this record anyway, but it was the right time to strike when the iron's hot. People are looking at us now, so what the fuck are they gonna think when they see us do a record together?"
Building the Universe
"I remember the day Deezie sent us a map of his world," recalls Danny Saldivar II, the producer and multi-instrumentalist who helmed Geto Gala's tightly arranged music.
Saldivar, aka DSII, had been in the studio with Lloyd when the diagram came in via text. It included a large central bubble that read "5th Wheel Fairytale" off which a network of interconnecting branches extended in every direction full of concepts, titles, themes, and images.
"It was crazy," confirms Lloyd, equally astonished and impressed. "I remember looking at Danny just like ... 'Wow.'"
Lloyd and Saldivar already recognized the perpetually turning wheels of creativity inside Brown's head. They portray their friend, real name Devin, as a compulsive sampler always digging up vintage sounds to incorporate in his music. He's equally a prolific instigator, sending a steady stream of songs-in-progress with texts simply saying, "Get on this!"
Even so, the map was next level.
"Oh yeah, I'm creating an alternative universe," says its creator nonchalantly.
Brown goes on to explain the world of 5th Wheel Fairytale as a Southern-centric commingling of imagination and reality where his music can enjoy the most mobility. Candy Blue Like Screw extended a conceptual branch, but Geto Gala serves as a celebratory experience of which other artists can make sequels. In terms of marketing, he envisions a universe of virtual streets inhabited by collaborators who exist as independent storefronts.
On Geto Gala's "South Got Sumn to Say," circling Andre 3000's ominous assertion from the 1995 Source Awards, Brown stresses the importance of taking ownership of your artistic expression, rapping, "Getting paid for generations and generations is more important than reparations."
"There's not a lot of labels and platforms here in Texas," he expresses. "Something me and Jake wanted to create was a platform that can work, even in the case that we never leave Texas. I want to find a way for the music to live without us being here. Maybe making an alternate universe is the way."
Raise the Bar
Geto Gala's opening track, the jazz-horn-inflected "Blue State," sat in the "done" column when Lloyd received a new mix, in which Brown had re-recorded his part. Upon hearing it, the game changed.
"I'd already heard the verse, but now his delivery was just so good," exclaims the veteran vocalist. "I was like, 'Danny, whatever I did on this – delete that.'"
Inspired, Lloyd retracked his verse with maximum stank on every word:
"I'm more athlete chic, you got me?/ On pins and needles, your tailor's getting sloppy/ I'm in the lobby waitin', sippin' on hot tea/ Why niggas choose to be anything but they-self is beyond me."
Lloyd's a phenomenal singer: impeccable pitch, agile voice, abundant versatility in his phrasing. An alternative R&B artist by trade, he possesses that essence of Ty Dolla $ign and Nate Dogg, where his vocals flourish in the context of rap even though he admits he doesn't consider himself a rapper. Responsible for many of the collabo's choruses, he brings some of the most memorable hip-hop wordplay to bear as well:
"I'm in Gruene Hall two-steppin' like I'm a legend with my hand on my weapon, better use your discretion/ And when I'm at the bar, jamming some Mickey Gilley, rollin' a Philly, big eagle feather in my Stetson."
If Lloyd's respect for Brown's rapping galvanized him to step up his game, the same's true vice versa with singing. Brown steals a difficult chorus lead on heart-torn slow jam "Stella" and lands the collection's anthemic moment via the Will Knaak guested title track: "I don't wanna be no idol/ I'm just here to break the cycle."
Geto Gala documents two principals activating each other's talents.
"It was an effortless album because we jointly knew what the goal was, which was creating a piece of art that our community can understand," muses Brown.
The five tracks culminate in "Black Delegation," an uptempo closer with a fierce drum loop that feels like the apex of festivities. Brown's leading the procession, cheering on "the end of the world white way" before capping his bar with "Long story short, this is love." Austin standout the Teeta braces the middle with a profound section where he raps, "Results of us going through our challenges/ Treating it as a catalyst, Lord, let us build palaces" before Lloyd closes it down with a chest-thumping verse about his mom being denied finances then coming back and buying the house. Pure musical exultation.
"We're having fun and enjoying the fruits of the labor," Lloyd explains of the scene set in song. "We celebrate where we're at right now because we worked damn hard to get here."
Brown, meanwhile, keys in on the purpose of the party.
"Celebrating for one night can tell a story and create memories for the rest of your life. So if we find different ways to celebrate our small victories, our larger goals won't seem so far away."
Consume Geto Gala by Geto Gala featuring Deezie Brown and Jake Lloyd on the following platforms: Spotify, Bandcamp, Apple Music.