Gonzo & Beez have been making waves in the ever-expanding hip-hop/R&B atmosphere ever since their inaugural single “Minute Steak” dropped in 2019. Several more singles and a full-length debut later, the duo is gaining traction and a reliable fanbase attracted to their skillful flows & vocals, genre-bending instrumentation, and down-to-earth personas.
I got the chance to speak with Beez, born Brian Macalla, who let me in on some of the aspects of his relationship with Gonzo (Andrew Gonzales) that makes them tick as a duo.
Macalla said the story begins at Elon University in North Carolina, where they joined the same a cappella group. It took them several semesters to get close, but in their first studio session, they created “Minute Steak,” a track that stays modern even after many more releases from the duo.
“He said it was a throwaway beat and I was like ‘dude are you kidding me?’ This could be something,” he said. “He’s one of those kids that underestimates himself — he’s what I like to call a triple threat: He can produce, sing, and rap with perfect pitch.”
Macalla said the production of “Minute Steak” and its ensuing praise launched the pair into constant collaboration, with Gonzales sending more and more beats his way, and having Beez over to his in-dorm studio to record and write lyrics together. It was easy to imagine the chemistry Beez spoke of — their common interests led naturally to collaboration, and their personalities seem to fit together like puzzle pieces.
“I consider him a genius with the music — he just knows what he wants to do,” Beez said. “Unfortunately he has to sacrifice his sleep… but I’m sort of the opposite, I’m a very time-oriented person.”
“I’m trying to get him to realize that he is my ticket to doing this as a living,” he said. “He could definitely do this solo, but I almost rely on his vision, cause it’s not anything I couldn’t do by myself either, but not to my satisfaction. He just needs a little push, and he can make really crazy shit happen.”
That mutual understanding is one that will bring plenty of success — as I wrote in the None the Wiser album review, their ability to complement each other makes for a smooth listening experience without the jagged edges of anxiety that come from working with less compatible partners.
Macalla went on to describe their style as difficult to break down.
“We’re not fitting into one box or anything. When someone asks me what music I make I just kinda have to show them cause I can’t really explain it.”
And he’s right — their hip-hop and R&B influences are worn on the sleeve, but Gonzo’s deep sample library and willingness to bring in a wide array of instruments make them hard to pin down to a single genre. That elusive quality along with their immense talent makes Macalla confident in reaching for the stars. If you’ve followed him on Instagram, you’re familiar with the following sentiment:
“It’s funny cause OutKast is one of the best duos of all time,” he said. “It’s just tough because when I listen to them I’m like ‘I think we’re better than this.’ And that’s a heinous statement, even blasphemous, but I tell [Gonzo] all the time this is nothing we can’t do, but our sound is not there yet. If you compare us versus OutKast, OutKast wins 1000% of the time. But our ceiling is higher.”
“He’s so fucking good I just want the world to know that.”-Beez, on Gonzo’s musical talent
As far as Macalla would tell it, these are two hardworking and skilled young men that are willing to put themselves out there with the confidence that their music can make an impact on people.
And even in quarantine they continue to record and release fantastic music — ”Doc Gooden” came out in early May and shows the pairing at their best: trading bars effortlessly while evoking strong emotions of young love. The single keeps racking up streams. Check it out before the hype train leaves the station!