GOOD PEOPLEZ, is a rap duo made up of Roberto Martin (Berto) and Jacob Gibson (Jacob). These two GOOD souls, describe themselves in this way: “Influenced by all genres and music styles, GOOD PEOPLEZ aspire to be the change they wish to see in the world.” Their music heals and energizes all at the same time. THATLOWD sat down with GOOD PEOPLEZ right before one of their latest performances and talked about their journey, their spiritual and emotional connection with music, and what’s the road ahead.
How did you guys meet each other?
Jacob: We met at Cal Arts, the college we both went to. We were part of the hip hop events that were going on at our school. The more and more we hung out with each other, the more we saw each other perform, it just became evident that we vibed together and that’s where it all started.
Berto: We went to school for theatre. I definitely remember meeting Jake and being relieved that there was somebody who was like me and would understand me at my school. I was very impressed by what he was doing, by his music. He stood out among the people that came up to me to share their music. When I listened to Jake’s I was like “daaaamn, that’s what’s up.”
How did you start making music?
Berto: I did a lot of spoken word. I would do poems everywhere. Then one of my friends got involved into this program called “BUMP Records,” which is a nonprofit for musicians that teaches you to be part of a record label and learn about the whole process, from making music to marketing it. So when I decided to go to Cal Arts, I did so because I knew that there, I would have the opportunity to work on different things with a team of people with different talents and strengths, use their studio facilities, and satisfy my mom by studying acting while still being able to do my rapping.
Jake: The first thing music related for me was piano. I definitely feel like I was in love with music before I even considered words. I learned how to play the piano, the guitar, the drums. Then in high school somebody kept nagging me to freestyle with them, and freestyle with them, and freestyle with them. We smoked a blunt and I was like “okay fuck it.” I freestyled, got the bug, and that’s where I started rapping.
Is this what you do full-time?
Berto: Yes, GOOD PEOPLEZ and acting is what we do full time.
Jake: I’d say “We strive to be GOOD PEOPLEZ full time.”
What’s the one moment when you realized: I gotta make music a full-time thing?
Berto: I definitely remember being around twelve years old and singing a whole bunch of Boyz 2 Men greatest hits in my room. I mean… singing songs like I was practicing for my moment, you know? Then, one day I sat my mom and my sister down, I was nervous to say it, but I told them “Yo, I want to be a singer when I grew up.” I didn’t quite become a singer, but I do music.
Jacob: It’s hard to pinpoint a specific moment, but my dad tells this story of when I was little that is close to that “one moment.” I was little and my dad and I were in the car in Kansas City, the city where I grew up. We were listening to some Jazz or something like that on the public radio and I said “Dad no one hears music the way I hear music.” I feel so vividly this specific quality to music that I know it’s my own and I feel like a big purpose of Berto and I being here is to use this feeling to connect to people through music that talks about our experiences. When it comes to making music, I don’t think I have much choice in the matter.
What’s the one person you would want to do a dream collaboration with?
Berto: Growing up I remember really, really, really liking Jay-Z. I know it’s not the coolest thing to say, but I definitely remember being like “I want to be like Jay-Z and successful.” I’ve definitely been motivated by becoming successful, especially to give back to my mom and to the family members that have sacrificed so much for our family during tough times. There are other artists I would love to collaborate with. That being said, I know that if I collaboration with Jay-Z—when we collaboration with Jay-Z—that would be the bees knees.
Carolina: You know what’s funny? Kind of random but somebody I know apparently hangs with Jay-Z often. So there you go, maybe we can make something happen.
Jacob: See Berto, it’s not too far away! Six degrees of separation.
What’s that, “six degrees of separation?”
Jacob: They say that everyone is connected by six degrees of separation. For instance, you know this person, and this person knows Jay-Z. Between you and this person there is one degree of separation, and between us and you there is one degree of separation. So it’s only there are only two degrees of separation between us and Jay-Z.
How about you Jake, Beyoncé?
What are the highlights of your career so far?
Berto: Our sponsorship with the Squad, the clothing company that does out merchandise and dresses us for special events. It’s dope to have people that focus on clothing for us. The best part of our sponsorship is definitely the amount of collaboration there is between us and the Squad. Whenever it’s time to design new merchandise, we go to the Squad’s warehouse and are able to decide how to the design the merchandise with them. Another highlight is getting our first record label offer. We didn’t end up going for it because of some terms or whatever, but to know that there are people out there willing to give us money— just believe in our music—that’s when we looked at ourselves and realized stuff was happening.
Jacob: Also, Converse invited us to record in their studio in the art district some time ago. Highlights… it’s hard to pinpoint a highlight because I feel like every time we perform, if one person hears and feels what we are saying that’s all it takes. I feel like I’m constantly blessed to perform and have that be that moment when I say that this is right, we are on the right track and we are doing what’s important.
Berto: There are a lot of highlights’ because we celebrate every little thing. Last week, our highlight was that we were invited to perform at our first music festival. We were able to bring our friends in for free and share this moment with them. Another highlight is that we were shooting a music video, we had everything done, we had the idea, and then we realized that to make that idea happen we would have needed a couple of thousands dollars. The highlight in that is that one person that believes in the idea and in GOOD PEOPLEZ decided to pay for the entire video. Little stuff like that. Highlights come from the support of people just like you, right now. Supporting this. This is what has been making us grow and move forward.
Jacob: The universe is being very supportive, and people are being supportive. We’ve had people come up to us a couple of times and say our music has helped them. That’s the ultimate highlight right there: knowing that, as much as making music helps us for ourselves, it’s also helping other people help themselves.
A lot of your music has an uplifting, good-vibes kind of feeling to it. You describe GOOD PEOPLEZ as “aspiring to be the change they wish to see in the world.” When we think of this we think of songs like “ U R the Greatest” and “Standing Ovation,” “Everything is Good, “Flyght,” such positive lyrics. “U R The Greatest” gives us chills. What motivated you to bring your music in this direction?
Jacob: It’s hard to put words on something that’s very beyond words for us.
Berto: We changed a lot. We were always doing music and stuff. We connected because…. *Jake laughs because he knows the truth is about to come out* ….all the girls liked Jake and all the girls liked me so we were like “ayyyyy let’s make this music together and have fun.” Next thing we know, we are at parties in situations where the coolest kid in school is best friends with the other coolest kid in school. We embraced it and it was all love. We were making music, we were having fun. And then, to keep it solid, Jake’s cousin passed away, and my family passed away. And that’s when I feel like spirituality, which was already there a little bit, really came into our lives. That changed our whole perspective and that channeled into our music. All of a sudden, it wasn’t just “we’re going to make music and be popular.” It became “holy shit, these people passed away and these are the things that they taught me. This is people in my family, this is their legacy and I want to continue that legacy, and the way that I can do it is through my art.
Jacob: That’s what I mean by “because of our experiences up to this point, we have no choice but to do the work that we are doing.”
“Ballin”, “Rollin”, “Get Ya Head Right” and “Saved My Life” are kind of a different genre of songs when compared to some other material you’ve put out that I have just mentioned. They are more aggressive. Can you tell me a bit more about the process of writing these songs?
Berto: “Ballin” was definitely 100% my personal diary entry. I connected rapping with my uncle super hard, he used to show me a lot of gangsta rap. I always had this torn thing where I am not gangster at all. That would always make me feel nervous and untruthful about the rap game, almost like “Imma be found out that I am a good person.” That’s what I love about GOOD PEOPLEZ. GOOD PEOPLEZ allowed me to be my full self, it made me realize that being a good loving person is cool and I can still be successful that way. And then, honestly I am from the fucking hood but I don’t have to say it. “Ballin” was created because I wanted to make a gift to my mother. All the women in my family were having a hard time with my dad passing and other people passing. This was my way to tell them that I’m in LA doing well and though it’s hard times now it’s going to be fine in the future. “Get Ya Head Right” was a song I wrote in tribute to the people that were close to us that passed away. We make mantras with ourselves like: ”Wit luv.” and “Get ya head right, buckle up, take flight.” That was a time when I was fucking going through it. I was telling myself “if you get your head right, buckle up cause you’re gonna take flight.” The first verse was for my cousin, the second one for our good friend, and the last one was for my father. It was just to vent, you know. “Saved My Life” like a lot of those songs came through a time when we were fucking struggling. Regarding “Saved My Life” … we found out that our good friend and the producer of the beat of that track was having a hart time. He is in Oakland and we can’t physically be with him every day. So we thought it would be helpful for him if we made a song over that beat, made a music video, produce it, make it dope so that he could listen to the song, watch the video, and understand that we still have his back and we are there for him no matter what. A lot of the lyrics in “Saved My Life” came out of frustration and are aggressive because that’s what we were feeling at that moment. Also, if you notice, the song starts rough and aggressive and the towards the end it becomes melodic, hopeful and light.
Jake: We are storytellers. We are going to tell you about ourselves and also connect with people’s stories. I think that to try to cover and show a full spectrum of emotions and stories and then still show that being a good person is a choice, putting good thoughts in your head is a choice, finding joy or being kind is a choice, that’s what we do and what we want to keep doing. All this bad shit can happen, and it happens. There is so many awful things that can happen but no matter what, take ownership of that choice and in making that choice your entire life changes.
Berto: Jacob created this line that I repeat to myself when I’m pissed: “It is a choice to reside in the light, come and see what it is like.” When my cousin passed away, my uncle called me and told me. I was in a car with a friend, he started crying because he knows how close I was with my cousin. At that time, he said to me: “This is why we do bad things.” His cousin had just died some time before so he was going down that path. And that’s when him and I went separate ways. Because I realized that “nah, this is why we do good things.
There is this quote I want to show you.
*Berto pulls up his phone to show us this quote*
Berto: Alright, I saved here, Here it is: “Your story is not about what has happened to you or what you have done, it is about who you have chosen to be given all that.” I look at people, not to be corny, like Nelson Mandela. Not the person who had this hard life and became this hardened person, but this person who had this extremely hard life and they went to Harvard, became CEOs, etc.… In general, all this bad stuff happened to them and they still choose to be a good person and reside in the light. That is real strength. It’s easier if you are working with someone to say “fuck you” than to say “this is frustrating, however I love you and I want to keep working with you and let’s see what we can work on to make this better.” No one is hard, feel your skin. We are all soft. *I actually kept on touching my arm and I realized that , yes, I am soft. And I LOVE it.*
While being on GOOD PEOPLEZ, you have released some solo tracks, for example “Ballin” for Berto and “Flyght” for Jake. Was that intentional? Also, those tracks are very different from each other, are you guys different from each other or are you more of the same person?
Jacob: We balance each other. It’s not that one of us has qualities that the other doesn’t posses. I think of a Yin and Yang symbol: it fits together, it flows into each other and even at their biggest differences there is still a little part of the other in it. We bounce off each other and we reflect on each other, we can act like a mirror, we can contrast each other, and this dynamic allows us to cover more ground and expand in different ways. In the future, I’m sure that there will be more songs that’s just Berto and more songs that’s just me but it’s still going to be a reflection of the same idea.
Berto: I would definitely say “We are the same person and we are completely fucking different” and then I’ll end it with “we are the same fucking person.” Specifically with those two tracks, it was the beginning of GOOD PEOPLEZ. When we started it, Jake already had Flyght recorded, the video shot, and said “Yo, I’m releasing this as GOOD PEOPLEZ.” And then I released “Ballin” under GOOD PEOPLEZ. I’m the only one on the track but everyone in our GOOD PEOPLEZ crew helped produce it, promote it, make it happen, and record it. You’ll see videos that we will be dropping from now on and they will have the majority of us together. We all have the same ideas and the same values and we are supporting each other to achieve them. Sometimes that means that Jake will be the only one on the track and we will be supporting Jake, and then it’s going to be me and we’re supporting me, but it’s always GOOD PEOPLEZ. GOOD PEOPLEZ are a bunch of people, we are the face of it. It’s an idea and you can become a part of it if you work to achieve it. For example, if you came and start putting down for the set, you are GOOD PEOPLEZ. Costa (Costa Cimniello) is MVP GOOD PEOPLEZ right now. He is not on a single track and he directs our videos, edits them, and all that stuff.
What is the one thing that’s going to happen to you that will make you know that you’ve made it, that you’re “Ballin”?
Jacob: I know what I have in my mind. If I had to give you one material, monetary representation of me making it is this: I have always wanted to own a grand piano in a room that it sounds nice in.
Berto: My mom has always been working hard to take care of our huge ass family. I definitely would say I would know I made it once I pay off my student loan debt, pay off my mom’s and my sister’s student loan debt, and buy my mom a home and a red Mercedes like she has always wanted. Also, when we are in a different place, in a different country in a house we have just bought celebrating with all of our family members, that’s when we will know we have made it.
*Jake gets up and starts walking in a circle* and Berto says “That’s because he’s feeling it!” ha-ha
It’s definitely being able to do things for the people who we care for, help our families, our friends, offer jobs. Obviously, I wouldn’t want to blow my money, I’d want to be responsible.
What has been the hardest part of trying to work in the music industry?
Jacob: Just keeping the faith. Finding something that feels good to you so that you are operating from an inside-out place instead of an outside-in, relying on the outer word to tell you that you are worth it. Find that thing that makes it for you and have faith in that—and keep feeding it—trust in it, stoke the fire, work it, breathe with it, and just don’t let anybody take that from you. If you keep the faith everything else it’s just an obstacle, and you can get around that obstacle.
Berto: Yup, agreed. Sometimes you’d be doing well and life just goes like “PUUUUUUUF” *Berto fakes exploding and falling down the chair* and then it goes like “OOOOOOOHHHHH” *Berto slowly rises up the chair* and then “OOOOOOHHH” *Berto goes back down again* until you are like you’re like “AHHHHHH” *Berto rises up* !!! Sometimes you may have negative thoughts but then you have to remember yourself what you’re working for.
What’s the favorite track you have ever recorded?
Jacob: All of them, but my answer for right now, in this moment is “Everything Iz G –D.” That idea is something that I’m constantly reminding myself of. Whatever happens, everything is G –D.
Berto: That was one of our first tracks. It was just us in a room, with some nice studio equipment that was lent to us from a friend: we had no air conditioning and it was so damn hot. We recorded it by stepping outside the room to let the other do their thing and let the other now when they were ready so we could come back in. A lot of our shit is spiritual; making the music and performing it. My favorite song is “We Good,” we have so much fun performing that song too.
What are your plans for your immediate future, will you be releasing a “Good Intentionz Pt 2” soon? Can we get the exclusive?
Jacob: Oh yeah yeah yeah!!! There is definitely a “Good Intentionz Pt 2 coming.” We are about to take a little hiatus from doing a lot of shows for a bit and work on our new album, while doing some mixtapes. We got some good videos coming out as well. And you should expect a tour coming soon. We are trying to get outside of LA, get back to some of our hometowns, and some other places. We know the vibe we carry and the energy that we breathe to any performance and it’s just a matter of getting people to experience it.
Berto: Exactly that. We are going to focus on marketing, getting e-commerce out so we can start selling our clothes. We have two music videos in the works “Rollin” and “Standing Ovation”. We shot Rolling with an Action Camera with a Go Pro. We went on a mini vacation, so mini that it was WILD. We did some crazy shit. We didn’t even set stuff up for the music video, we just did certain things and we happened to document it with proof and I think that that’s what super dope about it. Also our friend animated over it, with some animation on top of the video. It’s some next level shit.
Thank you guys, you are amazing.