Over the years, Pittsburgh has produced many musical talents. Gregg Gillis, who performs under the name Girl Talk, is among those who made it big with Night Ripper, Feed the Animals, and All Day, high-energy mash-up albums that filled dance floors in the early aughts. Now local music fans will see Gillis joining another Pittsburgh legend, rapper Wiz Khalifa, along with Big K.R.I.T. and Smoke DZA, for Full Court Press.
Gillis began collaborating individually with Khalifa, K.R.I.T., and DZA in 2017. The result is being described as the first full-length collaborative album from Girl Talk.
"To me, the ultimate goal is always to make something interesting," says Gillis in a press release. "There were points where I could have gone down a certain lane, catering what I release to my specific audience, but I always want to focus on what is exciting to me at the present moment and not to worry about anyone else's expectations."
While work on Full Court Press may have started in 2017, the project is just now seeing the light of day. Meeting in Los Angeles for multi-day study sessions, the four melded their unique sounds to form a project that brings together the best of what each has to offer.
"These guys all go back with each other over 10 years, so it was just a great energy in the room," says Gillis.
He says Wiz, K.R.I.T., and DZA all have very different styles, and that, as a fan of their music, he wanted to "capture what it is that draws me to their music." In 2010, Gillis even kicked off the opening of Stage AE by "making 2,400 people go apeshit" to what was then Khalifa's new, Pittsburgh-defining single, "Black and Yellow."
"I just wanted to have an environment where these guys could do what they do best; just try out a bunch of different ideas and have fun with it," says Gillis. "Then I took all of the material home, remixed some of it, tried out different combinations, and assembled the final album. There were a lot of songs and ideas that I really liked that didn't make the final cut. I wanted to make sure it worked as a whole project, from front to back."
"Put You On," the single from the album, is a '70s-style track layered with smooth harmonies as the musicians go bar for bar with each other (watch the YouTube video below). The album also includes “Ready For Love,” described as Khalifa "slathering his voice in multi-part harmonies" over a Chic sample played by Nile Rodgers.
Gillis has also collaborated with other artists to great success. In 2014, Girl Talk released the Broken Ankles EP with Freeway and worked with T-Pain and Ty Dolla $ign.
"With any particular sample or beat, I usually have a strong idea of what I'd like to do with it," says Gillis. "But when working with other people, it might go somewhere else completely. Sometimes it's difficult for me to shake what I originally had in mind. I think that's partially because I spent so many years working alone, in complete control of every detail. It's both exciting and challenging to be pushed creatively, and in the best situations, you find yourself enjoying someone else's ideas more than what you originally had planned."
He adds, "That's something that I'm really proud of with Full Court Press. It turned out significantly different than what I originally expected. It's a unique intersection of all of our work."
In addition to the album, Girl Talk will also go on the road this spring, with an April 30 show at Stage AE in Pittsburgh. Full Court Press will be released in its entirety on April 8.