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Louisville’s EST Gee learned how to focus on the football field

The rapper’s new release is ‘Bigger Than Life or Death’

With the release of rapper EST Gee’s latest mixtape, Bigger Than Life or Death, making the rounds this week, fans of the Louisville, Kentucky, native may be surprised to learn about his sports background. Before making a name for himself in the music industry and collaborating with chart-topping rappers such as Lil Baby and Yo Gotti, George Stone III was a first-team all-state athlete at Saint Xavier High School, a private all-boys Catholic school.

In his four seasons at Saint Xavier, Stone lettered in basketball, football and track, and was ranked as the top linebacker in the state of Kentucky. As a senior in 2012, he received a football scholarship to play for Indiana State University, where he spent two years before transferring to Sacramento City College for one season, and transferred to Stephen F. Austin State University for his final two collegiate seasons.

Even as a professional football career appeared to be on the horizon, Stone was also writing music. In 2017, he released his first single, “Stains,” while trying to make the roster for the CFL’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers. After being cut during the preseason, Stone had a decision to make: football or rap. He decided to pursue music professionally and created the acronym EST – Everybody Shine Together – with his nickname Gee (for George) to become EST Gee.

In 2019, EST Gee began to gain a local following in Louisville, self-releasing two albums, El Toro and Die Bloody, before being struck by multiple personal tragedies. In September 2019, after filming a video with rapper Sada Baby, EST Gee was shot five times (four in the stomach and once in his eye). While recovering from his injuries, he began writing his next album Ion Feel Nun. In 2020, his mother died of leukemia. His brother was murdered soon after. Through it all, EST Gee continued making music. Soon, his beats began to pick up traction in the Southern and Midwestern rap circuits. In December, he released his second album of 2020, I Still Don’t Feel Nun, which included collaborations with Yo Gotti, 42 Dugg, Moneybagg Yo and Jack Harlow.

In January, Yo Gotti signed EST Gee to his Collective Music Group (CMG) label and made sure the 27-year-old was feeling the love by giving him a $750,000 cash advance on Instagram Live. “I know a star and hustler when I see one and EST Gee is up next,” Yo Gotti said in a statement about the signing. “He got what it takes.” Soon after, EST Gee teamed up with Lil Baby for the track “Real As It Gets,” which cracked the Top 40 this spring.

The Undefeated spoke with EST Gee about his athletic career, his relationship with Yo Gotti and his newest project, Bigger Than Life or Death.

What were some life lessons that your athletic career taught you?

Football taught me to focus on the things that I can control – you can work hard, try your best and still not get the right outcome. But that experience helped me become a winner. I won in sports, I won in the streets, I’m winning in music and I’m winning in life right now.

Describe your recruiting process in high school.

The recruiting process motivated me to outwork everybody else around me. I had to work hard in high school, impress the recruiters and create an opportunity for me to succeed. I took the same approach to choosing a college [Indiana State] as I did with deciding to sign with Yo Gotti’s CMG and Warlike. I wanted to work with a team that had a vision for me and was ready to invest in my success. It was the same in college.

Where do you find inspiration when creating music?

I find my inspiration from my everyday life. My creative process is true to my life. What you hear me rapping about is exactly what I live – for the most part – and giving fans my views or opinions on it. My music showcases my hustler’s mentality and how I made it out of the trenches.

Who were your favorite artists growing up?

It’s probably a tie between Future and Boosie, for sure.

What are some albums/mixtapes that you still listen to and why?

I have to go with my own projects – I Still Don’t Feel Nun, Ion Feel Nun, Die Bloody and El Toro. I have love and respect for other people’s work, but I’m always gonna go with my music first. But I definitely be bumping other artists’ s—.

How does it feel to get love from Lil Baby and have him compare you to Young Jeezy?

Baby is a real one. At the end of the day, real recognizes real and we would’ve locked in life regardless of the music. … If we sold apples or sneakers, we would’ve connected. You can’t deny the real.

What has been the biggest moment of your career?

Having my new tape, Bigger Than Life or Death, come out on my mama’s birthday will probably be the biggest thing. For me, it’s much bigger than me.

What was the reason for giving the project this name?

Even if I die, there’s already been so much work put into developing my legacy and it doesn’t matter what happens now. Regardless, I’ll be legendary. Now I just want to be immortalized. When you’re immortalized, the world is gonna talk about you. 

Calvin Sykes is a graduate student in sports science at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, Fla. A native of Miami, Sykes was the sideline reporter for the Florida A&M Rattlers football from 2018-2020, program director for the school’s radio station WANM FM 90.5, and has written for HBCU GameDay.