G-Eazy Releases 'Angel' 5 Months After His Mother's Death: 'I Kept Feeling Her Presence Dancing'

The rapper shares exclusively with PEOPLE that he is starting an arts scholarship program in his late mother's honor

G-Eazy has a tough time answering the question, "How are you?"

"I choose to look people in their eyes and say, 'I don't know,'" the rapper tells PEOPLE just months after his mom, Suzanne Olmsted, died in November.

But where words fail, the 32-year-old turns to music to express how he feels. He released "Angel" on Friday, his late mother's birthday.

"The song is about trying to connect to somebody who you've lost in this physical realm," G-Eazy (born Gerald Earl Gillum) says.

He sings in its chorus, "I met an angel, an angel, who told me she knew someone who looked just like me. So I asked her to tell her something for me."

cover of G-Eazy's 'Angel'
G-Eazy's "Angel". Courtesy G-Eazy

"As I was recording the song, I kept feeling the presence of her energy dancing to the chorus," G-Eazy says. He adds with a laugh, "Her favorite thing in the world was to come to my shows, and smoke her joints and dance to my music when I performed."

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G-Eazy fans know how much Olmsted means to him. She frequently attended his shows from the barricade or side of the stage. In September, while performing at BottleRock in Napa Valley, the rapper FaceTimed her and said, "'I just wanted to show you this crowd today so they could say hi to you,'" according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Olmsted's passing meant losing both his mother and his "best friend." "I think this was the single thing I was the most afraid of in my entire life," says The Beautiful & Damned artist. "My mom meant so much to me. And it just didn't feel real."

g eazy mom
Suzanne Olmsted. g eazy/ instagram

G-Eazy acknowledges he has "avoided" some parts of the grieving process so far, but making "Angel" was about "facing that experience head-on."

Later in the track, he sings, "'Cause how I feel is something no one knows." While he's grown closer to his brother James and leans on some of his best friends, he ultimately finds grief to be a lonely experience.

"It's your hurt, and it's your heartbreak to hold and heal from," says the rapper. "Other people are allowed to live their lives, but there's going to be a disconnect. I have at least felt a few times that I didn't want to bog other people down with what I was going through."

g eazy with mom and brother
James Gillum, Suzanne Olmsted and G-Eazy. Erika Goldring/Getty

The musician has put out hits like "Me, Myself & I" with Bebe Rexha and "No Limit" with Cardi B and A$AP Rocky. But his mom's favorite G-Eazy song was one he dropped on MySpace when he was a teen — before his career took off.

"She had this way of always being able to see the vision and imagine where I wanted to go with the music, before I realized," he shares.

He lovingly calls his mom, a former fine arts professor, a "weirdo" who taught him "a valuable lesson of embracing that uniqueness and individuality."

His childhood involved many trips to museums and galleries. He didn't think art was his thing, until he started listening to — and then making — hip-hop music. "I recognized some connection to the world that I'd been brought around so much as a kid by two parents who were visual artists."

In 2011, G-Eazy graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans, where he earned his B.A. in Music Industry Studies. It was a promise to his mother, kept.

"There's a million times where I wanted to jump out. I was pursuing music, I was going out on weekends to tour, to open up whatever shows I'd get booked on," he says. "But seeing it through and finishing out my degree was something that meant a lot to my mom and to my grandma. And one of the reasons why I stuck with it and ended up graduating."

To keep her love for arts education alive, G-Eazy is working on starting a scholarship program in her honor. The Dandelion Scholarship will reward $15,000 to one U.S. arts major annually. Applications will open this summer.

After Olmsted's death, G-Eazy paid tribute on Instagram with a series of throwback photos and a voice memo she left him, in which she tells her son she's "so proud" of him.

G-Eazy. Getty

In the post, he revealed the role that his mother played in his decision to seek treatment for his substance abuse.

"As deeply as I was worried about you and your physical health, I didn't realize the extent of just how worried you were about me until you sent me the hardest letter I've ever had to read…," he wrote. "Going to treatment for alcohol and drugs was my decision but your letter was what ultimately persuaded me."

He continued, "Like you would always say, 'one step at a time and don't look at the summit'. I love you so much."

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