After a rigorous journey filled with plenty of ups and downs and false starts, Chicago-based rapper Gemstones (formerly known as Gemini) has finally arrived at his moment.
Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, Gemstones first stepped onto the national stage as a primary artist on Lupe Fiasco’s 1st and 15th imprint. Memorable appearances on Fiasco’s LPs Food & Liquor and The Cool earned him a considerable buzz in the industry and led to an appearance on the MTV special “My Block: Chicago.” He then dropped a string of popular mixtapes in preparation of his scheduled 2009 debut album, Troubles of the World, but right before dropping the project the rising star left it all behind to answer a call from God.
Now slowly but surely, Gem has reasserted himself into the rap world and he’s ready to touch lives in a positive way with his poignant message.
Perhaps a sign that his time is indeed right now, former label head Lupe Fiasco recently released a newly produced music video for their almost 10-year-old song “Just Might Be OK,” from the Food & Liquor album. Directed by Chris & Blaq of Impakt Studios, the video takes a look at various everyday Chicagoans as their visuals serve as a backdrop for Fiasco’s bars and Gemstones’ powerful vocals.
Rolling out recently sat down with the buzzing emcee to talk about his brief foray into gospel-flavored music and his long awaited debut album, Blind Elephant, deemed one of the most anticipated albums of 2015.
Who are some of your main musical influences?
Adele, Andre 3000, Gnarls Barkley, Carl Thomas, Jodeci, Bill Withers, and Michael Jackson.
Was there a particular song or even a specific moment when you knew you’d pursue music professionally?
I always knew I wanted to pursue music because I’ve been rapping since I was in the third grade. But in 1997 when Bad Boy was running the game and I saw Mase doing his thing I was convinced that this was exactly what I wanted to do with my life and that I was not going to college.
After initially bursting on the scene with your work on Lupe Fiasco’s first two albums, you were gearing up to drop your debut project Troubles of the World, but then forayed into gospel music. What was the inspiration in going that route?
At the time when I was with Lupe, I felt the Lord really pulling all my heart. I tried ignoring him as long as I could because I knew if I gave him any of my attention that I would have to live a holy life and stop doing the negative things that I was intentionally doing. God made everything uncomfortable for me, I didn’t enjoy drinking, smoking or anything anymore. The last straw was when I received the news that my best friend passed away and it was at that point that I said “OK God you have my attention. I surrender.” It wasn’t that I wanted to specially do gospel music. Music was in my soul and I didn’t want to give up on it so I was willing to pursue whatever genre was closest to the God I was preparing to serve. I later found out that I didn’t want to be considered a gospel artist because it would put me in a box. What I do is not considered gospel music. You can’t put a title on what I do. All I know is that it’s for the soul and it’s from God.
Speaking of Lupe, in the wake of current events, what’s your take on the timeliness of releasing the video for “Just Might Be OK”?
I think the timing on Lupe releasing the video is perfect! I mean absolutely perfect timing! On top of everything we see going on in the news, with my album dropping soon, I honestly feel that this was 1st & 15th’s subliminal way of telling me they still support what I’m doing as well. FNF will forever be my family. This couldn’t have been a more perfect time to drop that video.
What can you tell us about your new album, Blind Elephant?
Quite simply, my album, Blind Elephant, is what the game’s been missing. I really feel like it’s what the world needs right now. This album is inspired by my everyday struggles and I just want people to be able to relate to it. The only featured guests on this project are my wife and my daughter. The production was done by Stanley Meeks, JR, RavO and the ink scores.
How does Gemstones differ from the artist we first got to know almost 10 years ago?
My heart has changed. My outlook on life is completely different now. My aim is different. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior now and my message is more broad.
Do you think more artists, especially Chicago artists, should make an effort to speak more positivity into their music ?
I definitely think artists should speak more positivity in their music. We hold life and death in the power of the tongue. That’s the thing I think people fail to realize. Words are so powerful. Words create worlds.
What is your creative process like?
I pray, turn the beat on, and just zone out. It’s really as simple as that.
Name one thing fans would be surprised to know about you?
One thing my fans will be surprised to know about me is that I dread having to write songs. I only enjoy the finished product when I’m done painting the record. It’s excruciating painful to have to sit down at the kitchen table for hours writing a record.
What’s in the immediate future for Gemstones?
After this album, the fans can look forward to me launching my record label in the near very future.
Blind Elephant is available now in stores and all digital retail outlets.