The Come Up Show caught up with Gemstones to discuss his upcoming projects and what brought him to where he is today. We spoke for over an hour, and the result is a 4-part interview series in which Gemstones opens up on a wide variety of subjects, from working with Lupe, to the death of his close friend St. Nic, to his beginnings as a rapper. Last week we gave you part 2, in which Gemstones talks about working on The Cool with Lupe Fiasco, meeting Kanye West, his friendship with St. Nic, and Chilly’s legacy. Part 3 of our interview with Gemstones picks up where we left off: we talks about his faith, On The Road To Glory: My Story, and what he took from Gemini’s persona. Read the full interview below.
TCUS: I read an interesting story about how your were first baptized as a kid, could you tell it again?
Gemstones: Oh, wooowww! That little boy! That little innocent boy who didn’t know what he was doing! I stayed in this neighbourhood called Bush, and on Fridays, these church people would come in the neighbourhood – these white guys in suits. I stayed in a black and latino community, so just picture this little, innocent kid. I couldn’t have been older than five, six years old. These tall, handsome white men would come to our area on Fridays, and try to recruit kids and teenagers to come to their church out in Indiana. And I’m in Chicago. And in order to get us, they would say, “we’re going to bring this big yellow school bus, and if you come to church with us, we’ll take you guys to a carnival.” I’m like, “a carnival? A real live carnival, sir?” They’re like, “yes. You get on the ferris wheels, you ride the roller coasters…” I [said], “ohh ma, I wanna go, I wanna go!” All the neighbourhood wanted to go. And so they would take us to church, and then the treat later was, they would take us to a carnival. So this one Sunday, they came and grabbed us. And my mother told my older sister, “watch your little brother. Wherever he goes, you go.” So I’m sitting in the church, on the front pew. [I’m] a little boy, [so] my feet were dangling on the pew.
I always heard that if you get baptized, you go underwater and you can hear Jesus’ voice talk to you. My cousins always said that myth, and I always believed this. You go underwater, [and] you would hear Jesus say “hellooooo Demarcoooo, what are you doinggggg?”
Gemstones: I used to be in the tub with my rubber ducky, and I would try to put my face underwater to hear, but I was scared I would drown, because I was so small. Then sometimes I’d be at my grandmother’s house, [and] I would see my older cousins running bathwater. So before they jumped in their bathwater, or put their soap in it, I would say, “I gotta use the washroom!” And I would sneak in the washroom and I would pee real fast. And I would look over at the tub, and a lightbulb would [go off], like “here’s my chance to talk to Jesus”. So I would go over to the tub, but I was scared I would slip – that’s how small I was. I was afraid that I would slip over in the tub and drown. I would pull myself up on the tub, somehow, [and] I would put half of my face in and get scared, and dry my face off like I hadn’t just [done] that.
I’m saying all that to say this. Fast forward, I’m at these people’s church. And I hear the words, “if you’re nice, you’ll get right with Jesus right now! Get baptized!” And I said, “this is my big chance to hear Jesus talk to me.” All I remember is, they formed a line for the people who were gonna get baptized, and I was with all these grown men in these big white robes. And they had swimming caps on. And I remember, I put on this big robe, and I remember standing in the line and I wasn’t even taller than these guys’ kneecaps. I don’t know what I was doing. I was just walking in line, I went in a locker room with all these big men in there, and I’m in there… this little kid. But I guess it says “come as you are.” No-one judged me, no-one asked why, or “where’s his parents?” Maybe they just knew. So I walked, and then it was my turn. I went up these stairs, and it was a huuuge church. They did the baptisms in the balcony. The church was on the floor down here, and if you looked up, you could see the people getting baptized way in the air, on like the third floor somewhere. So then he said, “what’s your name, son?” And I said, “Demarco.” And he took me under. Sploosh! It was so fast, the water was cold! And I’m searching for God, I get under there, [and] I didn’t hear Jesus talk! So now, I’m kinda heated! I’m like, “where is Jesus? I’m searching for this man. Where is he? I wanna hear his voice!” […] and I remember my sister there [being told], “that’s your little brother up there with the white robe on!” I remember hearing my sister go, “oooohh you in troubleeee!!”
Gemstones: She said it loud. Like, the only little girl’s voice. And I got baptized, and she grabbed my hand, like “you’re in trouble! What were you doing up there?!” I was like, “I don’t know! I just wanted to hear…” And I don’t know what happened to me that day, but my stomach was hurting for the rest of the day. And I told my mom. When I got home, I laid down [and] threw up. You know, my mom was angry at me, she was [saying], “boy, what if something woulda happened and someone snatched you!”
But at an early age, I just think about how God has been [with] me since I was a little boy. He’s always been in my corner. Because even after my friend died, I remember when I saw things going on, when I was out here fornicating in the world, and doing bogus stuff that I had no business doing… I would always hear God in my heart, talking to me, telling me, “yo, this is not you, stop. You don’t wanna die in sin.” And I’m not putting my beliefs on no-one else. This is just what my belief [is]. Even when I was out here [as] Gemini, with the braids, drinking and smoking and cursing… I knew deep in my heart [that] there was something deeper. And my soul yearned for something more than these tangible things that I was receiving, because I didn’t find happiness in money. I didn’t know that I would wake up one day and be making songs like “XL” and “You Gotta Believe (Never Give Up)”, and “Skeletons”. I thought, if it was left up to me, as a human, I would have still been making songs like “shoot ’em up, bang bang”, “Bustdown”, and just negative records. But God – and I don’t mean to get spiritual, forgive me if I’m getting spiritual and churchy – [there] has always been a calling in my life, I just know it.
That’s how the album Road To Glory came about. I still don’t know the words to Road To Glory. And [that album] came out in 2010. But I’m saying [this] to say that it wasn’t me who did it. I was just being used as a vessel. Because once Road To Glory was done, I didn’t even know any of the words! Of that entire album, I [knew] none of the words. I still don’t know the words to “Where Would I Be”.
To this day, if you told me to rap the song “Where Would I Be” right now, I could not rap it.
Gemstones: There’s this song I’ve got called “Deeds”. Every time I perform this song, I get to a certain part [and] I stumble on all my words. My last show, I paused and had to let the crowd sing it, because I didn’t know it. And it’s not because I don’t want to know [my songs], it’s because it’s God showing me that “dude, it wasn’t you that wrote these lyrics. I just used you to deliver the message. These are my words.”
And I get e-mails every day, all day, from people. Grown men and women crying, and dude, if you go to my facebook page right now, someone just left a message on my page and said, “dude, I was about to commit suicide. But I heard your records. I heard your record “Time”, and I heard you say something else.”
He was like, “I was suicidal, I was ready to leave. But thank God for you, Gemstones, [and] this music that you’re doing. It gives me hope to live another day.” And that’s more than dollars could ever do for me. I mean, it’s priceless, for someone to…. And you have to know, I get these types of e-mails all the time. This one dude was five hundred-some pounds, [and] he’s down to like two-twenty now, after hearing my song “XL”.
He’s lost all of that weight! There were girls that were being abused in their homes, raped… I get e-mails [telling me] “you freed me. I was able to free my skeletons, because of these songs that you’re making. Thank you.” And I just want them to know, it’s not me, it’s God. I just allow myself to be used. And I’m not rich right now. And I just feel like, man, if I was rich and famous… had I got rich and famous back in 2006, I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be what I am now. I wouldn’t be in this mind state. I would have sold my soul. Because in 2006, when I was Gemini, I was trying to sell my soul. I wanted the glamour, the glitz, I wanted to be rich. I wanted to do songs with Jay-Z. I wanted to do songs with all the biggest artists. And I [didn’t] care what it took for me to do it, I was gonna do it. Whatever it took for me to get a Benz at that time, [or] a mansion… I would have done it. And I was selling my soul.
But God had a different plan for me. So right now, no, I’m not rich in the pockets. But I am rich in the soul. People come to my shows, and it’s not a performance. I don’t know what to call it. It’s an experience. We’ve got people at my shows that are drinking and drunk, and getting ready to go fornicate, and by the end of my show, it’s silent. You could hear a pin drop. Everybody’s in there praying before we leave. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not church. But I’m just like, “yo, do you guys pray?” And everybody says, “yeah, we pray.” So I’ll say, “before I leave the stage, can we just pray that we all make it home safe? I know there’s some people in here going through stuff, because we’re human.” You feel what I’m saying? We’re human. “You laugh, you cry, you hurt, you smell, you use the washroom… I know that I’m not the only person with problems. Y’all [are] here to see me perform, and I still [have] problems. So I know there [are] y’all out here in the audience with problems. So can we pray?” Boy, I’m talking about [even] the bartenders that are back there making money off the bar… everything stops. It’s quiet. The music stops, [and] everybody’s in there praying. Crying and praying.
And I get offstage, and then the next artist goes on, and they’re looking like “what the hell? What is this?” He doesn’t even know what to do now. Because these people are on a high now. Their souls have been touched. And then [he] gets up [after], and he’s talking about some “shawty let me hit you in the butt, let me have sex with you…” And I just got off there and gave the listeners a message. So it’s kinda hard to go [after] me.
TCUS: People are still fans of your music that you made when you were Gemini. How do you personally identify with that music that you made during that period now?
Gemstones: Oh yeah. It’s crazy you speak of that, [because] I just heard Untamed Beast for the first time in a long time last week. My guy was playing this, [telling me] “I play this CD every day.” I was like, “wow.” He was playing it, and when I was listening to it, it was like a whole [different] person. I didn’t even hear [myself]. I was like “who is that guy?” But, if it wasn’t for Gemini, there would be no me. I had to go through that. I had to rap those raps to be able to become who I am today. The caterpillar, if he wasn’t a caterpillar, he couldn’t have turned into a butterfly. You feel me? The butterfly didn’t just come out of the cocoon as a butterfly, nah! You gotta go through that [period]. So when I hear it, I’m just like “wow, that’s a talented young guy.”
But what I will take from Gemini… Gemini did hold something that I didn’t take with me when I did Testimony and when I did Road To Glory. There was one thing that I should have taken from Gemini that I left. I didn’t take the confidence that Gemini had. There was a confidence that that young man had, like, “I know I got it.” It wasn’t conceited, it was just a confidence. And so that’s the confidence that I went back to get, and I’m gonna have it on Elephant In The Room.
TCUS: That’s good to hear!
Gemstones: Man, there’s this record I just did on Elephant In The Room to the Adele beat. I wish you could hear it right now, I have it sitting with me.
TCUS: I would love to hear it right now.
Gemstones: I wish you had the copy of it. When I say this record is that record, like it’s gonna ruffle some feathers, and [the] lyrical content, the aggression, it’s all there. It’s dope. But I think I’mma shoot a video for it, I think I wanna release it with a video. Gemini was really talented, man. But I believe Gemstones is Gemini times ten.
So like I was saying, rewinding, I may never die rich in the pockets. But I can tell you, I’m rich in the soul, and I’m happy now. And to be able to help people, to hear people say “your music gets me through,” dude, there’s no feeling like that in the world. Had I been rich and famous, who knows? This interview probably wouldn’t have happened. This interview here, I mean, I would never have been able to tell my story. Because I still would have been hiding behind the mask. People wouldn’t have known that I got baptized at five years old, and Jesus, and God…. gangstas don’t tell that type of story. It’s a facade you’ve got to keep up. So I’m glad it happened that way.
Check back next week for part 4 as Gemstones talks about sleeping in his car, putting a label on his music, and what he still wants to accomplish.