Interview by: Martin Bauman
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 3, in which Gemstones talks about his faith, On The Road To Glory: My Story, and what he took from Gemini’s persona. In the fourth and final part of our interview, Gemstones talks about sleeping in his car, putting a label on his music, and what he still wants to accomplish. Read the full interview below.
TCUS: At one point in your career, you were sleeping in your car. What was that period like?
Gemstones: I didn’t want to respect the rules at home. I grew older, and my mother always said, “once you can’t respect my rules anymore, it’s time for you to get your own.” And her husband and I, which is my stepfather, we began clashing. Remember the song “Won’t Be Long”, the one I talked about Kanye [in]? I gave [my stepfather] an apology on that song, when I said, “I didn’t leave up out my mother’s crib ’til I was grown/ And that was only because Emmett and I didn’t get along/ Grew too old to respect your rules, was time to get my own/ Forgive me, I was disrespectful, Emmett, I was wrong/ For this is my apology, in time we must move on.”
That’s why I was sleeping in my car, because [Emmett and I] were like two rams [going] at each other. You know, I wasn’t respecting his house rules. I thought I was grown, and I was disrespecting him. I wanted to hang out all night, wanted to drink, wanted to smoke, and it was like, “yo, you gotta go.” And I packed up all my clothes, and I was sleeping in my car. Literally. I was riding around, it was cold, and I’d be sleeping behind buildings. I’d park my car somewhere safe, and I would just sleep. And when I woke up, the birds were chirping. And this went on for a big time period in my life. I mean, you have to know that I was with FnF at that time, too. They didn’t even know. So I would get up with them the next day, and they would think it’s all good, but I’m sleeping in my car. No-one knew. It was pride, I couldn’t let nobody know that.
TCUS: How did you get out of that situation?
Gemstones: I don’t know how I got out of that situation. I know it stopped, though. I think I got my own crib after that, or something. Yeah, I got my own crib after that. And I never looked back since, I’ve been on my own ever since.
TCUS: There was a time that you said you were going to start making gospel music, after Testimony came out.
Gemstones: That was right after my friend died. St. Nic.
TCUS: Since then, you’ve decided to drop that title. What led to the decision to go back to hip-hop?
Gemstones: No, no, it’s not hip-hop that I do either. I didn’t turn back. I’m still trying to figure out [what to call it]. There’s no title for the music that I do. And this is honestly speaking. There is no title. Because gospel… it boxed me in. And for some lost kid that’s drinking, smoking, high… let’s just say your average teenager who needs to be reached. [He’s] out here listening to Gucci Mane, and he keeps a gun on him at all times, and he’s shooting and killing. Let’s say he steals a car. And there’s CDs in the car. He’s high and drunk. He’s never heard of me. And he sees a CD that says “Gemstones – Gospel”, do you think he’s gonna put that in? Or if he sees a CD that says “Street Music Vol. 2”. I’m just saying, which CD do you think he’s gonna throw in that deck, Gucci Mane or gospel? Jay-Z or the gospel?
I have a message, just like Gucci has a message. But my message is to heal [the kid]. He doesn’t know that the message on that CD is to heal him, but now he can’t get cured, because of a title. So he throws the CD out the window. He never gets cured from it, he rides up the street, gets into a shootout with the police, [and] he dies. Whereas if there was no [gospel] title on it, he puts the CD in, and he rides like, “ohh, this dude can spit! What is this? Oh, I’m going through that [situation].” And it changes his whole outlook on things. And he parks the car, like, “I’m finished,” and goes “who is this Gemstones dude?”
With the title “gospel”, there’s a lot of people that need the message that won’t be able to get it, because I have the word “gospel” on it. So if I take that word “gospel” off, and stop boxing myself in, the message will reach the masses. It will reach! So, you’re telling me the only reason that [people] didn’t hear my song was because it was gospel? Let me take that title off. I still love God the same, [and] God still loves me the same. Am I going to Hell because it doesn’t say gospel music? Of course not. I’m too big to be boxed into a title, and what is do is not hip-hop either. I’m still trying to figure out what it is that I do. Road To Glory wasn’t gospel.
I mean, for example: I was able to go into a church and perform Road To Glory. I was [also] able to go into the ruggedest club you know and perform Road To Glory. This happened for real! During the daytime, I’m at a church performing Road To Glory, and at nighttime, I’m at the dirtiest club in the city performing Road To Glory. Everybody gets the gig. But if it’s gospel music, the club ain’t gonna book me. You feel what I’m saying? Only the church will book me. And then if I got secular music, the church ain’t gonna book me, ’cause that ain’t what they do there. You take that title away, and doors will open up for you. So that’s what I did. I’m too big to be boxed in. I mean, I may want to wake up and write a country song Wednesday, but I can’t because I’m a gospel artist? I may want to do a rock and roll song, but [if] I’m gospel, I’ve boxed myself in.
TCUS: This is a tweet of yours: “When I get on, I will not hold a person back because of their skill level. I will not do to them what was done to me. I will teach back.” Can you talk about this?
Wen I get on I will not hold a person back because of their skill level.. I wil not do 2them what was done to me. I will teach back
— Gemstonesforlife (@1Gemstones) June 2, 2012
Gemstones: I will reach back. Did it say teach back? I meant to say reach back. So, I will not hold a person back, I will reach back. Everything happens for a reason. And maybe I am where I am right now [for a reason]. I felt like through the FnF thing, that [when] Chilly went to jail, I was held back. [I felt] that Troubles of the World should’ve [come out]… that there was supposed to have been more progress. [I felt] I was held back, like [with] the Food & Liquor album… I did no rapping on there.
There were a lot of times I felt my talent was being hid, because I was a little bit too talented. So it’s like, “nah, you can’t do this.” And I run into a lot of artists who don’t want to introduce you to their connects and power, because they feel like “if I bring you into meet him, where does that leave my job?” He’s like, “yo, ‘stones, you’re better than me.” Not just Lupe, this is period. I’ve met plenty artists where if I could have just been in the right place at that time… and certain people had the power to walk me in, but they didn’t. Because they were afraid that their jobs would be in jeopardy. Or that Gemstones would blow up too big. And the fact that I’m not [big]… there’s no reason. Well, there is a reason why. Because [of] God. Everything is everything, I’m right where I should be. But looking on the physical side of things, it’s like Gemstones… he should be way further than he is right now with his career. I mean, Road To Glory, Testimony, “Free Chilly”, that stuff is huge. When you’re looking at all the music that’s going on today, it’s like why isn’t Gemstones one of the top… like, come on now. Everybody’s online, everybody’s hearing it. People may act like they don’t see your tweets, people can act like they don’t hear you, but they hear it, and they’re listening. Everybody has a Blackberry or an iPhone. This new music that’s coming out, all these stars [are] hearing it.
It’s just funny 2see how many on artist are on twitter everyday.. An they c other artist tryna get n the game an they still don’t reach 4 em
— Gemstonesforlife (@1Gemstones) June 2, 2012
But it’s like they’re afraid to reach. No-one wants to reach back. And I vowed, as soon as the Gemstonesforlife thing gets where it needs to be, that I would open up my label downtown Chicago. And I would reach for as many of these artists as I could, so they can get on and follow their dreams, so they can at least have a shot. I will not look down on another artist because he’s not where I am. I will not do that. I will not hold a man back, because he’s talented. Being talented is a gift and a curse. It’s a gift because it’s good, but it’s a curse because no one wants to let you in. No one. You’re competition, and you get held back. Man, I believe if I can just get that fair shot right now in my career for a Lyor Cohen to hear me, for a Russell Simmons, for all of these big heavyweights to hear this music, so we can push it forward. I know for a fact if Road To Glory was Jay-Z’s album, they would be saying that’s one of the most powerful [albums].
And I know these artists are listening, because I hear so much of myself in a lot of these “on” artists that are out now. I hear so much of my stuff in them, but it’s like, “yo, you guys are listening to me, but you’re not even reaching!” I don’t mind you guys using it… I hear where it comes from. You know what’s yours. But it’s like, at least acknowledge and reach. Give someone else the opportunity. Because once I get that fair shot, there’s a whole lot of people who are about to eat, and doors are about to open up for a lot of people on my end of things. That’s just like, if you and I were close friends, and you’re trying to get where you need to be and get your thing kicked off, my door opens up [and] I’m hittin you! If I’m sitting down with Russell Simmons and all these multi-millionaires, ring ring, “yo Martin. We’re flying to LA tomorrow. I want you to meet…” You see what I’m saying? And it would only help you. But these guys don’t want to put good people in a position… it’s like a whole other world, a dark side to it that’s not being shown. And if you’re not plugged in, then there’s no room for you. That’s really how I feel. There’s no room for you.
I mean, Jay-Z – and I keep saying him and Kanye, because they’re like the biggest ones in position now – if Jay-Z wore a white t-shirt with a boo boo stain on it and said, “this is the new trend,” everyone would do it. Everyone would do it! You’re telling me you have that power, Kanye, to wear a shirt with a boo boo stain and everyone would do it?! But you refuse to get online and just do something really, really positive? And say, “yo, the new thing, I want all A&R’s, we’re gonna do a tour where we go into every city and every hood, and we’re scoping out talent. And we’re gonna find them and sign them.” Why are [they] not doing things like that? I mean, why not?
It’s like youth programs [and] Stop The Violence programs that need to be funded, that are helping the hood, that are helping these shorties in the hood, giving them chances to graduate school…. they can’t get [funding], but all these guys in position gotta do is get online and just say it. Just like Kanye did for Chief Keef. He said “Chief Keef”, and Chief Keef blew out the water! All they [have] to do is get on TV and say “Martin. The Come Up Show.” Do you know your phone lines will be ringing off the hook? All Kanye’s gotta say is “Martin, The Come Up Show is the dopest show. If you don’t have an interview by him, you need to get it done ASAP. And while you’re at it, go online and donate some money to them. Because they deserve it.” Dude, you’d be a millionaire by the morning. But these guys are not doing it, and that’s why I said, “when I get in a position…” I’m there, my foot is at the door, I’m almost there – you know, but everything has its timing. As soon as I get there, in position, I’m gonna plant the seed. I have the seed. I just need to plant it on some great, fertile soil. And then, I will be able to break the chain and give people chances to live out their dreams. Not just rappers, but singers, dancers, kids who wanna go to college. I mean, just [give] everybody a chance. Help as many people as I can.
TCUS: This is another quote of yours: “You might not listen to me today, but you will hear me tomorrow.” Can you break this down?
U might not listen to me today but u will hear me tomorrow!!! -gemstones
— Gemstonesforlife (@1Gemstones) May 22, 2012
Gemstones: Ohhh yeah! You may not listen to me today, but you’re gonna hear me tomorrow. What I mean by that [is], I may be dead and gone, and it doesn’t have to mean verbally, you may see happen what I spoke. You can see it like, “wow, is this really happening right now? I remember Gemstones had a song nine years ago that said this.” But everyone’s listening now. I just think the world will hear me. They may not listen to me today, but you can’t stop the sun from shining, Martin. You can’t. The sun is gonna come out. The clouds may stay for four, five days, but those clouds are gonna move, and those sun rays are gonna beam through. So you may not listen to me today, but you’re gonna hear me tomorrow. Because I’m speaking what’s real. I’m speaking real life issues, I’m not just speaking things to be entertained.
And that’s a quote that I live by. That’s something my mom used to say to me. When I was growing up and I was being bad, thinking I knew it all… and my mom would try to give me wisdom and I didn’t want to listen. She said, “Demarco, you may not listen to me today, but you’re gonna hear me tomorrow.” She’d say, “live a little. You’re gonna hear what I’m saying. You think your mother doesn’t know what she’s talking about today, brother, but live a little. You’re gonna hear me tomorrow.” And she would be sitting at the table, crying, and she’d tell me “I don’t cry these tears for you today. These tears are for your tomorrow. I cry these tears because of karma, what goes around comes around.” She would say, “I’m not crying these tears because you hurt my feelings today. I’m crying these tears for your tomorrow, son.” My mom is pretty deep, and I get it from her. And so I just tell the world, you guys may not listen to me today, but you’ll hear me tomorrow.
TCUS: That’s all from me, is there anything else you wanted to say to the people out there?
Gemstones: Besides [what I just said], Blind Elephant is coming soon, Elephant in the Room will be here soon… Me and Lecrae are getting ready to do a record. I spoke to him, [and] he said, “let’s work.” That’s gonna be interesting.
I’m just trying to make an impact, man. Whoever sees this interview, don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re reading this interview, reach out! I’m here, I’m listening, I see y’all quotes, I see y’all tweets. Facebook me. email@example.com, get at me. I’m listening, I’m hearing, let’s make it happen. I speak for the unheard. Let me know what y’all thinkin, what’s on y’all mind, let’s put it out there. That’s basically it.
TCUS: Thank you very much, I really enjoyed that.
Gemstones: Oh yeah. Martin, trust me. God is willing, man, I’ll be there soon. Wherever what the people say is ‘making it’. This guy was on facebook the other day – I was saying “When I Get On” – and he was like, “you’re already on, you already made it, why [do] you keep saying when you make it?” And I was like, “well, you’re right. If touring the world, going around the world twice, doing songs with Jay-Z, walking the red carpet, hosting Sucka Free Sundays, being on two worldwide albums…” I said, “yeah, if that’s making it, then you’re right. I have made it.” ‘Cause I did everything that a rapper who says they’re supposed to make it does. BET, MTV On Demand videos, Source magazine, XXL, I did all those magazines. But I’m not where I want to be yet.
TCUS: Where do you want to be?
Gemstones: I want to be heard. I want my fair shot. And I know I can’t save the world, I’m not trying to save the world. But if I can reach one, Martin, my job is done.