Standing in the shadows of Lupe Fiasco’s success is not in the cards for 1st & 15th artist GemStones. After surviving the arrest of his label’s CEO and the delay of his debut album, Troubles of the World, GemStones is ready to vent in a big way. Right now seems the perfect time for the rapper to take on the role of superstar. Since adopting a healthier lifestyle and adopting a socially responsible rap style, GemStones has finally gotten all the ingredients necessary for an unforgettable album release coming this September. Read on as he talks to BallerStatus about his upcoming album and the troubles he went through while climbing his way up in the game.
BallerStatus.com: What has it been like so far, leading up to the release of Troubles of the World?
GemStones: It has been a task. It hasn’t been easy, it’s been a grind. I’ve had many ups and downs, and I’m still climbing. Troubles of the World is at the top of the hill, and rocks have been falling down on me while I climb. But, you know what they say, the joy wouldn’t feel so good without the pain.
BallerStatus.com: You just wrapped up your mixtape, The Testimony of GemStones, and to the surprise of many, you’re not talking about the same kinds of things you were on the last mixtape, Untamed Beast. Why did you change your style?
GemStones: Because I wanted to make a more positive impact on the world, I’m a role model now, there’s a spotlight on me, and its growth. I already did all the negative stuff, and I don’t want to leave behind something negative when I go, I want to leave a legacy. My momma used to always tell me “If you don’t have nothing nice to say, don’t say it at all.” I just want to have a positive impact on a younger generation.
BallerStatus.com: Was there any one thing that made your decision easier or unavoidable?
GemStones: When my friend Mathew Cannon died, I had already started to change my style, but when that happened I knew I had to. That was sort of the icing on the cake. After that, this one weekend, we had 33 deaths in Chicago and that’s when I knew I made the right decision. I couldn’t have released The Testimony of GemStones as a shoot ’em up, bang bang, kick in the door type of mixtape, like Untamed Beast, in the midst of all the violence. Chicago needs a mixtape like Testimony of GemStones; they need to listen to songs like “Good Morning” and “Everything’s Okay.”
BallerStatus.com: What are the pro’s and cons of adopting a conscious style?
GemStones: The good thing is I get to spread my wings. The sky is the limit; it’s limitless for me now. I was limited doing the gangster thing, but now, my mom can listen to my music, older people too. No matter what type of event, my music is able to be played. The bad thing is there are some people that just don’t want to change. They’re used to the old Gemini, Untamed Beast. There are some people that say I softened up. It takes time for some people to catch on and change their life, so I guess the bad part is you can’t save everybody.
BallerStatus.com: What can we expect from Troubles of the World?
GemStones: You could expect the full dosage of testimony. Testimony of Gemstones is just half of what Troubles of the World is. It’s too potent; you can expect it to be Testimony times 10. You’re really going to get the troubles uncut, I’m going to go in there and revealing a lot of secrets. People, when your positive, try to shut you up, like “You’re telling secrets,” that’s because when you have info, that’s when you could really spread your wings and fly.
BallerStatus.com: You have a song on the mixtape, called “Haters Love,” and on it, you address people, particularly Chicagoans, talking about the label, and just different rumors. Why did you feel you had to make a song about haters and rumors?
GemStones: Chicago, Il is Haterville. It is Haterville. Nobody from Chicago wants to see you succeed. 1st & 15th has been an established label for a long time now. We didn’t just start with “Kick Push.” We been knew Jay-Z, Lyor Cohen, and Kevin Liles. But the name of the game was always “move in silence.” We were bubbling under the surface, while other artists like Twista, Do or Die, Psychodrama, were all making noise. When it was time for us to make our move it was like, kaboom, and people were like “Kick Push, Daydream?” That’s when Chicago’s real personality came out, the hater. That’s when the rumors start. People thought the success of our label was instant, but we’ve been doing our homework. I’ve been signed, I’ve been rapping — Lupe too, he’s been rapping. I didn’t say any names on the song, ’cause I thought, if I take a rock and throw it in a crowd of dogs, the one that barks, that’s who got hit. Anyone that’s offended by the song, well, they are the haters.
BallerStatus.com: What is it like being in Chicago, during a time, when, a lot of hip-hop artists in this region, are more hipster than hip-hop. Meaning, they have a certain look and image and scene that goes along with the music?
GemStones: I’m in a class all my own. I sit aside from everyone. I’m not a hipster and I’m not gangster. I don’t dress like anyone, I’m my own star and I shine like one. I’m left field of all of it by myself. I can mess with other people, but I’m definitely my own artist, who else do you know that can sing and rap? I’m still a rookie, but I’m going to prove myself.