When Hip Hop fans were initially introduced to Demarco Castle, he was known under Lupe Fiasco and Charles “Chilly” Patton’s 1st & 15th as Gemini. Some might have recognized his presence a few times on Food & Liquor standouts “He Say She Say” and “Just Might Be OK.” Of course, the video for the latter made the internet rounds during protest and riots in Baltimore ten years later. Under the name Gemstones( a change noticeable on Lupe’s follow-up The Cool), he transitioned out of 1st & 15th before setting out to make a name for himself and reaffirming his Christian faith. Several mixtapes and years later, Gemstones finally released his full-length debut Blind Elephant this week on Xist/Malaco. Featuring tracks “Selfish” and “Circles,” it’s an evolution of the challenging and visceral bars that he’s been spitting for over a decade. In the darkness, that light also comes in handy when releasing a debut years in the making.
Speaking with DX, Gemstones talks Blind Elephant’s long wait, Baltimore and speaking with Lupe and Chilly.
Gemstones Says Faith & Patience Finally Led To Blind Elephant’s Release
DX: After all these years, it must feel good to finally release your debut Blind Elephant. What exactly took so long?
Gemstones: You can’t rush greatness. That’s the best answer I can give you. Everything happens in its time. Everything has seasons; winter, spring, summer, fall. You can’t get to winter before summer depending on how you see it. In due season, the album Blind Elephant was going to be released. Two months ago wasn’t the season for it. The first time we put out a release date for it, that wasn’t the season for it because it didn’t drop but, we knew it was coming. Now, it’s out here. Making this project taught me patience. I learned that I’m not patient. Gemstones needed to be more patient. It let me know how bad my nerves were. Sometimes you don’t see yourself when you’re caught up in this. It takes a mirror to be placed in your face or situation to happen. Man, I’ve been tested this whole process. This process has stretched me.
I was doing a lot of nagging throughout this process. A lot of heartache, pain and fighting for certain things but, it molded me. It molded me to be more patient. It molded me to trust God more. It let me know, stop putting your trust in man. We say that and that’s real until you’re actually living it. You trust your homeboy to come pick you up and he doesn’t like he said he would cause you trust him. That time you really needed him, you get angry. You get mad like talking about what you’re not going to do for him or what you’re going to do to him. Then God tells you about trusting man. Get your trust out of man and put it in me. God put me in a lot of situations like that to continue to stop putting my trust in man. Until you put your trust in God, you’re going to keep going in circles. It wasn’t until I finally gave up and was like whatever happens, it is what it’s going to be. Go ahead God, let your will be done. That’s when things began to flow smoothly. There was a time where everything that could have gone wrong, was going wrong. Times were being met, those rides to the studio and everything else was a long journey for me. It was God stretching me and preparing me for something better to come. I definitely learned a lot. Whatever is getting ready to happen to me, I’m ready for it.”
DX: When did you get to the point where you started putting trust in your faith and relationship with God?
Gemstones: I still be not trusting God. Like right now. I’m still learning how to trust God. How about that? I could have given you an answer like I learned to trust God when this happened in 2000 but, right now today, I think yesterday I wasn’t trusting him. His word is solid. The Lord’s word is solid. We both know God’s word is solid. We know it’s truth and light but, I still drop the ball to this day. Not purposely trusting him but, the human flesh side of me. You’re suppose to ask God for something and wait but we be so impatient, we can’t be patient because we want what we want now. I be wanting what I want right now. If you’re telling me you have what I have right now, guess who I’m putting my trust in? When you fail me, I’m broken and running to God. God is like why won’t you trust me? I continue to do that but it’s a learning process. I’m learning to trust God. There are days when I trust him more than others. Some days, I lose faith. Some days, it’s like I have no faith. I feel defeated. I can sit up and say the right things or what sounds correct in this interview for the people but, I’m going to give you what’s real. It’s days where I feel defeated and do not trust God. God knows that and he’ll put me in situations that allow me to have to trust and lean on him. Like right now, I’m trying to get my license. I owe a large amount of money with getting my license and God is saying trust me. Then I get to asking when. That’s where my patience comes in. You can ask him but it’s about being patient.
Gemstones Explains How Music Serves As His Ministry
DX: The lead off single to Blind Elephant is “Circles.” Where does that track fit into the album’s overall theme?
Gemstones: Basically, Blind Elephant is just explaining my everyday life now. It’s the everyday life I’m living right now. What Blind Elephant represents is that everyone sees how big an elephant is except for the elephant. That elephant might be your smile, the way you dress or your ambition basically. Throughout my life, I’ve always been told that you’re bigger than what you think you are. Not being gassed, just giving yourself a little more credit. That’s where Blind Elephant comes from. The records that are on Blind Elephant describes my everyday life and where I am right now. Just the ups and downs and in and outs of life. Being that I’m in Chicago, the record “Circles” is something I see everyday in life. I’m living it everyday. When does it stop? When will the killing stop? It’s an on and on and on cycle. I just described it. It’s a lot of people giving their views on Chicago right now. A lot of rappers are giving their views on Chicago and mine is just another angle. That’s just how I see it. Other people see it as turning up with bottles of Hennessy and pointing guns at the screen. We can talk about guns but I’m talking about it from a different angle. It’s a different angle from the picture. That’s how “Circles” comes in. Some people see it as shoot-em-up, bang bang and I see it as circles. I’m not glorifying it. I’m not rich, I’m still in the hood. I got nieces, nephews and cousins that’s playing a part in this thing. I’m just speaking on it. That’s how circles plays in, because it’s a part of my life. I’m trying to tell people how to get it and that there’s a different way to go about it. I just got on wax about it. That’s how “Circles” came about lyrically. What I described in the video, that everyday life for me. It’s not just music, it’s life. That’s hopping on the train, riding the bus or driving my car. It’s just a constant cycle.
DX: You could make music that’s more commercial or even club-like. Why haven’t you fallen into that temptation?
Gemstones: It’s like a dead end. We got enough people making music for the club. They don’t need me. How many rappers are making music for the club? So whether I do it or not, it ain’t gon make me or break me. How many artists do you know is not making music for the club and being effective though? You got a lot of people not trying to make music for the club and can’t execute. It’s weak. I like making feel-good music. I do plan on making music that feels good and if it makes the club, that’s cool. That’s what I want to do on my next project. I want to make music that feels good but you don’t have to go to the club to feel good. You can sit in the living room of your home and feel good. Before we get to that point, you just can’t go to the club. You have to handle some home issues. We have to pull some skeletons out of our closet and learn ourselves. We need to find out ourselves before we take this to the club. There are people dealing with self-esteem issues in the club and nobody wants to speak on this type of things. We want to go to the club, dance the night away, get drunk and have sex with every girl moving. Nobody is speaking on the real things. I’ll take that road because my music isn’t just music to me, it’s my life. When I talk, it’s my everyday life. It’s my ministry.
Jay Z’s Short Hiatus From Rap & Charles “Chilly” Patton’s 44 Year Prison Sentence Inspired “Just Might Be OK”
DX: Lupe Fiasco just released the video for “Just Might Be OK” ten years after the release of Food & Liquor when you were featured as Gemini. Have you reached out to him?
Gemstones: I’m glad you asked about that. I was just about to reach out to him after them releasing the “ Just Might Be OK” video featuring me. I just might reach out to him today as a matter of fact. I mean, that’s the politics end of things but it was great timing. That record was made over ten years ago. The Baltimore thing is just happening. Is that kind-of like prophecy? How can you release a video ten years later on a record that was slept on. We was speaking on that type of stuff back then. We were making music for today. That’s why I tell you, you may not listen to me today, but you are going to hear me tomorrow. When I say hear me tomorrow, I’m not talking about verbally. You’re going to say this is what Gemstones was telling me. Now we’re talking about “Just Might Be OK” which was recorded ten years ago when people were turning up in the club and didn’t want to hear it. Then, the Gemstones album is about to drop, so it only helps. When that record dropped, it was a zillion Lupe fans hitting me up. It only helps as positivity only came from the record. That record can be a help. Half the stuff that’s playing on the radio plays a reason as to why we’re going through what we’re going through in Baltimore and why police is shooting us and treating us the way they’re treating us. The stuff that’s playing on the radio is a big part. We know it and we’re conditioned to accept this. It was great moment for Baltimore and Gemstones. Shout out to me 1st & 15th family.
DX: Do you remember the mindset during the recording of that track?
Gemstones: I remember it like it was yesterday when we did that record. It was like Jay Z was walking away from rap. We got the news that Jay Z was walking away from rap and I believe the founder and president of 1st & 15th Charles Patton was facing 44 years in prison. Gangster rap was popping heavily. It was like yo, we coming. We just might be OK. The sun is gon to shine on this day. Keep hope alive. Just listen to the hook. It just might be OK. You know why? Because there’s hope. Yeah Chilly is going to jail but our company is still moving. Yeah Jay Z is retiring but fret not, you got these kids Lupe and Gemstones here. We just might be OK Hip Hop. Kanye wasn’t popping like that yet the way he is now but we just might be OK. Black people stand up. We may be going through things but we just might be ok. That title is deeper than you think. You really have to listen and meditate on that.
DX: Have you spoken with Chilly lately?
Gemstones: I’ve spoken with Chilly time after time. I haven’t spoken to him recently. Chilly is holding his head. Working from behind bars and making things happen. A lot of things going on today within the industry, Chilly is behind it. He’s making moves from behind bars. Chilly is the one who released “Just Might Be OK.” Lupe is the face of 1st & 15th but in any company, there’s a machine behind it that makes things happen.