posted February 01, 2008 12:00:00 AM CST | 14 comments

The phrase “Chicago Hip Hop” generally musters images of industry heavyweights such as Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Common, Twista and Rhymefest, but get ready to add another name to that line-up: GemStones. The talented emcee/singer made his first big splash as a featured artist on two tracks on Lupe Fiasco’s debut album Food & Liquor. Now the multi-tasking performer is back in a big way landing twice as many collaborations on Lupe’s highly acclaimed sophomore album The Cool, while his forthcoming album Troubles of the World is likely to clear a nice comfortable spot for him in the music industry.

Name: GemStones

Age: 25

Who is this guy?: Co-signed by Lupe and signed to his 1st & 15th label, GemStones is definitely one to watch for. He’s been holding a mic since the third grade, but his flow is anything but elementary. Formally known as Gemini, GemStones switched up his moniker after running into a legal technicality. “I got a call from my lawyer like ‘some cat got Gemini already,” he says, “but people were callin' me GemStones at that time too. All my fans were callin' me Gemini, but in the hood, it was GemStones. So when it came time to change names I was like, 'Aight, cool.' I got tired of Gemini anyway 'cause people who didn’t know me were like, 'Gemini? What are you a stripper?'" [Laughs]

On dealing with the beginnings of success:It feels good. But I’m a real humble dude. Knowing that anytime this can be gone keeps me grounded. The struggle of knowing where I come from and the terrible shit that I’ve been through keeps me grounded. I just keep God first before all of this. I really don’t care about none of this. I care, but I don’t. As a person, I never want to sell my soul. Money don’t mean nothing.

On striving to make it: There’s a whole lot of weight on my shoulders. Nobody in my family ever really did anything with their lives. My granny had 12 kids: six girls, six boys, and nobody ever really did anything [with their lives]. I hate to say this, but most of them were starters but never finishers. I think maybe one of my aunties finished high school. I was the first grandson to ever finish high school. So my family is looking at me like, 'He’s gonna be the one to break the chain.' They see me at the BET Awards walkin' the red carpet like, 'Oh shit, look at my cousin,' 'Look at my nephew.' So I can’t stop [my grind], not just for them, but for myself too.

As far back as I can remember it was Michael Jackson. As a shorty, everybody started off listening to Michael Jackson. Mama cleaned up on Saturday mornings with the afro, and she dusted off that Michael Jackson record,” he laughs, “but when I got into music…when I really started understanding rap, it was Bone Thugs N Harmony. They kicked it off for me. [Also] Spice-1. I was into Spice-1 heavy, then it went to Bone. I remember when Bone dropped, and they [were spittin' crazy fast] I was like ‘Yo, these niggas is raw!’"

Dream Collaborations: Jodeci. They fucked up [now], but that’s who I came up under. [I wish] I could get K-Ci in the booth with no drugs [or] DeVante in the booth with no drugs. They talented, but they just fucked up… You know how Ja Rule did [a song with] Bobby Brown? If I could get anyone together it would be Jodeci. On the rap side, I already did a track [singing the hook on Lupe’s ‘Pressure’ f/ Jay-Z] but I’d wanna do a spittin' verse with Jay-Z.

On juggling singing and rapping:
It’s hard. It’s hard. I couldn’t choose [between the two]. I go so hard in my rapping that I sometimes start slackin' on my singing. Then I have to stop rapping for a minute 'cause if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. But when I pick up in my singing, I start slackin' on my rapping. They are both my babies; it’s like having twins. You gotta care for them both and nourish them both.

On losing and finding himself: I sacrificed [to become a rapper] and lost everything. I was working at the railroad. And working [there] is a good job, I was making bank. I was bringing home $1,200 checks a week. I had my own crib and everything. But I became a working man…then I was just like, 'Ayo, man…what’s goin' on?' I never wanted to just fade off into the working world and just be a regular old [nine-to-five worker]. So it came to a point in my life when [I had to ask myself] 'What are you gonna do?' People called me crazy for what I did. I lost my crib, I was sleeping in the front seat of my car with all my clothes n shit…nobody knew that though. I didn’t have nothing. I didn’t have nothing but a dream. I just kept God first. And then next thing I know, things were on the up and up. ‘Gemini, we want you to shoot a video’, ‘MTV wants you to host Sucker Free Sunday’, ‘BET wants you to shoot a video for 'Got What You Need', and I was like ‘Huh? What?’. And then I got tracks on Lupe’s album.

What Makes Him DX Next Worthy?: The combination of a dope emcee and a solid singer combined with the intrinsic ability to captivate a sold-out crowd (as witnessed by DX at a recent concert) will be GemStones’ recipe for success. And although it’s still early in his career, GemStones prides himself on constant elevation and change. Newly transformed, GemStones (who just recently lost a considerable amount of weight and cut off his trademark braids) has had more than just a physical makeover. He tells DX, “Gemini is dead. Don’t even call me that no more. My name change came at the perfect time. Gemini died with the weight; I was real heavy [back then]. Gemini died with the braids. I quit smoking and drinking. Gemini died and he took that gangsta leading niggas astray…putting words together just because they match. Gemini died with all that. It’s like how Jay-Z said ‘back to Shawn Carter the hustler, Jay-Z is dead.’”

With his resolution to use his talents to make quality music that moves beyond trite verses of drug pushing and bravado, GemStones’ highly anticipated debut Troubles of the World will be preceded by a double mix tape introducing the newly improved man and explaining the cause of his revelations. “The double mix tape [is called] The Evolution/ My Testimony,” he says, “The Evolution will show that I’ve grown as a person and as an artist. Then Testimony is gonna be raw uncut truth. Things that went on with [my label] 1st & 15th that even die hard fans don’t know about.”

With GemStones’ candor we can already tell that his testimony will be a story worth telling. In an industry cluttered with rappers as fake as Canal Street cubic zirconias, GemStones is truly shining.

Check out the music on his Myspace page:

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