After parting with Lupe Fiasco, six-year wait for debut LP worth it for Gemstones
On May 5, Gemstones released his debut album a decade in the making. Not only did his fans have to wait four long months since the original release date was pushed back, but the artist formerly known as Gemini left an entire fan base hanging when he walked away from the mainstream industry years ago.
Now, Blind Elephant has made the Chicago rapper’s dreams come true.
“I can give you words, but those words won’t even describe it because to have an album is something that I’ve dreamed of since I was a child,” Gemstones said. “This has always been my dream, to have an album that people who don’t know you can go in the store and purchase it and play it in their CD players and their iPhones. It’s always been my dream and it’s awesome, an awesome feeling. I’m blessed.”
The original February release date was pushed back because the album just wasn’t ready.
“Along this process, making this album, I wanted to give up 50 million times,” he said. “But my support system was great. There were so many people in my ear saying, ‘Stones, you can’t give up.’”
Even though the album process was frustrating for Gemstones, it was worth the wait.
“The delay made it sweet,” he said. “It was a conversation piece. It gave you something to talk about. When you speak of other albums out, it made you say, ‘I can’t wait for Gemstones’ Blind Elephant.’”
Years earlier, Gemstones was signed to Lupe Fiasco’s 1st and 15th label. Under the name Gemini, he toured with Lupe and was heavily featured on his first two albums, Food and Liquor and The Cool.
“Some of, if not the best tracks on Food and Liquor featured Gemstones,” said Ural Garrett, senior features writer for HipHopDX.
“I was young. I knew I wanted to be a famous rapper, singer, but I didn’t know where I was headed in life,” Gemstones said of his time in the secular music industry.
Gemstones continued by saying that everything the world has to offer was at his fingertips: women, drugs, money. But he couldn’t find fulfillment in any of it. He became a follower of Jesus and decided to walk away from the secular music industry and a multi-million dollar album contract with 1st and 15th.
“The world was mad at me because so many people had been waiting on that album,” Gemstones said. “I walked away from a lot, but I gained more than I walked away from since I left. What God has given me the world can’t offer me.”
“Gemstones would’ve popped after Lupe,” Garrett said of the hype surrounding the rapper. “Maybe not have blown up, but he would’ve had a chance.”
Around this time, Gemstones changed his name from Gemini. He was being threatened with a lawsuit because he didn’t own the rights to the name. He said nobody called him Gemini anyway. One of his many nicknames was Gemstones, and it stuck.
“It was like everything changed right on time,” he said. “I walked away from the industry. I just got saved. I had lost a lot of weight. I changed my name. It looked like it was all set up. Now that I look back on it, it was just God doing that all at once so that I could be an inspiration to someone else who was watching.”
Now, Blind Elephant debuted at No. 20 on the Billboard Christian Albums chart and No. 17 on the Heatseekers Album Chart. The idea behind the theme of the album is a reflection of Gemstones’ journey to realizing his own talent.
“As a kid when I would rap, it’s like, ‘Yo you don’t know how cold you are. You don’t know how dope you are as a singer.’ If I could receive a penny for every time I’ve heard someone tell me, ‘You don’t know who you are, how good you really are, or who God has called you to be,’ if I got a penny for every time I heard that, I promise I’d be the richest man on the face of the planet.”
The meaning for the title is, “Everyone sees how big the elephant is except for the elephant,” Gemstones explained.
He said each person is given a gift from God that he or she doesn’t fully understand. Gemstones wants to encourage listeners through songs such as “Press Harder.” He wants them to see their gifts as he has learned to.
“This has been a long road,” he said of being a blind elephant himself. “I’m finally able to get it out. I’ve come to a place where I’m okay, it’s time to face it. I wanna name my album Blind Elephant, so I wanna help other people. I wanna help the other blind elephants around the world, the other people with big gifts who downplay their gifts and don’t see how big their gift really is.”
Gemstones hopes his story can show other people the path to true success. He said that he had to learn the industry all by himself. He has seen firsthand all of the people who compromise in order to gain worldly success.
“This planet can offer nothing that’s worth losing your salvation,” he said. “It’s not worth it. We all have a choice. God gave us all free will. He gave us all free will to make our own choices. And we all come to that fork in the road whether do I go left or do I go right? You gotta make that decision.”
He believes his own transformation from a power hungry rapper to a humble servant of Jesus Christ serves as evidence that there is a higher form of accomplishment.
“I’m here to tell you, you do not have to do that to gain success,” he said. “I didn’t do it. And I got an album that, praise to God, it made the Billboard charts.”