After hearing Gemstones’ track “Fire in My Heart,” the producer knew she needed to work with him. She sent the rapper a message on Instagram asking if he needed producers and then patiently waited, not really expecting a reply.
“I was just scrolling down and there was a lot of unread messages and something just made me tap hers,” Gemstones said.
And the rest is history.
At first, Gemstones read the message, wasn’t looking for production and moved on. He remembers RavO sent him another message, though, and they eventually ended up on the phone talking about how to collaborate.
“He told me the Lord put it on his heart to work with me, so we’ve just been working together ever since then,” RavO said.
“I can’t explain it,” Gemstones said, “but I felt her heart through the phone. She sounds so humble. She was so humble. And that’s what I look for in people.”
He was not only impressed by her humility, but also by her talent. When RavO, born Raven McGriff, sent over some beats, Gemstones says they were “jaw-dropping.”
RavO is from Chicago and started producing in 2007. She is self-taught and also sings, raps and plays piano. Even from her earliest memories as a child, she remembers creating.
“My mother, she bought me the keyboard, and I would play,” RavO said. “I would record it on the little tape decks. I would sing to it, and I used to write, so that was way back when I was younger.”
She is greatly inspired by Missy Elliott and Timbaland’s production and how they had a distinct sound. RavO also admires Lauryn Hill.
“She’s very soulful in the way she orchestrates her work and the issues she talks about,” RavO said. “She makes real music. You don’t get too much of that, so I love Lauryn Hill.”
RavO hopes to make the same impactful music. Her motivation is the younger generation. At 24 years old, the producer is saddened by what she calls the craziness of her peer group.
“Everyday life just seeing, especially on social media, just seeing how my generation acts, I like to address it in my music,” she said. “There’s just so much negativity. I just want to make positive music and lead young people in the right direction as much as I can. Even if it’s just one person, that’s successful to me.”
RavO worked on three songs for Gemstones’ debut album Blind Elephant. They connected in January, and the album was set for a February release date, but it wasn’t ready for the public to hear.
“It was a bumpy road getting Blind Elephant done,” Gemstones said. “It was a lot of stuff that I couldn’t use. I would just call RavO up like, ‘Yo, you think you can remake this beat? Because I can’t use this record. She’s like, ‘Send it over.’ I sent instrumentals. I sent my vocals over to her. She created beats around it, and she’d get it back, and I’m like, ‘Yo, that’s it.’”
RavO ended up working on three tracks for the album, “Quick Go In,” “Lyrical Miracle” and she co-produced “Temple.”
The opening track was meant to be similar to the song that started it all, “Fire in My Heart.” Gemstones originally wanted to make a part-two for that track, the introduction to his Elephant in the Room mixtape, where he rapped for nearly three minutes straight. There wasn’t enough time to create the track he envisioned, but RavO “rose to the occasion.”
RavO also saved “Lyrical Miracle” from the depths of the cut-tracks abyss. Gemstones said it was a completely different song that wasn’t fitting the overall theme of the album, but he didn’t want to scrap it. When he asked RavO if she could fix it, he says she laughed and accepted the challenge. For her, the process was easy.
“He sent me the a cappella, so I just went with what I heard,” she said. “I just paid attention to how he was rapping. Based on how he was rapping is just how I came up with the track. I can’t really explain it.”
It is rare for a female producer to find success in the music industry. RavO seems to have the potential to be the exception.
“As far as me being a female producer, it just pushes me to go harder,” she said.
She doesn’t really have an answer for why there aren’t a lot of notable female producers. She says she hasn’t faced any criticism for being a woman but does have a funny story about assumptions.
“I used to put up music up online and no one knew who I was, so they would hear how good it was and they would say, ‘Oh my gosh this is amazing, bro,’” she laughed. “They would always refer to me as bro and just assume I was a guy.”
Gemstones, having spent more than a decade in the music industry, has a little more insight into why it is so hard for women to make it.
“For some reason in this industry when you’re a woman, you’re looked at as prey, especially if you don’t have a strong male figure behind you backing you up,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Who you with?’ ‘I’m by myself.’ And automatically, I don’t know why it’s like that, but you’re looked at as prey. The wolves are looking to swallow you whole.”
He has acted as a mentor to RavO so that she is not alone. They talk frequently, pray together and even though Blind Elephant is done, are cooking up more music.
RavO has a mixtape titled By Any Means coming out in the summer and is also working on her own debut album, which doesn’t have a title yet. For her, working on Blind Elephant was just the beginning.
“There’s always room for growth and learning,” she said. “I try to learn something every day, whether it’s musically or anything else.”
Gemstones is RavO’s biggest fan and believes she can do things that haven’t been done before.
“I always root for the underdog anyway ‘cause I was the underdog in my life,” he said. “She can, as a woman, she can just bring skill. There’s a door that can be opened. … You hear about male producers. It’s very rare do you hear a female producer just won nine Grammys or a female just got 12 No. 1 singles on nine different artists. That’s rare. But you hear that with males. I believe that RavO has that.”
Buy Blind Elephant on iTunes or Amazon.
Follow @iamRavO on Twitter.