Gemstones brings luster to hip hop, rap industry

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He has changed his stage name, his appearance, his performance style and the message in his music–all before he has even made his big debut. R&B singer and rapper Gemstones, formerly known as Gemini, has scored big online, with one of his hit songs

He has changed his stage name, his appearance, his performance style and the message in his music–all before he has even made his big debut.

R&B singer and rapper Gemstones, formerly known as Gemini, has scored big online, with one of his hit songs commanding 2,000 downloads the first days of its MySpace release.

When he started out a few years ago, the South Side native, whose real name is Demarco Castle, was sporting cornrows and sagging jeans, and was spitting vile and hardcore lyrics like a “gangster.”

His online mix tape "Untamed Beast Fahrenheit 1/15 Vol. 5," was buzzing.

Everything seemed cool for Gemstones.

The young man who’d barely left the rough streets of the Jeffery Manor neighborhood, who’d grown up wearing second-hand clothes, and whose family didn’t take his singing aspirations seriously at first, was looking like he was finally doing his thing.

But when a legal wrangle forced him to get rid of the Gemini stage name, Gemstones had a mind to change some other things about himself, too.

“I was downing Black people, degrading women and talking about dope I never sold…I was no different from your next ‘hood dude,” Gemstones candidly told the Defender. But it was all a lie, he said.

The thuggish look, as he considered it, and the salacious lyrics portrayed a young rapper who was just the opposite of who Gemstones was, as a recording artist and as a Black man.

“That’s not who I wanted to be,” the father of one 4-year-old daughter said.

“I was lying in my raps. I thought that was what (fans) wanted to hear,” the 6-foot, chocolate-skinned rapper said. “I was putting words together because they matched.”

But now, in advance of the early 2009 release of his self-executive produced debut album "Troubles of the World," the Bowen high school graduate said he’s ready to show off a more positive image, in his fashion and in his music.

No more lying, no more falsehoods. He nixed the braids in exchange for a razor-sharp lowcut style. He pulled up his pants. And, after finding out the hard and embarrassing way that it can be a bit difficult to jump around a stage at 320 pounds, he got rid of the chubbiness.

Gemstones, 25, said he started rapping in the third grade, after hearing a friend of his doing it.

“I was amazed,” he said.

Music had been around him all of his life. His mother and grandmother sang, as well as his uncles and a few cousins.

But, he said, none of them believed in his talent, and they didn’t take his dreams too seriously.

“No one took me for real…I was the underdog,” he recalled.

After a chance meeting with actor/rapper Will Smith, Gemstones thought he was on to something, that his big break was imminent. It wasn’t.

That relationship quickly faded and left the young artist dejected and depressed, he said.

But in 2001, Gemstones met Lupe Fiasco–before the rapper became an industry standout.

By 2006, their professional bond had tightened and Gemstones sang on four tracks off of Lupe’s debut album, "Food and Liquor," including the chart-topping Kick Push single and one that also features rapper Jay-Z.

Gemstones was also part of Lupe’s The Cool tour.

The pair got together, and worked on Gemstones’ mix tape "Testimony of Gemstones Fahrenheit Vol. 6" and released it online.

By then, “things started looking on the up and up” again.

He now records on Lupe’s 1st and 15th record label, and collaborates with a number of local artists.

Barely known in Chicago, Gemstones traveled around the country and overseas with Lupe, even as Lupe was making a name for himself.

“I had never been outside of Chicago,” Gemstones explained. And seeing the world changed his life.

He decided, “I’m not taking life for granted. I want to live now. I want to stop putting out negative music.”

Now his online music has seen over 1 million plays and hundreds of thousands of downloads.

Overall, the songs on his upcoming album, that will be released in stores, are revealing and poignant and, he said, talk about the different issues of the day that most people can relate to: sex, love, baby-mama-drama, violence and even peace.

“I try to teach ‘em but the streets won’t release their mind,” he raps on the "Everything is OK" single. And Testimony talks about death and reconciliation.

His music also speaks to the heart of young people living amid hopelessness and doom.

“Don’t let what you’re going through now predict your future,” is what he wants young people to understand.

The lyrics on his "Good Morning" single describe Gemstones, in a nutshell: “Despite the problems in my life, I think I turned out pretty good.”

Copyright 2008 Chicago Defender. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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