Gemstones, real name DeMarco Castles, was signed to Lupe Fiasco’s label 1st and 15th in 2001. Gemstones appeared on Fiasco’s breakout album Food & Liquor (when Castles still rapped under the name Gemini) and then again on the “Kick, Push” rapper’s second record, The Cool. Since then, ‘Stones has released four mixtapes and two studio albums. The South Side Windy City native’s latest project, Blind Elephant, showcases his lyrical strength and pinpoint cadences. Gemstones’ flow is undeniable, he oozes passion (dude first started writing verses in the third grade—in crayon—at his grandma’s house) and his message is strong. So can he become hip-hop’s next big superstar at the age of 33? ‘Stones seems to think so. Find out why in The Break.—Eli Schwadron
I grew up listening to: Spice 1, MC Eiht, Bone Thugs, Notorious B.I.G., 2Pac. The album that impacted me the most was: Life After Death. That double CD. I first started rapping in In third grade. I was literally in third grade when I wrote my first rap ever. It was one of the drug dealers in the neighborhood. In between waiting on a crack sale, he would be on the block just rapping and freestyling with his hat broke off to the right. And I was a little kid in third grade. I was on the corner and I had no business on the corner with this drug dealer, but he was so cool—his name was Jelani. He was always listening to N.W.A, MC Eiht and Spice 1. I would always go outside when he’d get through selling drugs and waiting on crack sales, and I was like, “Yo, lemme hear you rap!” He would always freestyle and just rap, and I was amazed by it. And I knew at that age, right there, I was like, I want to be a rapper. So I go in my grandmother’s house, and I’d get a pen or a crayon and I’d just start penning words. I’ll never forget it. I remember the first time I let him hear it. He was like, “Oh my gosh, shorty, you cold! How long you been rapping?” I was like “I’ve just been taking notes from you!” This all took place on the South Side of Chicago, Jeffery Manor. I ran into Jelani later in life. I brought him up on stage at a concert I was doing with Lupe. I told the crowd, “I want you to know the reason I’m rapping.” He didn’t know that I always remembered him.
Most people don’t know: I don’t like scary movies. I absolutely hate avocados. I eat cereal 24/7. I’m a cereal connoisseur. Regular Cap’n Crunch, I love it, but they screw the roof of my mouth up. I love corn pops when you let ‘em sit for a minute, because the milk turns to syrup. I could tell you everything about cereal. People think I listen to music, but I don’t listen to rap music at all. I don’t listen to the radio, that’s something they don’t know. I absolutely do not listen to the radio at all. I barely listen to rap music. Music does not play a big part in my life at all, like rap does not at all. I just go through my every day life like a regular human, and I barely listen to music. I get my music from my every day struggle, from just going through life every day. That’s where I get my inspiration. I’m not listening to the radio, because I feel like if I listen to the radio, I’m gonna downsize my work. I’m gonna start falling into what they’re doing. So I don’t listen to the radio at all.
My style has been compared to: The cadence of Eminem, the passion of 2Pac, the wittiness of Biggie, the feel of André 3000. These are all people I listened to, so you can pretty much hear all of those guys. You can say, “Oh, I can tell he listened to ‘Pac growing up,” or “Oh, I can tell he’s inspired by Eminem.” It’s like all of them in one. I just feel like, if you say you rap, and I say “Yo, Eli, who’s your favorite rapper?” And you say, “Eminem, Cannabis and Jay-Z are my favorites. I’ve been listening to them forever.” And then I hear you, and you sound garbage … I feel like you need to be a reflection of your favorite rappers. If Michael Jordan is your favorite basketball player, then your game on the court needs to be a reflection of him … you’re studying the best. If I tell you I go to Harvard or Yale, you expect me to be some type of genius, right? So your craft should reflect what you’ve been studying or who you’ve been studying under. So doubling back, those are the rappers who you can hear in me. But beyond all of them, you hear me. You hear something that you’ve never heard before. And you hear Lupe, because me and Lupe studied together. I don’t mind people telling me I sound like Lupe – these are compliments. Me and Lupe studied this craft together. Me and Lupe sparred together every day. It’s like how you and your best friend use a lot of the same words.
Standout records and/or moments to date: I have a record I released called “Fire In My Heart.” I released this record, it was over an Adele beat, right now it’s over a million views. It went viral. I didn’t release the record trying to do any of that. I was just writing from the heart. And I was always taught that real wins. No matter what, real wins. And I wrote this record for my mixtape Elephant In The Room from my heart. And this record is beyond – it’s just monstrous. I’m calling out certain MCs, and I’m speaking on a lot of stuff that went on in the industry, and I’m speaking on things that people are afraid to say. When I released that record, I released a phone call from The D.O.C. from Dr. Dre’s camp. And he said, “Gemstones, do you mind, I want to meet you. Can you get to L.A.? Would you mind me and Dr. Dre coaching you?” I said, “I would love for you and Dr. Dre to coach me.” He said “You remind me of me when I first came out.” This was just recently. He said he and Dr. Dre want to take me under their wing and just coach me. That record did that for me. Erick Sermon called my phone recently because of that record. That record opened doors. This record is insane, and I’m not just saying that because it’s me.
My goal in hip-hop is: To let more people know about Christ.
I’m going to be the next: Big superstar in the game.
“Let Your Light Shine Final”