Gemaine is an R’n’B artist from the famed city of Compton in Los Angeles. After releasing a collaboration album with famed producer Charlie Heat (Kanye West, Madonna) we discussed why Gemaine and Charlie clicked and what it is about Compton that produces so many stars.
‘New Jack City is your first ever collaboration album. What made you decide to work with Charlie Heat and how was he able to influence the way the album was made, differently (to) if it was just you doing it?
It was just one of those things, where we linked up to work together. People had sent him my music, like yo, you might work good with this guy. We’ve reached out and had a session and immediately within the first session I had Merv come, one of my writing partners and we just immediately clicked and realised just how much we approached, not only music but life the same way. And we just enjoyed working with each other, so we just kept on working on music. Then the more songs we made together, the more we realised that maybe we should do a project together. But it all just happened organically.
That’s good. Obviously, if you connect with somebody, you’re going to make better music together because you’re going to feel what each other likes and understand what each other wants, rather than just being put in somewhere with (a) ‘random producer’ and going okay make a song.
It worked out man and I just know he’s been critically acclaimed. I feel like he was very important for me being able to make a creative leap in doing things that are, (not) the immediate and obvious money grab, what will sell. I needed someone like him to validate doing something different, that people won’t necessarily see and immediately think it’s a hit or that type of stuff.
I just think as a creator, I can’t make music that’s tryna make hits, I got to make music that I feel, what speaks to me and that is true to being an artist. I think it was crucial that I was able to do a project with him and be able to have a little more creative juice or creative validation.
I agree with that point, about you making music for you rather than (the alternative). Because at the end of the day, if you’re making something to make money, people are gonna see through that and the song won’t last over time or the album. Whereas you make something for you that’s personal to you, people are going to (be) more attached to it. And I think it’s good when you collaborate with somebody, because it puts you out your comfort zone a bit and making the ideas you have, maybe not necessarily better, but taking them to a place you wouldn’t have thought of before.
Definitely and that’s what exactly happened with Charlie (Heat). I was more in this lane of trying to do more sensual R’n’B stuff, which I still do and did, but he gave me a bit more tempo and edge. Which I was honestly seeking, so it was perfect timing because what he was doing was exactly what I was searching for.
That’s good and that definitely comes across in the album, as there’s a variety of different sounds on there, that’s one of the things I personally liked about the album. You tried different sounds and different vibes.
That’s one of the things I’ve noticed, some people like and some people don’t (the album). Some people like the fact that it’s not so one tone, one level kind of project, some people appreciate the fact that you get to get a little bit of everything, a little taste of everything.
At the end of the day, not everyone’s going to like what you make, you just got to do you.
Exactly, I’m learning to be ok with that. It’s been a process getting there, but I am there now. I don’t care and I don’t let that matter.
You’re from Compton which has had many talented people come out of it from Musicians to Tennis Players. What is it about that area that allows people to shine and make a name for themselves on such a regular occasion?
Man, I think it is just one of those places. There’s something over there man, there’s history over there, pride there. It started from struggle and from struggle, passion came with the N.W.A, Serena (Williams), Kendrick (Lamar), (Dr.) Dre. There are so many people that came from that area, there are leaders over there. Something in the air that just (has) you on some different stuff. I honestly couldn’t tell you what it is, but I do know that it’s something different over there.
You can see that in the amount of talented people that have come out of it, especially in music. I imagine for yourself, for example, to see so many people come out of the struggle and that area and make a name for themselves, that was inspiring to you and I’m sure that (what) you’re doing is going to inspire other people as well.
That’s what I am hoping I can do, to inspire other people. It’s a tricky game with recognition because people don’t expect, because of where I’m from they don’t expect me to be a singer and I think that’s funny. And it’s a blessing and a curse that Compton has gotten so big and global to what the world sees and knows what Compton is.
But the thing where it is like a curse is where people expect what they saw, they basically stereotype just off what they hear and see. And there are so many different things, so many different flavours, a lot of different stuff going on in Compton than just rappers and Hip-Hop. I’d like to be one of those people that show a different side to it, that is just normal people, just like me. They (rappers) are normal too, just more mouth. Its different flavours to us.
I get that because people when they see a certain thing coming from something, they’re going to expect that. But, even when I did my research for this, I was surprised at some of the people who are from Compton like the bassist from Nirvana and the actor, Kevin Costner. I think that shows to those people and you are also showing, it’s not just people who are making Rap or G-Funk it’s people doing R’n’B, actors, comedians, NFL players. And I think you doing your thing in R’n’B is going to show that people who make R’n’B can come out of that area. It’s going to give a little kid who wants to do R’n’B that confidence to (say), oh he’s done that I could do that if I want to.
Which would be cool man, I’d like that.
I noticed that you became popular through Vine which was of course a precursor to TikTok, where a lot of artists have become popular off now. What would you say has changed since you blew up that has allowed more artists to get recognition through social media, rather than having to be signed up in the traditional way?
What has changed is that literally, people are taking advantage of not having to rely on a label for things like getting attention or getting put in a position to have fans. There was a lot more gatekeepers and there are still gatekeepers even within this, but you have the power to create a buzz and it took more than just yourself at one point.
The difference between now and then when it was Vine, is it’s not fresh. People get the game. When I was doing it, not that many people understood even what Vine was and the power in it. But, people were slowly catching on. I mean I didn’t even understand it as much either. I just think the difference is that everyone gets in and knows how to do it and everyone is trying to be a social media influencer now, its kind of crazy. I feel like it’s more artists than there are fans, way too many people trying to be cooks instead of actually eating.
The video for your song ‘Giddy Up.’ I like how all of it was set in a truck, there was all these different scenes, but it was quite simple and straight to the point. Is that your vibe with videos for them to be more simple and straight to the point or do you like to do different things with each video?
I like to do different things with each video. I need to be constantly stimulated, I like to try push limits and do the things that make people look at things differently or inspire something. I always want to (if I think) nah we can’t do that. If I feel that thought then it makes me want to do that kind of thing. To do what most probably wouldn’t do.
I found that particularly early on when you were a lot younger, Church and Gospel music had a huge impact on your musical development. How would you say it has helped you create music that is more unique or out there in the field of R’n’B?
It’s just my literal technique with making music. Church is big on harmonies and choirs, that’s a part of my signature in anything I do musically and it’s always to have layered vocals and harmony within my song. That’s a big part of my signature music and it’s a big thing in choirs, multiple vocals that harmonise together. That’s definitely one of the things it helped with.
If you could go back in time to one concert, who would you see and where would you see them?
Michael Jackson, any Michael Jackson concert. I wish I was able to see him in his prime, I would literally love that.
He was definitely a talented artist, who knew how to put on a show. What about his music stands out to you above the rest?
His charisma, he really brought the songs to life as an entertainer, he was the full package. He vocally, if you were blind you could hear him, understand and feel what he was saying. If you were deaf and saw Michael perform you could feel the song as well. He just really knows how to translate a song and make it come to life and that’s something I have always gravitated to him about. You could really see (him) give his all and whether in sports or (any other) field, people like someone who really puts their heart out there and be vulnerable and be honest and really go for it and not be afraid to show the heart. I think with anything people do, people always appreciate that and that’s one of the things he did.
My final question. Who that is coming up in the music game has caught your attention recently and what advice would you give to them?
I wouldn’t give advice to anyone really, because I feel like anybody coming up I am right there with them. I’m not anywhere (and) I have been doing music for a while, but I am pretty sure anyone coming up has been doing it just as long and they’re just now getting clout. I wouldn’t really have words per se for them. I do like Reggie Becton, I like his sound. I also like Johari (Noelle), she’s cool.
The words I would give if I had anything to say, is say hey man age ain’t nothing but a number. The best things come and go through time and the best things don’t come too easy. I’m right there with you and (we are going to) keep vibing together and if we’re good enough and work hard enough we’ll get where we want.