Why is it that when the late DMX offered a prayer on an album we’d vibe with it, but when a self-described Christian artist like Gemstones does it we’re immediately suspicions of his intentions? Context. When Earl Simmons would get down on his knees and beg the lord for forgiveness, we knew he was a man haunted by demons for nearly his entire life. He sought solace in the lifestyle of a rap star only to wind up behind bars over and over again when those benefits brought him no peace. Gemstones on the other hand would presumably have the peace of mind X never did. He tells us so on “Believe” from “Blind Elephant,” quoting directly from Psalm 23 in the opening.

Gemstones doesn’t need to yearn for a peace he doesn’t have. His soul is at rest. “The lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” The human condition is to want. Religion is one of many ways we try to address this condition, some more and some less successful than others. What we recognize in Earl Simmons is our own inherent weakness, our flawed nature, our wants and needs subverting our good intentions. We see ourselves in his duality. Christian rappers on the other hand often seem to be setting themselves on a pedestal, lecturing on high to the sinners beneath them, literally Lording their holier-than-thou nature over us. Thankfully this stone is a gem in a rare setting — one which lets us see the inherent beauty in his flaws. “I don’t care about being the best rapper no more […] I just want to be known for something great/I just want to be remembered.”

Now that’s a rapper you can relate to. “Press Harder” may come from a rapper who wears his spirituality on his sleeve, but he admits to one of the most basic failings we all have. Who doesn’t want to leave a legacy behind? Who doesn’t hope that they made a difference in the world that won’t be forgotten after they are gone? Even the assurance that there’s a room for the forgiven waiting in the Lord’s mansion doesn’t change that. It’s nice to believe there’s a place you can go when your time is up, but it’s also natural to wonder what people will say about you once you get there, and you hope that it’s only good things. “Ignorance is bliss/the poor rejected by the filthy rich” quips Gemstones on “New World,” highlighting at least one sin that won’t leave you well remembered. He would rather trade that wealth for the “power” to change lives, no matter how “Selfish” such a pursuit might be (another relatable sin).

You even hear the sound of a gun being cocked and fired in the intro of this song, which is certainly atypical for most Christian rappers, although the soulful singing of Precious isn’t out of place on the track. Stones seems to be having an out-of-body experience on the track, rapping about someone on the verge of making the one mistake you can’t take back, the very kind of harrowing moment that makes many a person turn to faith for guidance. If you’ve gotten this far into “Blind Elephant” you’re either along for the ride willingly or missed the not-at-all subtle references to what Gem thinks is important. Young Money can make your “BedRock” but the sediment that Stones is built upon is much stronger. Faith lifts him up and holds him down. When he feels himself slipping he knows something will catch him before he hits the ground.

At a time when religion is often used as a weapon by people who seek to twist it to their own agenda, I’m often reminded of the words of KRS-One: “What do you accept in your life? Christianity… or the teachings of Christ?” I’m not an overly devout person (far from it) but Gemstones is more like DMX than DC Talk, and doesn’t come off like he’s pandering to a Christian audience simply to receive their offerings in return. He strikes me as a “teachings of Christ” kind of rapper. He’s the kind of man who would love the immigrant and the leper, who would minister to the poor and feed the hungry, who would be a true rebel in the face of authority. Too many Christian rappers make the mistake of quoting proverb after proverb and making endless protestations of their love for God, and how “He” blessed them (and presumably you). “Blind Elephant” takes a kinder, more humanistic approach, and a far more relatable one.

Gemstones :: Blind Elephant
7Overall Score