Top tier battle rappers are few and far between. But West London’s Gemin1 has been in the top spot for years now, having faced the fiercest UK and international stars. He’s appeared in the Vs movie, shut down sets with Yizzy, and arguably never lost a battle. We caught up with the heavy hitter to speak on his upcoming bout with Shotty Horroh, plus plenty of exclusives regarding URL, title matches and Hollow Da Don…
“Fuck every battler, because fuck them all.”
What’s given you your battling buzz back?
“It never really left, I’ve always had a passion for battle rap. The style of battle rap that I agree with is just my natural rapping style, so when I came into battle rap, it gave me a better outlet for those types of bars that don’t necessarily fit in music. My buzz was always there, and when I see Shotty Horroh jump out the window saying he’s back, I was like ‘Nah I gotta kill him.’ He’s someone I need to kill. There’s no one better for that job than me.”
You said that if you didn’t battle Shotty Horroh you’d quit. Is that true?
“Nah that’s just me over hyping. But look, I’ve told all these battlers, no one wanted to battle Shotty. He said he was back and I was the only one who said anything about that. Now I don’t wanna see him battling other people. If they wanted to battle him they’d have made that shit clear. I’ll battle him in Manny, I’ll battle him in his back garden. It’s something that I want.”
“I’m marking my territory.”
Is you versus Shotty confirmed for next year then?
“It’s not confirmed-confirmed, but we have a gentleman’s agreement it’s gunna go down. We haven’t locked in no dates, but we’ve spoke about a lot of things like where we’d want it. Nothing’s locked in officially but publicly we’ve both said we’d do it. So, that’s all that really matters. The dates and stuff we’re gunna work out. There’s a few things why dates are hard to lock in right now for the both of us, and that’s just our personal life stuff. Other than that, yeah, that battle is gunna happen one hundred percent.”
How would you prepare for that matchup then?
“That’s a good question. I’m pretty sure Shotty’s gunna have a battle before then, so it’s almost hard for me to say before I see that. If he wants to battle me first then I’m going off the old Shotty. I’m going off the ‘Tony D Shotty’, the ‘Charlie Clips Shotty’, but that was a long time ago. He ain’t battled in like four years. I need to see the new Shotty, so when he gets his little firing off on whoever the fuck he battles first, then I’ll know how I’ll prepare for him. But really and truly, I’m just coming the same way I usually do, and a hundred times more focused. I will not be more focused for a battle than Shotty. I care about battling Shotty more than the American lot. There’s not an American person I’d battle instead. He’s known I want him from the beginning. The only reason I ever thought it wasn’t gunna happen was cos he stepped away from the thing. Soon as he said he’s back, I’m like ‘You’re mine, I’m marking my territory, I’m pissing all over your leg’, all of that.”
There’s been talk of you and Yizzy forming a doubles team for Premier Battles. What’s the likelihood of it actually happening?
“That’s as easy as me just saying ‘Yizzy, we’re doing it.’ He’s been wanting to get involved in a two-on-two with me for a while. A lot of the battlers like to talk their negative stuff, but me and Yizzy’s chemistry is different compared to all of theirs. The only people that can match that chemistry would be Shuffle T and Marlo, but I wouldn’t battle them. That style will beat everyone, no disrespect to anyone, but you don’t have them loosing any two-on-two they do. I’ve worked with Yizzy for two years now, and we can write songs over the phone going back-to-back, bar-for-bar. We’ve done this shit for a while, we do shows together, and I feel like they don’t understand how good Yizzy actually is. I almost want to do it just to show them. Prem said NWX, so they’re already tryna throw us a good name and we haven’t even linked up yet. I’ve never done a two-on-two, why have we been offered NWX? Because they know who’s gunna put in effort when it comes to this shit. And they know what style matchups are gunna work, a lot of them don’t work. But me and Yizzy versus NWX makes a lot more sense than some of the other two-on-twos we have in this country.”
Who would you like to face in a two-on-two then?
“If they’re saying NWX, then yeah I’d love to battle DNA and K-Shine. But if not, then anyone can get it. The only people I don’t wanna see get it is the people who are tryna ridiculously downplay Yizzy. If you’re gunna do that then we’re not gunna jump in ring with you, then you’re gunna lose out on an opportunity because Yizzy is doing a lot more than 90% of all battlers. He’s just come back from Ukraine, his new song is in FIFA, he’s got millions of streams on Spotify – there’s two different levels. Anyone who downplays what he does isn’t seeing that it’s actually an opportunity for them more than it is for him.”
Many consider you to be unbeaten…
“Yeah some people do, it’s a debate. I think the consensus is that I’ve never taken a clear loss. There might be a couple where people might have the other person winning, but as a whole consensus no one has ever killed me.”
If so, then why have you decided to stay away from title matches?
“I never necessarily wanted a title. When Soul battled Shox I was lined up to battle Calicoe, it wasn’t meant to be Raptor, it was supposed to be me in a three round battle with Calicoe. I can battle Shox and Soul whenever I want, but when you’re the champ you have to defend it at the random times that leagues choose. That isn’t what I wanted because then I’d have to be battling people that they pick whenever they want to pick them. Now I’ve battled Soul and Shox, but battling Calicoe doesn’t happen all the time. I could battle anyone in the UK, (bar Shotty when he was gone), near enough whenever I want to. So the title didn’t have the same amount of aura that it did for other people. Also, Tony is my boy. So for me, I wanted to stay clear of Tony’s lane. That’s how I always felt: Tony is the champ, even if he gave it up. It was his lane and I didn’t want to step in it because of his shadow – as much as the weird battle rap community likes to put me in his shadow. I felt like not doing that was better for my career.
“I’m chasing my own kind of legacy.”
“You’ve got to think about where the title match ended. Where did it go? We had Soul verses Shox, Shox won. I battled Shox shortly after and that’s when a lot of the things with Don’t Flop kinda crumbled so it didn’t matter after that anyway. So it worked out to benefit me a lot more than it didn’t. And if I’d battled Soul earlier, it wouldn’t have been on URL. I think it lined up how I needed it to. The whole thing with being the title person is trying to prove you’re the best, but I think that’s an invisible title that you can’t claim. I’m chasing my own kind of legacy that I’m trying to leave behind. You can’t be the best, it’s all opinion and it changes all the time, but the champ thing solidifies that for a moment. It’s a gratification thing that never had a hold on me because I was always comfortable with where I was.”
If it’s not titles, how do you personally measure your success?
“Opportunities. In general I feel like I get a lot of the big opportunities when it comes to UK battlers. I know when I pick up the phone to any battle league that I can negotiate very well because of the things I’ve done, and because they know I draw in people that also don’t watch battle rap. That was one of the main reasons me and Shotty were talking about the battle. He said that when he put up the poll, he was getting hit up by loads of people that didn’t follow him and it’s because I’ve got my own people. I’ve got people from back in the day, and my own set of people that watch me for me. Even things like being featured in the Vs film, being included in Battle of the Brave, being included in Summer Madness. These things mean more to me than the title shot. I could have had the title shot in 2015. Not everyone gets phone calls about these specific things. Barely anyone got a call about Battle of the Brave and that was a huge event. Barely anyone got a call for URL and that was a huge event. The Vs film, that was a huge thing. The battle I had with Cortez, even though it could have been better, things got rushed and shortened into a one-round because Cortez was late, but it was streamed live to every cinema that was playing the Vs film. That’s something that I can be proud of: You’re the first battler in the UK that’s had your battle streamed to loads of cinemas. For me that was a huge thing. There are so many random things that battle rap has given me, and not necessary any other people, so that’s how I judge it.”
How do you feel about URL removing your Soul battle from YouTube?
“Oh well that’s not what happened really. That was down to me and a legal situation that’s going on. They were very cool with it, and that wasn’t on them. We had a great relationship before and since then. I’ve spoken to Norbes since then, I jumped on Norbes’ podcast. I’m still in contact with them and I talk to Hollow a lot. Well, not a lot lately because of stuff he’s got going on but I’ve still got a good relationship with URL.”
Can you touch on the recent URL situation in relation to UK battle rap?
“Yeah a hundred percent. Me and Shotty have had this conversation because obviously he wasn’t happy with how things happened, and I think he took it as a URL thing, but we still have to finish having that conversation. I don’t know the ins and outs. I know Twork pulled out and to me he’s someone who is consistently stealing from the culture and it’s kind of ridiculous. It’s not something I’m comfortable with as someone who’s a part of the culture. Everyone pulling out was unprofessional. It was a disservice to Shotty Horroh as Shotty Horroh, in a fucked up way. It’s like you’re violating one of your own. This isn’t Gemin1’s league where you don’t really care about Gemin1, you know who Shotty Horroh is. He’s just as big, if not bigger than them. They’re all on the same plateau and they violated that. I don’t know how directed it was by the URL so I’m not gunna be like ‘Smack and URL had something to do with it’, and that’s why Shotty and I need to finish that conversation, because I know he felt like that at the time. I don’t know if he still does after more information came out, but we said we’d revisit it when the dust settles and things are more clear. I said ‘I’m not going to jump out of a window until I know, and I don’t want you to either, so let’s both revaluate the situation for what it is.’ We will come back to it. I don’t know whether it was actually Smack and URL. Do you?”
“It’ll be the best shit you’ve heard in your life.”
It’s difficult to divide the two…
“For me personally, I don’t think it was them but that’s just me saying that because I can’t see why. But again, I don’t know how deep it is. There’s a lot of strange politics in battle rap that I try and steer clear of, which is why I still have good relations with all the league owners. It’s never going to be personal with me about battling stuff. I’d like to think it wasn’t them, and part of me thinks, (and it sounds really bad of me to say), but I don’t know whether they cared enough to focus on it like that. They said they had no idea about it. I’ve heard a lot of things about Twork’s situation, Mike P’s situation, Chef Trez, so a lot of these people did it off their own accord. Maybe they were conspiring but I don’t believe Smack had a thing to do with it. But I could be wrong, it’s a fucked up situation. You got told about your battle seven months in advance. If you gave me seven months to write for Shotty Horroh then I’m fucking laughing. I’d be so happy. Yo, give me seven months for Shotty and it’ll be the best shit you’ve heard in your life, on some Cassidy shit.”
You’ve probably got seven months to be fair.
“I mean, I haven’t started writing for anybody. Me and Rivers are gunna get it in hopefully as well, that’s something that’s supposed to happen. I know Premier Battles would prefer me to battle for them once before I battle Shotty, so there should be two battles then Shotty Horroh.”
Who’s on your hitlist then?
“I’ve got loads of people to be real. I want to battle Soul again, definitely, and with whatever terms he’s happy with. I want to battle Sensa and Rivers. Not to sure about Quill right now but he’s always been a name I thought I’d end up having to see. I want him to have a really good performance again. Him and Real Deal was too friendly, it was great, but still a bit of a happy battle where people are just happy to watch it. I like battles where people want someone to die. People are getting happy battles where the fans think it was great without it mattering who won. I want you to be in a war where someone dies, and if no one dies then it’s a classic, and not just a happy battle. Him and Craft-D, I gave to Craft-D. I think Quill really tried to do the veteran move, but it fell flat so he came across too arrogant for me. I’m guessing he walked in there thinking we was gunna dog walk Craft-D and it didn’t happen. Shouts to Craft-D, that’s a big win under his belt so I’m happy for him. Who else… Respek BA can die as well. Just the main heavy hitters I ain’t battled yet. That’s what I’ve based my career on. There’s been a lot of people who we see run through matchups, and Raptor’s one of them, (someone I fuck with heavy), but he’s battled so many people twice because he’s run out of those matchups.”
“He’s battled me twice, Dialect on beat twice, he’s about to battle Unan twice, he’s battled Villun twice and I’m pretty sure there’s someone else. I don’t blame him because I’d want to battle Unan again. But that’s the problem with a lot of the ‘top tier battlers’ especially from my generation and before. When a lot of people think of top tier battlers they go from when me, Raptor and Shox came in, and then everyone before. I don’t think there’s been many people after us that are put in a top tier category, and I’d like you to correct me because I might be wrong. I feel like it ends with me, Raptor and Shox, but that’s 2014 – that’s five years ago. There’s a lot of new people who have made noise. Scoop is sick, and that’s my boy, that’s someone I talk to regularly, he knows I wouldn’t lie to him on the phone. He’s put himself in a great position, like if he were to come back and battle Unan and Soul and do great, that would push him into the undeniable top tier category. I think people have had those battles and not shown up properly. I don’t class Bobby Rex as top tier, that’s my opinion, a lot of people do. Most of the top tier people came before me: Tony D, Soul, Shotty Horroh, Cee Major, Unanymous, Double L, Lego, Ogmios, Shuffle T, Marlo. I can go on for days with people who came before me, but when it comes to after me… it gets dim.”
You and Cee Major would be a sick matchup.
“It would be fucking amazing. He’s one of my favourites, I’d loved to have battled him in the day. We knew each other before either of us ever battled. There was always a big mutual respect thing, so that’s probably why that battle was never pushed. You see me gunning for people but I’d never come at him like that because it’s a big respect thing with me and Cee Major.”
You’ve shown a bit of support for TV show The Rap Game UK. Who do you see taking it?
“Oh yeah, I want FOS to win. I’ve done a couple tunes with him actually, years ago. He’s someone I’ve seen and respect the work rate of. He deserves it a lot more than everyone else on the show, not to disrespect them, but just because I’ve seen his grind as an artist. I’ve seen his heart and his passion and I’ll support anything like that. This is what I’ve been saying today, because I’ve seen people talking about promoting battle rap. No one promotes battle rap anymore. My thing is, if I see something on my newsfeed, me clicking retweet and writing a little something with it takes one second. If I’m already on Twitter, why can’t I? A lot of people don’t promote their battles, other people’s, their friends’ music… it’s a weird thing. I’ve seen cards where I’m promoting it more than the battlers on the card. I’m telling people ‘Yo, buy this ticket, buy this ticket,’ but I’m not on the card or getting paid for promotion. I grill Bobby Rex all the time, but as soon as he dropped his mixtape I’m posting it. It’s not personal with me. The battle rap chatting shit is what we need to do, we need to be at each other’s necks because it’s a competitive sport, but when it comes to supporting something that someone’s doing, I’ll be the first to do it. It’s still ‘Fuck every battler’, because fuck them all. Fuck every single one of them, but I still want to see them do well. Just not better than me, [laughs].”
What’s next for Gemin1?
“There’s a lot of things that are next. I don’t like doing the thing where you say a bunch of things that are gunna happen and they don’t happen. I’m not in a place where I’m gunna be like ‘Yeah watch out for this and that,’ because I’ve got lots of things planned. But a lot of things are on hold right now due to what I mentioned earlier. Once that’s cleared out the way, which hopefully fingers crossed for me it is, then it’ll be back to what I should have been doing this year. Before that issue came across I was performing regularly. I was doing loads of shows with Yizzy, we did Reading Festival, we did O2, we done BBC, we done Kiss, Reprezent, we’ve got a whole EP basically ready to release – I’ve got a lot of stuff in the pipeline that’s on hold. It’ll be regular scheduled programming and it’ll be a lot better.
“I even had a project with Hollow Da Don.”
“The music side of things is picking up for me, just in the sense of the people working with me, the people fucking with me, the producers I have, and the team I have behind me when I need them. So I’m not really stressed when it comes to what I’m gunna do, and I’ve got a lot of outlets even this year that I can use. It’ll be very more catered towards having Gemin1 as a whole business that I can live off. I even had a project with Hollow Da Don that I can’t really speak on, but that was for both of our reasons timing wise. Hopefully that can still happen cos he’s still open to it and so am I. We’ve got a project that we fully wanna bring to fruition, and that’s something that will benefit both of us really well. There are a lot of things behind the scenes, but I don’t like to say in case they don’t happen. I’ll tell you off the air.”
Interviewed by: James Wijesinghe