By this point, many either know or have heard of Gel Roc, the tough-as-nails California emcee (so it may not be an internet secret after all.) With a catalog of music that dates back to 2005, he’s amassed a healthy amount of material under his own name as well as The Cloaks moniker with Awol One, and making a number of appearances on releases by his peers also. Now in 2020, he steps forward again with a new release in Grandeur (Abolano Records), out on his own imprint. The west coast denizen is showing no signs of slowing down and we caught up with him to discuss his new album, doing away with misnomers, and offering opinions that may just go against the status quo. Gel Roc just might be as real as they come.
(so) Who are you really?
Who are any of us really? We all wear Cloaks and project whatever our alter egos choose to, if we’re being honest. I’m multi-dimensional. I’m many things to different people and wear many hats depending on who you ask. For the sake of this conversation, I’m an old school vandal from Whittier, CA. that grew into making underground hip hop music over the last 20 years, I still paint to this day and am happy to have just released a new solo album Grandeur.
What are your (personal) aspirations?
I’ve been fortunate to have been a creative for this long and found a way to keep elevating and evolving in my latter years. This isn’t an easy task by any means but I’m dedicated to my craft and being as authentic as possible. While doing so, It has kept the pulse of what I do thriving, thus far. At this point, with the state of the world we live in today, that’s all I can ask for. I’m thankful for the people that continue to support my creative endeavors. I like to make dope records and art that people seem to dig. Inspire and motivate others is also very important to me. That’s probably the coolest thing about what I do that I enjoy.
Where do you currently live and how’s that affected your energy, creative output, etc.?
Whittier, and that is no secret if you’re familiar with my music. I rep that because I was raised with creatives and it’s influenced my art. My city and crew has spawned some of the best artists in the scene and abroad. From songwriters, graffiti, cruising the boulevard and party crews back in the days, etc. It’s all reflected in my output. I’m an obvious product of my environment.
When did you first begin recording and playing live?
First recorded in Awol One’s home studio in Whittier for a one-sided cassette tape called Noise. That was 1995 I think? I can’t remember the first time taking the stage to play live but had to rock many open mics along the way.
What would you like music listeners in the States to know about your music?
That it may take a few listen through to get it all. There’s a lot of elements in my music that are part of the production. The subtleties of the beats and production to the DJ’s scratch work, the sample used in the concept of the song, and then the lyrics. This latest album includes lyrics for every song. We do vinyl records, CDs, cassettes, and videos to raise awareness for a full experience to capture all of these elements. The visual aspect is also important.
How would you describe your sound and/or the genre it exists in/out of?
Alternative progressive hardcore hip hop.
Hip-Hop is a culture that’s changed dramatically from decade to decade. What’s your biggest pet peeve?
The listeners that haven’t evolved with culture and only listen to the top 40 and mainstream music they’re conditioned to and hold as some sort of standard of success. That is a very narrow-minded way to listen to music. There’s a huge indie scene that we’ve cultivated and curated that breed amazing talent.
Thoughts on ‘cancel culture’?
It’s ridiculous. This is a very general thought but people are human. We grow and evolve and people shouldn’t be held accountable for something we may have said or done in the past that may have been socially acceptable at whatever time, no matter how stupid or ignorant it may have been. If you can learn and repent, then we should be afforded that. Everyone said and did dumb shit when we were young and nobody is born perfect. Obviously, if you continue, someone continuously making dumb and ignorant comments or behaving in a way that we know isn’t socially acceptable, that’s different and there are many examples that may not fit into my general statement. For all intent and purposes though, the internet is a multifaceted playground for ill-informed judgemental people with a mob mentality and nothing better to do. People need to grow up, get outside, and do better rather than point fingers at people they don’t know.
The pandemic has changed the way we go about living. Positives or negatives?
Positives are that we’re forced to spend more time with our families and connect. People are working from home, being more productive from a creative standpoint, etc.
I think there’s a lot more negative but I don’t want to dwell on that aspect.