Jamal Gasol has made a name for himself as a storyteller from the streets. His voice mimics the stern and grimy pictures he paints of life in his city of Niagara Falls, New York. After releasing several mixtapes and EP’s, the Niagara Falls emcee ended 2018 with the release of his first official full-length album titled “True Stories.”
True Stories is produced by Illah Dutch, Won87, Camoflauge Monk, Wavy Da Ghawd, MarcDub, Vinyl Villain, Sadhugold, Eyedee, OlMan80zz, and Onaje Jordan. The album features guest appearances by Jay Nice, Estee Nack, and Rome Streetz.
Jamal Gasol spoke to The Real Hip-Hop about the dire conditions of Niagara Falls, the origins of his rap name, and his new album, True Stories.
TRHH: Why’d you call the new album ‘True Stories’?
Jamal Gasol: I wanted to give something more relating and authentic to the people. Give some real shit for the people to listen to. I feel like the lyrics I gave on the album a lot of people can relate to, especially coming from my area. I spoke on a lot of things that happened around, to me, or to people that’s close to me.
TRHH: You painted a vivid picture of the streets of Niagara Falls on True Stories. What do you think contributes to the root cause of the violence and crime in your city?
Jamal Gasol: Honestly, just a lack of jobs. A lot of places get shut down. Places don’t really be hiring people. People look to the streets once they graduate high school. Don’t nobody want to work a 9-to-5 and make minimum wage and then be getting shorted hours. People go to that street life when they see how much people make in a week or in a day! That changes people. They don’t want to work. It will change your whole mindset on life.
TRHH: So, is the solution more jobs?
Jamal Gasol: Yeah, more jobs and more programs that show kids how to be involved in a career. They provide BOCES and stuff like that, but they don’t let everybody know about them. When I was in school nobody pulled me aside and told me about getting a trade. I don’t know if it’s for select people or whatnot. Everybody is doing the same thing. It’s a lot of CNA’s, a lot of people working in factories, and collection agencies around here. That’s all they have to offer. When people don’t want to do that or don’t want to work a fast food job slaving somewhere, they’re going to make other choices and see people around them in the neighborhood doing something else.
TRHH: I saw in the press release for True Stories that you consider this album your first proper full-length release, why is that?
Jamal Gasol: I dropped a lot of mixtapes last year where some of the tracks were quotes from movies and stuff of that nature or short EP’s. With this one I put a lot of time into picking the beats, making it go together sequentially, and it’s more than the 4-5 tracks I normally give people. The most I gave people was like 7 tracks. To go like a full 9-10 and make it all make sense and it all relates to the same thing, I feel like that’s why this is my first official LP.
TRHH: The song “Reflection (My Time)” is just that, reflective. What inspired you to write that song?
Jamal Gasol: My man OlMan80zz in Canada sent me that beat a while ago. I just go off the feel and the sound of the beat. That was a reflective song where you think about what you’ve been through in life and where you’re heading. It just made me think about things that I went through in life and how I got to where I am now. The beat just gave me that feel to where it’s something you want to express something and touch the people on. It just had that emotion to it.
TRHH: You re-made my favorite Mobb Deep song of all-time on ‘Give up the Goods 2K18’, what made you pick that particular joint to remake?
Jamal Gasol: First and foremost, I gotta shout out Camoflauge Monk for that beat. When he played that joint for me the first time meeting him, me and my man was just bumping Mobb Deep, so when he played that I was like, “Yo, I gotta get this beat!” Prodigy and Havoc are one of the best dynamic duos of all-time in Hip-Hop. I gotta give the credit where it’s due. I had linked up with Rome Streetz at this show in Buffalo when I came up and I told him I had a beat that he would be perfect on. I have a deep voice and he has a lighter tone so it gives it that feel like how Big Noyd was on there. We go back and forth and it was just perfect. I appreciate that. I like that song, too. It’s one of my personal favorites.
TRHH: Who would you say inspired you to want to be an emcee?
Jamal Gasol: I always say different people in different interviews, I’m not even going to lie to you. The people that I would say that made me want to start rapping would be Styles P and Max B. Styles P is just one of the hardest rappers. He’s just going to say whatever comes to his mind and I like that about him. If you listen to Styles P along his journey he can talk about a lot of different shit and I like that. A lot of people want to stick to one type of style, and I like to switch it up and talk about different things. Max B has so much confidence behind his music. He’ll say anything and just make it sound good. He really makes shit wavy. That inspired me and seeing people like 50 Cent come up from his situation; that man got shot 9 times. When you listen to his music you feel his hunger, and that shit inspired me. Then you got Lloyd Banks coming up right under him and he’s a reflection of 50 – the hunger.
TRHH: When I think of “Gasol” I think of Pau and Marc. What’s the origin of the Gasol name?
Jamal Gasol: Honestly, man I have no clue how I came up with Jamal Gasol [laughs]. No bullshit, I have no clue. Where I’m from everybody goes by nicknames or some random shit. One day I was in school and everybody was going by different names, I said I’m just going to go by “Jamal Gasol” and stick with it. I really stuck with it. Before that I used to go by Pacman. I was a big fan of Pacman Jones. I was down in Atlanta when he first started popping so I was going by Pacman. I really wasn’t feeling that because it was another person named Pacman where I was at. I said, “It’s two people with the same nickname around here and nobody is Jamal Gasol, so I’m going to stick with that name.”
TRHH: What’s your ultimate goal in Hip-Hop?
Jamal Gasol: My ultimate goal is I want to be legendary. I want to be a legend when it’s all said and done. When they talk about one of the best to do it, I want to be in that category. Even if I ain’t number one I’m cool with being number fifty of all-time. I want to be in that category where you cannot deny this name. I want to drop good music and leave a legacy behind when I go.
TRHH: Who is the ‘True Stories’ album made for?
Jamal Gasol: The True Stories album is made for people going through the struggle and going through the grind, and people who’ve been there and done that and could relate. I made that specifically for my hometown – Niagara Falls. A lot of the stories that I reflect on are related to the 716 area as a whole where people can say, “Oh, I know what he’s talking about,” or “I feel him on that.” Overall, it’s for my hometown. It’s relating to the people that have been through it and are going through it. I want to give people that hope that you can do anything you want to do.
Purchase: Jamal Gasol – True Stories