Late September, early October, that was a pretty mild time of the year. This week, it had been a little brisk. It was raining all day and didn’t look to be stopping anytime soon. The sun teased the townies behind the clouds, as they walked on by the park that Easton’s Mayor, Sal Panto had so adamantly pursued to build near the river that borders the overly gentrified town. It used to be different. Before the park, it was just grass. It wasn’t beautiful but it wasn’t ugly.
Across the river was Phillipsburg, New Jersey. Easton and “Pburg” as they call it around town, have had a high school football rivalry going on for well over 100 years. Every Thanksgiving morning, those two schools got together at the Lafayette College football stadium and played it out, forcing the loser to cry over a meal of cold turkey.
Philipsburg is also home to one of the few female rappers that is nestled in or around the Lehigh Valley, Tanysha or Gemini Genesis. The name Tanysha didn’t fit her androgynous appearance that she rapped so proudly about in her song “Top Pedigree”. “Appearance so androgynous, attitude full of dominance.”
She is originally from Hudson County, New Jersey. “5AM in Jersey” is reminiscent of the time she spent there growing up as a child. The music video is shot in a town where she lived.
With lyrics as blunt as that, she must be one hunk of a woman. Maybe she lifted a lot. She claimed to know how to fight well because she was from Jersey. Is that a right of passage? What about someone from Tennessee? Wyoming? Texas?
The weather wasn’t letting up. She had texted earlier to say that if the weather turns, we’d be able to move into one of the bars. But we went with Panto’s park anyway (It’s actually Scott Park). A misty rain was blowing in from all directions. As I told her of my arrival, she texted, “I was going to wear sweatpants and a hoodie but I don’t want to make a bad first impression.”
Over by the stone steps of an out of place park concert stage was this spunky, small, built woman, Tanysha. She stood about 5’2 at the very most. She was very slender and wore baggy street clothes. A gold chain, maybe it was silver, hung around her neck. Were they dog tags? No, I didn’t recall that correctly. It was a crucifix. Her hair was short, almost a buzz cut. Her eyebrow was pierced on the right side. There was something very ethnic to her as well. It was revealed later that she was half-Cuban.
She said she was nervous and had never done this before. It was just an interview but clearly, she felt the need to prepare in advance. She asked to be sent interview questions at least 2-3 days before. Her eye contact was shifty. The ambiance wasn’t really helping either as it allowed her to hide under a hood.
“Speak clearly and loudly,” I said, setting the recorder down on the step we were sitting on.
“Oh boy, here we go,” she said.
“First and foremost, where does your rapper name Gemini Genesis come from?”
“Well, my zodiac sign is Gemini and my brother, his rapper name had the word Revelations in it. So we are opposites. He’s Revelations and I’m Genesis. The beginning and the end.”
I thought about what she had told me about her brother. He was an alcoholic. She hadn’t spoken to him in maybe 3 years. They used to be very close. Sadly, that was also the last living and breathing family member she had left.
In Hudson County New Jersey, Tanysha was raised by a single mother, the child of Cuban immigrants. Her father was never in the picture. She was co-raised by her Grandmother. They didn’t have much but each other. Constantly going from house to house, Tanysha’s mother struggled to provide for her two kids. Eventually, Tanysha was put into the foster care system. When she was 16, her mother died. Her Grandmother died as well, leaving only Tanysha and her brother together.
They no longer spoke. She only spoke to him in song. “Can You Hear Me” took us into her life when she was still a teenager.
“I keep trying to remember how I saw you as my idol
How anytime you’d go out, I’d ask mom can I go?
It seemed you knew it all from the ins of playing ball
To every player’s stats who was posted on your wall.
You had a booklet filled with cards & after every game?”
“I looked up to my brother,” says Tanysha. “Anything that he did, I did too. He played ball, so did I. He rapped, that’s how I started rapping. But he was always way better than I was.”
We were to focus on the fact that she was a woman in a male-dominated genre of music but that didn’t seem to phase her. The conversation always came back to her rough upbringing, the streets of Jersey and of course, her mother’s death.
“I don’t really think about it too much. No one has ever given me a hard time about being a girl. Sure I identify as a woman. I don’t do the they/them thing. I just like to rap.”
It was clear why she liked to rap after hearing her life story. She had been abandoned by many that she loved either through death, breakups, or resentment. Her pain was the source of her art and her suffering is what made her an artist. Alas, the focus shifted to her hard life. Who cared that she was a woman at this point. That approach was dead. What was very much alive now were her lyrics and the hurt that resonated from them.
“So do you have anyone at all?”
“I have my friends. We are very close. I also have a goddaughter. I’m actually going to see her after this interview.”
“If I don’t make it rapping, I would like to do something helping people in other countries. Help find clean water resources, power supply, build schools, things like that,” said Gemini Genesis. “I like helping people, especially children.” She was a medical assistant during the day in a pediatric office. She worked about 3-4 days a week, but very long hours. Her rough childhood shaped more than just her music. It shaped who she was as a person. It was clear because when she wasn’t at work, she’d be doing a favor for a friend or giving the time of day to her goddaughter. She could find a family in just about anyone.
“I just ended a 3.5 year relationship a few months ago. I’ve written a lot about that too.”
She has. Her past EP and new album feature a few break-up related tunes, but nothing quite compared to the suffering in the songs about her brother and mom. “Set Me Free” was about losing her mother. It hit right in the heart. It was golden and it didn’t need to be platinum to be understood. This album was effective for that reason alone. It talked about losing so much, yet Gemini Genesis was able to give in completely to her music.
“Would this ever become less personal to you?”
“No, never. I don’t do this for the fame or the money. I really didn’t know that my songs would touch so many people. I’ll have people come up to me and say ‘Hey, I could totally relate to that song and it helped me.’ I’m helping people by doing this.”
“Do people feel sorry for you? Do you get much sympathy?”
“I get a lot of sympathy but I hate it. I don’t need people’s sympathy. I don’t want them to feel bad for me. I’ve overcome and now I’m releasing through writing.”
There was an awkward silence. I had said a few minutes ago that “Set Me Free” had hurt my heart. Did she now think I was one of the idiots giving her sympathy? Is being empathetic wrong when listening to music?
“Did you ever have a hard time talking about your mother after she died?
“Yeah, at first. When I was 20, that was only 4 years after my mom’s death. I didn’t feel like talking about it to anyone but I’m 30 now. I don’t feel bad when I talk about it anymore. I can accept it.”
Indeed she was a hard cookie to crack. Her years of pain did not show easily on her. She had the coping ability of music. She might have appeared small but her character was mighty. “Appearance so androgynous, attitude full of dominance.” It had nothing to do with gender identity at all. Her music rarely touched on the fact that she was gay or a woman. From there on, we only talked about the stuff that mattered. Her life was her music.
She had two shows coming up at the end of October. I couldn’t make them. In about a month or so, she’d post herself on Snapchat partying away with friends and a lady that she wore on her arm at a bunch of fancy night clubs. She mentioned that she’d be working on a new EP and writing new material for it. More snaps would appear of her in her friend’s recording studio Missile Silo Studios deep in New Jersey.
It wasn’t that she was a woman. Is that ever the case with female rappers? Who makes a big deal out of that? Them or us? Gemini Genesis didn’t and shut me down when I tried to make it about gender. She is who she is because of her past. Her music is what it is because of her past. She is not what she is because of her gender. Her music is not what it is because of her gender.
To hear more of Gemini Genesis’ content, follow her SoundCloud and visit the links below: