If you are going to get into Des Moines hip-hop, there are a few names you should definitely know. And no matter who you talk to, that list is always going to start with one name: Gadema.
“I’m inspired by pain, by love, by joy — all that stuff,” he said. “Just the everyday stuff that everybody goes through, no matter where you’re from. Everybody goes through heartache. Just real-life stuff. Not preaching or anything; I just want to talk.”
Gadema has been talking for nearly 16 years now, and there are few in town who do it better or with more sheer force of character. He has seen hip-hop in Des Moines ebb and flow, and now, he says, the talent is possibly stronger than it has ever been, but it is hard to get people to see.
“It’s really under the radar,” he said. “A lot of the shows that we do, it’s mostly just other rappers and producers and DJs.”
Gadema would love to see more venues take a chance on booking a rapper or two. Since House of Bricks did its changing act, the only place that reliably books hip-hop is Vaudeville Mews, a place that Gadema calls hip-hop’s “headquarters” in the city.
But a lack of venues does not deter those serious about their craft. And nobody has ever accused Gadema of not being serious. When he first starting playing live at a Java Joes open mic in 1999, his creative output was prolific.
“I was always coming up with new ideas,” he said of the early days. “A lot of them never amounted to anything, but I always kept my blade sharp.”
Nowadays, the ideas may not come in quite the same flood, but he hits more often. He has traded quantity for quality. Now, as a self-proclaimed “grown-ass man of 35,” he looks at the hip-hop scene in the city today and marvels at the talent that is growing around him.
“People that I’ve never heard of, but they may be a legend at their school or wherever,” he said. “Then I’ll go check them out, and I’m blown away. These cats that are 19, 20, 21 years old.”
But pull one of the youngbloods aside and ask them who’s who in this city, and they’ll all start with one name.