My nan was the one who got me started. In what may have been a Proustian moment, she sat me down on the armchair in her small house and proceeded to tell me about the star signs and what they mean. The exact details are a little fuzzy but I would have been holding a miniature bottle of supermarket brand lemonade and listening patiently, shovelling the odd boiled sweet into my mouth. I was probably five or six when I discovered I was a tiny, water-bearing Aquarius.
At the time I was convinced, as all malleable children are, that my nan was right. The planets rule our lives. Years later I grew skeptical, then recently – as an adult – I seemed to emerge from a dark period, Eckhart Tolle-like, believing there is some form of greater power lightly guiding the strings of reality. I know this sets me out to be a little bit crackers but think about it: if the moon controls the ocean's tide and we as humans are 60 percent water, there's a good chance celestial bodies affect us too, softly catalysing waves of energy and emotion inside our bodies. And if these planetary beings do influence humanity, it could explain why a lot of famous musicians are all Gemini.
A short but not complete list of some artists who are governed by The Twins of Castor and Pollux: Bob Dylan, Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Andre 3000 and Miles Davis; Brian Wilson, Kendrick Lamar, Tupac, Biggie Smalls and Lauryn Hill; Morrissey, Stevie Nicks, Noel Gallagher, Curtis Mayfield, Lionel Richie and Ice Cube. Of all the musicians in the world, is it not a little freaky some of the most progressive and iconic are all Gemini, ruled by the humble iron ball that is Mercury? Is this simple and hollow coincidence? Or is a significant force permeating its way through the universe, down toward the earth and informing our life here?
By now most people know how the zodiac works, but in case not here's a primer. There are 12 signs and depending on when you are born, certain planets are in certain places in the sky. The position of these interstellar objects then determines a person's star sign – and their relative traits. For Gemini, who are born between 21 May and 21 June, these characteristics are as follows: expressive, quick-witted, communicative and able to embody two different personalities in one. Their dislikes? Being confined; routine; repetition. Certainly, these sound like the qualities of a boundary-pushing artist, one who refuses forms of constraint on their expression.
Interviewed by Steve McQueen in 2014, Kanye West said "I'd be biased to think that the community of Geminis is the most consistently in tune with what their spirit is telling them to do or why they have breath in their lungs. But I do think that creative Geminis have, throughout history, been really in tune with those things." And he's right: whether it's Dylan going with his mind and turning up in Manchester in 1966 with a black Telecaster to shouts of "Judas" or Prince's insistence that "a strong spirit transcends rules", famous Geminis have consistently communicated their art in a way that is both unrestrained and pushes culture forward.
Of these influential Gemini, one of the most prominently creative is Kendrick Lamar. As West says, Lamar is one of these Gemini who wears his alignment, belief system and intuition on his sleeve. He's referenced his star sign plenty of times – "Wesley's Theory" ("I'm a Gemini, two sides"); "Untitled 06" (A Gemini, duality personalities always conflict in me"); "Untitled 02" (Can't pick a side, the Gemini"; "The Heart Pt 1" (Very emotional, I'm a Gemini"). He's also a bold and unforgiving artist, leading albums with stark, honest representations of his spirit. In an interview with Zane Lowe, Lamar explained: "People can write about anything, but if I don't feel it then the listener sure enough ain't going to feel it".
As Rick Rubin notes in his chat with the Compton artist, Lamar's soul-mining approach to music is what sets him apart from his rap competition: it enables us to connect with the core of his being, to believe every word he's saying, to feel the depth of his emotion. How exactly does this connect with his star-sign? Pause for a second and think about Drake, a Scorpio (who are famous for exhibiting feelings of jealousy, anger and distrust). As Noisey writer Sarah McDonald puts it, Drake's music embodies the competitive, manipulative and emotionally forward traits of his sign to a tee. On the flipside, Lamar's attunement with his sign and its expressive, unrestrained qualities sit firmly within the bedrock of his music. And he knows it, too. "You heard of Gemini? There's always two sides," he said to the Guardian, in 2015. "Doing music is the only way for me to get that conflict out."
About that two sides thing, the defining quality of the Gemini. In one of his last interviews, Tupac Shakur is quoted as saying: "All of us as human beings have a dominant and a quiet side. I happen to be a Gemini, and I am young and I'm black and I'm from the hood, so it's just, you got all these different facets." These two personalities are starkly present across Pac's back catalogue: there's the 2Pac of Thug Life, of jail and "California Love", of shutting down reporters – and then there's the contemplative, reflective, almost spiritual Tupac who wrote "Dear Mama" and "Keep Ya Head Up", has his own collection of poetry, and spoke with calm insight. In a way, Lamar embodies the same two-sided qualities of his biggest inspiration, often switching from brash and outspoken themes to conscious remarks in the space of a single bar.
The two-sided quality of the Gemini goes beyond contrasting thoughts and into alter-egos, too. Think about the famous Geminis and the varying iterations of themselves: Kung Fu Kenny, the fact Bob Dylan is, in many ways, an alter ego of Robert Allen Zimmerman or the many different sides to Kanye West. Then there's Prince, a man who had no less than eight alter egos (one of which was simply called Gemini, represented in the liner notes for his appearance on the 1989 Batman soundtrack, of all things). Looking at these alternate personas through the lens of the star sign, it's as though highly creative Geminis are comfortable fragmenting themselves into parts, dispensing them as and when certain emotions take them over.
Of course, being a Gemini isn't the sole reason these musicians are creative and progressive. Talent comes into it. You can't simply be born in late May and be imbued with a wild sense of creativity. But if you're thinking of popping out a superstar baby anytime soon, it would be wise to make sure they're born somewhere near May and June. Plenty of other icons fall into other star signs – Lil Wayne and John Lennon (Libra), Kurt Cobain (Pisces), George Michael (Cancer), David Bowie (Capricorn). But the most famous Gemini do embody the respective traits of their sign – and it's arguable these traits have contributed to the stamp their work has had on culture and their respective careers. Where would Kanye West be if he didn't run with his spirit and start rapping over his own beats, going on to release albums like 808s and Heartbreak and Yeezus? Or Andre 3000 and his world of genre-bending ATL rap?
Though my feet are firmly planted in the camp that believes there's more to life than simply farting through existence, it's understandable many aren't convinced by astrology. Horoscopes – mostly written by spiritualised fashion bloggers or kooky stay-at-home magazine columnists – are often little more than counterfeit guides to life. Although they can be helpful in coaxing readers into being mindful and aware of the present (which is great!), how can one reading be correct when each publication's horoscope is different? Embedded in their backbone however are the 12 signs of the zodiac – like the Gemini – and their meaning, which feels a little more authentic, bound in millennia of philosophical teachings and planetary observation.
Like enlarged skulls and the complex cognitive behaviour that takes place within them, the zodiac has been around almost as long as humans. Originating in the Babylonian era (500 BC; or a very long fucking time ago), the 12 signs of the zodiac are ingrained in the culture of all the history class MVPs: the chiton-wearing, democratic ancient Greeks; the pyramid-building Egyptians; the straight-line-of-a-road-carving Romans – they all followed a form of the zodiac that has changed little to this day, looking to it as a form of interpretational analysis. And these cultures aren't alone: the ancient Hindus created a zodiac that also features the same 12 signs. Again: is this a coincidence? Or did these civilisations, of whom much of modern life is predicated, know more about the world than we do? It's certainly likely they were more in tune with its inner-workings, having discovered some far-out theories and inventions in between all the star-gazing.
As an Aquarius with an Ascendent sign in Capricorn and a Moon sign in Gemini, I am – as designated by the stars – open-minded, want to explain things, am comfortably aligned with spiritual practices and would like to use them to make the world a better place (or at least one that makes more sense). That's something I've always believed but is also a combined result of these three astrological signs – something I learned when I started to become embroiled in this world years after my grandmother first showed it to me. Being doubtful and suspicious of astrology is easy. But as these Gemini artists show – who not only represent their sign but also openly believe in and reference it in their music and interviews – there is something more significant at play here. It's the secret of the Gemini and the creative power it wields when used with knowing purpose – and how we can also use a similar, more personal power to our own advantage.
If all that feels like something knitted to a loincloth in the Green Fields of Glastonbury, that's OK. If there's one takeaway here however, it's that life is more than the sum of its parts. The Ancient Egyptians knew what was up when they built the Pyramids and I believe they knew what was going on here too. Horoscopes may be bad. Being mindful of your star sign, or if not that then the positive and negative qualities that make you who you are? That's good and is something we can all do to better ourselves along the way, Gemini or not.
Without getting too heavy-handed, consciousness of ourselves and our presence is something we can all begin practicing in trying times. As Lamar says in his interview with Zane Lowe about his new record: "DAMN is the idea of: 'I can't change the world until I change myself.'" And that's the truth. I would also like to be a Gemini though, so if anyone knows how I can do that please hit me up.
You can find Ryan Bassil on Twitter.
(Illustration by Esme Blegvad)