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Thursday, Jan. 10 @ The Loft, 414 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing.
18kknd, $15, $13 adv., 7 p.m.
Over the last 15 years, Lansing-based rapper James Gardin has dropped six solo releases and four group projects and promises there is “a lot more on the way.” His artful brand of alternative hip hop fuses classic R&B, pop, indie rock and Christian music into a spiritual hybrid of soulful sounds.
In the past couple of months, he’s kept busy releasing those works via the Seattle-based label Illect Recordings. Two freshly issued tracks, “Joy” and “Home,” are streaming on both Spotify and YouTube.
It was a bustling 2018 for Gardin, who stayed active with a number of concerts and new business ventures. The 33-year old songwriter landed a couple of his tracks on high-profile commercial spots. “In 2018, I was releasing a lot of singles and trying to figure out the licensing game,” Gardin said. “I came into the year with an ESPN placement [‘Complaining’], but the high point of 2018 was definitely getting a placement on ads for the latest Tommy Hilfiger collection and hearing my song [‘Iconic’] on the runway in Shanghai.”
With so much busy work to be done, Gardin said his free time has been limited, but when he’s not in the studio or on stage, he’s staying involved in a number of community programs and charities. Of course, he already has his first 2019 show booked as well. Thursday, area fans can hear his new batch of tracks live when he opens the Marc Rebillet show at The Loft. Also warming up the stage are DJ Ruckus and Blaine & His Keyboard.
“When I’m not writing or performing, I don’t know if that even exists at this point,” said the always-busy Gardin. I’ve been doing a lot of work with AOTA (All of the Above) teaching songwriting and emceeing with high school students in the Lansing School District. Outside of that, I’m probably meditating or reading a book.”
As for 2019, Gardin said it’s going to be yet another busy year. “I want to get some touring in, release at least two projects and a lot more singles,” he said. “I’d like to get some more placements, and keep finding ways to teach and invest in the next generation of music.”
For those who have followed Gardin since his early days — when he went by the stage name “P.H.I.L.T.H.Y” and regularly rapped with the Blat! Pack collective — they’ve probably noticed a sonic evolution in his rhyming and delivery.
“Over the years, I’ve definitely done a lot more singing and paid more and more attention to melody when it comes to my delivery,” he said. “I’ve also been growing more as a producer and working on creating all parts of the music. I’ve definitely grown a lot farther than I thought I would be 15 years ago.”
Aside from his own music career, Gardin is a long-time supporter of the Lansing music scene as a whole, often playing mixed-genre bills with a diverse batch of local songsters.
“I know this city has so much talent, so even if it's not me on a bill I challenge you to go see a local act perform,” he said. “I promise; you’ll be surprised by how much talent we have here.”