Hnst Talk: James Gardin

by Eric Boston @EricBoston3

From boogieing in the Chi to getting live Down Under, 2019 has been an eventful one.


James Gardin represents hip hop's essence within CHH and the impact was felt this year.

"It's been a lot of ups and downs."

"Dropped an EP, sold out my release show. I started the summer independent, no longer with the label. Started producing for myself. It's been a lot of re-learning and re-adjusting."

"The biggest lesson is that I know more than I think I do...and I know nothing at all. I've realized that I'm capable of more than I expected and I have a lot to learn. I like learning though, so it's been a beautiful struggle."

Out of the learning process came one of my favorite singles of 2019, "Chitown Boogie".

"It was one of the joints Theycallmeheat sent. It honestly spoke to me right when I heard it."

"I felt like I wanted it to be funny and hopeful. It was probably one of my favorite records to write. The success it's had has been crazy!"

"I usually start with a mumble to think of melodies and patterns. Then I'll listen to it and think about what it's saying to me. I start making words out of the mumble. That's been my process for the last like 2-3 years."

"Chitown Boogie is definitely on the top of the list, but I also like Comfortable a lot because it's always fun collaborating with the homey Sareem Poems. That's the homey, I'm sure we'll collaborate more this year. I'm on his new record and that joints amazing too. '88 to Now' is probably one of my favorite records out right now. I think that record just came out really well. I love You and You and You because it's about some of my favorite humans ever."

Making the decision to start self-producing was not an easy one to make. It was a choice to get a bit uncomfortable.

"I've been toying with the idea for a while, but I kept doubting if I can do it."

"I've been teaching production at camp and different after school programs. I know how to do it, but I didn't think I was good enough. I think it was a couple of conversations I had with my students. They wouldn't call themselves emcees and producers because they didn't think they were good enough and I recognized my hypocrisy."

"I could encourage them to do or be something I refused to do."

"2 out of my last 3 releases (You and You and You, and Major) were self-produced."

When you are doing the brunt of the work there comes a level of flexibility. For Gardin, that means choosing what you want to focus your energy on.

"I might get another single out for you. I'll be finishing a project for 2020. You might hear some singles I produce for other people. More events. I'll keep finding new ways to get out of my comfort zone."

"I'm actually going to Australia in November. I'll be at the Uprock Hip Hop Summit. I'm performing and doing some workshops."

Gardin is doing things that a lot of people in Christian hip hop hope to do. At the same time, that can lead to feeling a little out of place (even when God is using us).

"I feel like such an outlier in CHH."

"I think I've seen some people make more and more noise in popular culture which is really dope to see."

"I think people need some positive messages to offset the negativity we get about our planet, politics, and social meida. It can be toxic at times. I think people are looking for something different. If more people come to the faith that's what will really encourage me."

"Some rules I've learned to live by are:
  • No one owes you anything, be grateful for everything
  • Always be willing to learn, there's a solution to everything
  • Never do it all yourself, you will spread yourself too thin
  • Don't be afraid to fail, take more shots (a NBA player will have a 30-45% shooting average and that's good. Quit trying to have a 70-100% average, that only means you're not trying enough.)
I listen to way less rap for inspiration in my music and I'm inspired by all art forms. I think you have to be able to draw influences from outside sources. I like to diversify my sources of inspiration."

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Check out James Gardin's latest release, "Sad Black Boys" with Jahshua Smith below and let us know what you think in the comments.




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