Tag Archives: james gardin

Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With Raphael Downes

IMG_7145

The hip-hop scene in Lansing, Michigan is an interesting one. It seems to rise and fall with the student population that comes and goes every four years from Michigan State University. There are also MCs, producers, DJs, B-boys/girls and graffiti artists that were born and raised in Lansing, developing their craft within the Capitol area.

Raphael Downes is one of these MCs, having been in the scene from the days of Respiration at Mac’s Bar. When you watch him perform and listen to his music, you can tell that rapping is something that comes natural to him. However, its also something that he’s worked on, which has to be done if you’re serious about making a career in music. During a freestyle, he gets open with the best of them. On stage his persona is nothing short of infectious.

Raphael is a man of faith. There is the religious side to him, something that drives his everyday life, as well as his belief in hope and being positive. These themes are deeply rooted in his music and are the essence of hip-hop; speaking on your truth and experiences. There are references to raising his daughter, living paycheck to paycheck and how good it can feel to build on even the smallest of victories during the day. Raphael’s project, The Bridge, will be released in the near future and incorporates these ideas.  With the superb production of Ozay Moore and KuroiOto, The Bridge is supported by a strong percussive foundation. Guest appearances by James Gardin, Jahshua Smith and Red Pill only add to an already solid effort by Raphael. The allure of The Bridge is that it’s not about buying into a certain set of values. Instead, The Bridge is about hope and survival, no matter what the circumstances might be. This is something that people do all over the world everyday. We may come from different places, but that doesn’t mean we can’t relate to each other.

Recently we were fortunate enough to sit down with Raphael and talk about how he got involved in hip-hop, his love of literature, the All of the Above Hip-Hop Collective (AOTA) and what went into creating The Bridge.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Bonus Cut Films: The First Roundup (Hir-O, James Gardin and Jamall Bufford)

20120108-20120108-LU2Y1568

In the past couple of months, we here at Bonus Cut have steadily put in time and work to build our film series, Bonus Cut Films. With this series, our main focus is to bring interviews to life, by filming and documenting the lives of important hip-hop artists in the community making an impact and difference.

It has been a privilege and honor to share these stories and work with these artists, and we couldn’t be where we are without them. In other words, if not for these feature artists, there would be no Bonus Cut Films. A big thank you to Omari Hall, James Gardin and Jamall Bufford.

More thanks need to go out to our film crew as well. These individuals are the lifeblood of Bonus Cut Films, who continually put in the work to get everything down and cut, and if there’s one group of people to congratulate for the success of Bonus Cut Films, these guys are the ones. A big thank you to Phillip McGuigan, Julian Stall, Ian Siporin, Nicole DeMichele and JP Navarro.

Below you can view all of Bonus Cut Films’ videos to date.

Omari Hall (aka Hir-O)

Omari Hall (aka Hir-O) is a producer from Detroit, Michigan. As one of the city’s rising hip-hop artists, Hir-O has branded his music with splashes of electronic swells, jazz, soul, live instrumentation and other realms of music that all come to form a cohesive hip-hop force. His projects with DaJaz1, Doss The Artist and Red Pill, along with his instrumentals such as The Voyage Home, reflect the true prowess and versatility of his work, and with future projects coming in 2014, Hir-O is a name you should remember.

James Gardin

If you’re at all familiar with Michigan hip-hop and Michigan music in general, then the name James Gardin (fka P.H.I.L.T.H.Y.) is commonplace. As one of Lansing’s premier music icons for the last decade, James has shown how to get down, how to dance, how to properly enjoy a live show, how to fight for a cause and how to live in general. More than that though, James has fueled the hip-hop community beneficially in other ways. Working with Michigan State’s MRULE and various other youth programs to donate art workshops, not to mention spending time in South Africa teaching kids with HIV/AIDS music and uniting them through it, James has never stopped being an influential and important figure in his community.

Musically, James has opened for the likes of Talib Kweli, The Cool Kids, Grieves and The Pack. He was also recently named one of Rapzilla’s Freshman of 2014.

Jamall Bufford

Jamall Bufford (fka Buff1) is a hip-hop educator and artist from Ann Arbor, Michigan. As one of Michigan’s premier artists, he has worked in Athletic Mic League and The Black Opera. He has also worked with Black Milk, De La Soul, Elzhi, Eminem, Guilty Simpson, Invincible, One Be Lo, Slum Village and many more notable acts. Jamall’s songs touch on nostalgia, hope, freedom and spirituality.

These days Jamall spends most of his time at the Neutral Zone Teen Center in Ann Arbor. As the center’s music coordinator, Jamall is the adult advisor for the MC Program and Bside Concert Promotion Program. Teaching local teens the art of writing, MCing, performing, battling and going about life, these kids come out of Jamall’s program with a greater sense of confidence, stage presence, writing ability and many more life skills.

Stay tuned for more Bonus Cut Films features!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With James Gardin (Part Two)

20120108-20120108-LU2Y1568

If you’re at all familiar with Michigan hip-hop and Michigan music in general, then the name James Gardin (fka P.H.I.L.T.H.Y.) is commonplace. As one of Lansing’s premier music icons for the last decade, James has shown how to get down, how to dance, how to properly enjoy a live show, how to fight for a cause and how to live in general. More than that though, James has fueled the hip-hop community beneficially in other ways. Working with Michigan State’s MRULE and various other youth programs to donate art workshops, not to mention spending time in South Africa teaching kids with HIV/AIDS music and uniting them through it, James has never stopped being an influential and important figure in his community.

Musically, James has opened for the likes of Talib Kweli, The Cool Kids, Grieves and The Pack. He was also recently named one of Rapzilla’s Freshman of 2014.

Today we’re excited to unveil part two of our interview with the man himself! Check out the video below, and don’t forget to check out James’ pages and music!

Listen to James’ latest single “Selah” here 

For more on James Gardin:
James Gardin on Soundcloud 
James Gardin on BandCamp 
@JamesGardin on Twitter

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bonus Cut Films Presents: An Interview With James Gardin (Part One)

via blatpack.com

via blatpack.com

If you’re at all familiar with Michigan hip-hop and Michigan music in general, then the name James Gardin (fka P.H.I.L.T.H.Y.) is commonplace. As one of Lansing’s premier music icons for the last decade, James has shown how to get down, how to dance, how to properly enjoy a live show, how to fight for a cause and how to live in general. More than that though, James has fueled the hip-hop community beneficially in other ways. Working with Michigan State’s MRULE and various other youth programs to donate art workshops, not to mention spending time in South Africa teaching kids with HIV/AIDS music and uniting them through it, James has never stopped being an influential and important figure in his community.

Musically, James has opened for the likes of Talib Kweli, The Cool Kids, Grieves and The Pack. He was also recently named one of Rapzilla’s Freshman of 2014.

Today we’re excited to unveil part one of our interview with the man himself! Check out the video below, and don’t forget to check out James’ pages and music!

For more on James Gardin:
James Gardin on Soundcloud
James Gardin on BandCamp
@JamesGardin on Twitter

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

BLAT! PACK, Common Ground Music Festival (Put Yr Revolvers Up)

529679_10201476712067723_273929555_n

Jahshua Smith via http://www.blatpack.com

By: Justin Cook

This past weekend, I attended the Common Ground Music Festival in the heart of Lansing, Michigan. I have attended my fair share of music festivals, but never one within city limits—this definitely gives it a slightly different atmosphere. I entered the festival grounds with a typical half-assed search, walked across a bridge decked out in glow sticks and found myself in the middle of the madness. I had about an hour before BLAT! Pack performed so I decided to roam around.

I walked along the Grand River, past craft booths, food stands and a few little games for the kids—it sure did feel like a festival, though extremely small. I stretched out on the riverfront for a bit and soaked in those loving Sunday vibes. After thoroughly Zen, I made my way to the main stage to catch a little bit of Jon Connor, a Flint-based MC. I had never heard anything by him before, but I was pleasantly surprised; he had energy, presence, and great band backing him. He spoke of unity, the great state of Michigan, the healing powers of hip-hop and of course, peace and love. Near the end of the show, his sister joined him on stage, and it started to feel like one big happy festie family—everyone was laughing, dancing and putting their drinks in the air for what was bound to be a great night. Content with the performance, I headed back downriver to see BLAT! Pack.

I arrived with fifteen minutes to spare, laid out in the grass, and watched as people slowly started to gather in front of the stage—a few folks sported BLAT! Pack and James Gardin shirts. Before I knew it, people were flooding in from left and right eagerly awaiting the show. The atmosphere around was all love, hugs and a sense of anticipation, which unleashed as BLAT! Pack took the stage; and once they took the stage, they didn’t miss a single beat.

It was the first time they had ever performed as BLAT! Pack, and shit, they had better do it more often. It wasn’t just Jahshua Smith, it wasn’t just James Gardin, or Red Pill, or Yellowkake, it was the complete BLAT! Experience—the horns, the rhythm section, and every MC took this show beyond sun, moon and stars, hurling us audience members into the next dimension. It was a funky, fun-loving show that radiated with pure artistic bliss. I don’t know who had more fun, the audience or BLAT! Pack. As I was lost in that backbeat, the MC’s were running around on stage, laughing, goofing around—organically going from mock backup dancer to main performer. The music was clean, the vocals were crisp and you could feel the heart and soul radiating through sound waves.

Underneath the music, the love and laughter, was something that resonated with the human spirit: accepting change and revolution. Throughout the concert, brief words of wisdom were spit between songs: they talked about letting go of your past, your anger, your frustrations and just letting it float away in the wind; they stated our need for revolution, not only at a societal level, but a revolution within ourselves; Jahshua Smith mentioned Trayvon Martin, but instead of being on a soapbox, he let the verdict speak for itself, and told us all to raise our fists, together. And everyone in the audience, from different lifestyles and cultures, raised their fists into the sky; I turned around to face the whole crowd and noticed sunlight pouring into the pavilion, across all our faces, across all our fists. Then, the beat dropped, and hands went wild.

1070012_10201476712227727_1951564508_n

James Gardin via http://www.blatpack.com

After the show I was elated, and laid back in the grass, soaking up the light of the people. Moments like these are what the world needs—bringing the festival vibes to a city, speakers blasting onto the streets. You know, you read the “news” and hear about all the horrible things in the world, about how our world is falling apart, but then you go out into the world, and are greeted with nothing but love. I find when I actually leave my computer screen, unplug and live my life, the world is more vast and beautiful than ever before. THIS IS THE REVOLUTION: get up, get out, and do something! I love that local groups such as BLAT! Pack exist to expand the consciousness of man from the bottom up; we need to support more grassroots movements and recreate local culture. I believe, if we focus in on here and now, we will uncover all our souls’ desires. We just got to get up, get out, and do something.

 Now spread the gospel!

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Local Hip-Hop Scene and Its Importance in Our World

image

Gus’ Thought

This past week I was fortunate enough to attend a show at Mac’s Bar in Lansing, Michigan with fellow Bonus Cut writer Justin Cook. The show featured Lansing area artists D Fraze, L Soul, and James Gardin (F.K.A. P.H.I.L.T.H.Y). The headliner was a duo from Indiana known as The Pro Letarians whose music features many different samples from famous artists such as James Brown and The Beatles. As we walked in, L Soul was killing it on the mic. He was very impressive and his rhymes were audible and cut through to the crowd. It will be exciting to see his abilities as an MC and on-stage persona improve.

Following L Soul was James Gardin, member of the Detroit/Lansing hip-hop collective known as BLAT! Pack. This was a big show for James as it was his last official show going by his MC name P.H.I.L.T.H.Y. I was struck by the significance of this as so much of an MC’s identity is wrapped up in his/her name. Throughout his set, I was impressed with James’ presence and message as an MC. Off the stage he is an approachable down to earth person, and while on stage, his easy going fun loving personality is even more apparent. Within the first five minutes of his performance, I was drawn in by the overall positivity embedded within his music.

Early on in the performance he asked the crowd if they had dreams and/or goals they were striving to achieve. From there he did his song “Wake Up Sleepyhead,” that urges people not to “sleep” on themselves and to be confident in their skills, passions and goals. This is such an important concept to rap about in the face of all the poverty, injustice and prejudice in the United States but also around the world. Later in the show he had the crowd reach as high as they could. Most of the crowd played along, raising their arms to the ceiling. As we put our arms down, he had us put our arms up a second time. We all reached substantially higher, really stretching out. James pointed out that nobody had actually reached as high as they could the first time. He related this scenario to our lives and proposed that we should always strive to push ourselves and be the best we can be.

image

The Pro Letarians

In the United States there is news of hardship and struggle everyday. There are a great number of people in this country that legitimately struggle to make ends meet and must fight for every penny to keep their families fed. In schools, students are continually pushed into what education experts call the “Achievement Gap” as the structure of school resembles that of a factory. In the past year alone there have been multiple shootings, sexual assaults, suicides, house foreclosures, hate crimes and even a bombing. Beyond this, the machine that is popular culture presents an image of progress that is tremendously status quo. It gets to a point where it can feel that there is nothing good happening. This is where I believe hip-hop becomes so important. MCs are able to point out the inconsistencies within our society in such a poetic and creative way that it becomes impossible not to listen and ultimately become conscious. With James’ set, it was impossible not to feel motivated and happy to be alive. To have an MC telling me from the stage to believe in myself and follow my dreams was refreshing and as resistant to the system as it gets. With that in mind, this is so important for students to hear as there is so much agency embedded within this message.

I went to Mac’s Bar to see a hip-hop show, unsure of what to expect. I left the show feeling extremely motivated and ready to pursue my passions. This was in large part due to James Gardin’s set as he was able to communicate positivity, hope and love all the while demonstrating his natural abilities as an MC. As a resident of the Lansing area, it was exciting to see quality hip-hop happening in Lansing. If you aren’t up on James Gardin and the BLAT! Pack you really should be.

Justin’s Thought

Last week, Gus Navarro and I attended a show at Mac’s Bar. He gave me the scoop a few nights before, and I was excited to see some MCs from the great state of Michigan. The concert highlighted local talent, featuring artists D Fraze, L Soul and James Gardin (P.H.I.L.T.H.Y), with a headliner hailing from Indiana, The Pro Letarians.

We arrived a little late, but were able to catch the tail end of L Soul rocking the mic in white threads; the man literally appeared to glow. His flow was crisp, clear and lethal. Not only was his stage presence other-worldly, the beats were mesmerizing. Instantly, I fell into the groove—body overtaken by the music. He was backed by a group of hype-men, adding a lighthearted feel to the whole performance. All in all, it was great way to begin the night.

Next, James Gardin, member of the Detroit/Lansing hip-hop collective known as BLAT! Pack, was scheduled to perform. During his introduction, it was stated that “P.H.I.L.T.H.Y” (James’ stage name) would be put to death. And what a beautiful death it was: James Gardin took the stage and set the mood just right. Most of the crowd stood still, scattered throughout the venue, but James drew us in and got our feet moving. He radiated love and positivity, yet remained calm and cool. A few songs in, he decided to change up his set list and perform some unexpected tunes. He called three of his friends on stage, who backed him with some soulful harmonies. This was one of my favorite moments of the show. Everyone on stage was smiling, laughing and just loving every moment of the performance—that’s what live hip-hop is all about.

The carefree attitude continued throughout James’ show. At one point, he needed two audience members for some help. It just so happened that two people had birthdays that day, so James gave them both a b-day freestyle. He started pretty strong, but soon, his verses off the dome became a silly element added to the night—James was being goofy and the crowd loved it, being goofy in return. After, I had the pleasure to talk with James, and a few other members of BLAT! Pack. They were all calm and collected beings. We spoke about hip-hop, community, life and future events. The BLAT! Pack will be part of a rap festival this weekend in Lansing (The Lansing Hip-Hop Festival), and will also perform before Ludacris at the Common Ground Music Festival, July 14.

image

L Soul

I really enjoyed my time that night, but one thing did bother me: the lack of people. Amazing hip-hop is happening in my city, and most people do not even realize it. Local art movements are essential in reforming local culture, and we must all do our job to support them. What James Gardin and BLAT! Pack represent is a movement from within, something we all must internalize. We must bring our creativity and talents together, support one another and change the way we live every step of the way. With art and imagination, we can rebuild cities like Lansing and Detroit—we just need to help by supporting local talent.

I wish more people could have seen the death of “P.H.I.L.T.H.Y” and feel the resurrection of James Gardin. It was some real shit; and just the symbolism of shedding a persona, an extension of the ego, sends chills through my veins. Why would we want to be anyone but who we are? Why does society make us ashamed and guilty for who we were born to be? We really got to start believing, dreaming, putting faith in ourselves and the world around. Because if we can’t, what will we have left? Everyday it seems like politicians are getting crazier and crueler. When will it stop? I believe, it’s when we let go, drop our “P.H.I.L.T.H.Y.”, and be who we are. This is when we are ready to embrace life and take back the power, from bottom up. We have to come together, support local arts and re-imagine our world with love.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: