Saturday, Feb. 23 @ The Robin Theatre, 1105 S. Washington Ave., Lansing.

All ages, $12, $10 adv., 7 p.m.


Lansing-based rapper James Gardin, formerly known as P.H.I.L.T.H.Y, drops his new eight-track EP, “Sweet Jesus,” Saturday at The Robin Theatre in REO Town. Released via Illect Recordings, the new record showcases beats by producer TheyCallMeHeat and, of course, Gardin’s signature rhyme-style that seamlessly melds encouraging hip-hop lyricism with bursts of classic R&B, earnest indie rock and soulful gospel music.

The diverse track list, which includes a guest spot from fellow Michigan emcee Ozay Moore on the single “Funky Funky Fresh,” also features the new single, “Chitown Boogie”—a track Gardin wrote with his friends and family in mind.

“The lyrics are inspired by this idea of wanting to make my family and community proud,” Gardin said, “and not trying to blow it for us all.”

As for the EP’s title, Gardin said it’s a thoughtful nod to his devout religious beliefs — a common thread in his growing catalog of spiritually-driven releases.

“The title ‘Sweet Jesus’ came from an adlib I frequently use in songs,” he said. “It’s also a phrase that describes my relationship with my faith. I think (faith) should be something you crave and love when done right.”

For those looking to sample the record, visit illect.bandcamp.com to hear four tracks. It’ll be available on all digital and streaming services, as well.

“It was all recorded in my bedroom,” Gardin said. “‘Sweet Jesus’ has a lot of the same elements as my past efforts, but this record is more focused and polished. I definitely did a lot more singing and melody work on this record. I’m super proud of how these songs came out.”

The release show at The Robin Theatre doesn’t have any openers, per se, but will showcase a set by DJ ETTA and a beat set from TheyCallMeHeat. From there, the audience will be treated to “Sweet Jesus.”

“We will perform the full project,” Gardin said. “People can expect an experience. I’m working my hardest to make this more than just a person on stage rapping and singing songs at you.”

While his new record might be wrapped up, the prolific rapper plans to keep busy this year, in Lansing and beyond.

“The plan for 2019 is to write more songs and work on new projects,” he said. “I’ve been teaching a lot with All of the Above Hip Hop Academy, a local organization ‘designed to give youth a hands on experience in hip hop culture.’ My goal is to help my students get more of their music to everyone’s ears. I’m also working towards getting some touring in.”

Last year, Gardin kept busy playing a handful of concerts, but also landed a couple of his songs on high-profile commercial spots. “In 2018, I was releasing a lot of singles and trying to figure out the licensing game,” Gardin told City Pulse in January. “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.”

To keep up with Gardin, visit facebook.com/JamesGardinMusic or jamesgardin.bandcamp.com.