Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Living Daylights by James Gardin

      Last year he had his EP Moleskins & Pocket Squares make our year-end list, and now he's back with another project titled Living Daylights which is entirely produced by Kuroioto. When featured on this site, he's often labeled as "hip-hop's good guy", but most people know this Lansing, Michigan rhymer by his real name; James Gardin.

     To quickly familiarize those not yet acquainted with Gardin's sound, know that this man possesses a plethora of talent and artistic range, as he truly has a little something for everyone. In fact, Living Daylights is an exact representation of that previous statement, as the array of sounds he presents in this eight-track offering is quite surprising. That being said, the cohesiveness of this record is something to mention, though, that may be due in large part to the singular producer featured on the album, Kuroioto.

     The featured production on Living Daylights isn't boom-bap, though, it's far from anything commercial. While it is tough to correctly categorize the beats, they can be described as having elements of soul, some jazz, blues, as well as infusing various synth sounds and having a borderline techno vibe. That may be a bit confusing from a readers perspective, but know that everything is well produced, and sounds great with Gardin rhyming over top. None of the tracks are too eccentric or outlandish, yet they all carry a similar feel, which is one of the many benefits to creating a one emcee, one producer album. 

     The best beat on Living Daylights can be found in the song " Freedom" which features a funky horn loop, and a spectacular live instrumentation sound. That being said, there really are no bad or poor beats on this project, just a wide variety of styles, so keep that in mind while listening.

     With the production in good hands, Gardin puts his ability to create songs with substance on full display. Never will a listener hear any cliche'e subject matter from Mr. Gardin, in fact, he could be defined as the common man's rapper, as he touches on everyday issues much deeper than smoking weed and getting girls. Gardin's underrated storytelling ability shines through as well, especially on tracks such as "City Limits" and "Feels Like" where he discusses his past, current disposition, and even his aspirations to be heard on a global level rather than on a local scale.

     Another thing worth noting, is Gardin's spirituality. While he shouldn't be classified as a Christian-Rapper, he is indeed a rapper that also happens to be a Christian. Meaning that his music is appropriate for all ears and having a product so pure in a diluted industry is a task in itself, so making clean music that actually sounds good is even more impressive!

     With all that in mind, Living Daylights is an interesting project because I can't help but get the feeling that if each individual track were out there floating around on the interweb waiting to be heard, then they would sound exponentially worse than when they are heard as a collection of tracks making up an album. Why do I feel this? No clue, but that is a recommendation to listen to this project in its entirety so that the full impact of this really exceptional release is truly felt. 

     Gardin and Kuroioto killed it with this one, plain and simple. While Living Daylights doesn't fit right in with the rest of Gardin's catalog, it definitely strengthen and expands it, because of the unique and strong sound it carries.

     Does Gardin revolutionize the game with this album? Not at all, but thankfully that's not what he was intending to do. His goal was to create a really strong assemblage of positive hip-hop music, and that's exactly what he did. To keep this ending as concise as possible; do yourself a favor a buy Living Daylights, then share it with a friend.

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