P.H.I.L.T.H.Y. Interview

November 18, 2009

P2daResize“Phenomenal Hip-Hop Individual Living Through His Years.”

The name says it all. P.H.I.L.T.H.Y, born name James Gardin, can fight the AIDS epidemic, lead Bible study, do a fashion shoot, create an awesome EP, and still have time to jump on stage for a performance before the day is done.

After the mixtape Young Black Hope Vol. 1 and the album Save Us All (Click Here to Buy on iTunes), the 24-year-old has released the EP Love Songs for Losers & Ballads for Ballers (Download and Listen Here), which showcases his talent for laying lucid lyrics over the touching soundbeds to make a universally appealing listen. And don’t let the EP title fool you; this project encases a diverse topic line-up, covering  awareness, love, respect and more.

The 24-year-old Lansing emcee knows how to keep balance in his life and in his music, making him admirable to fans, fellow hip-hoppers and strangers he meets in the streets. In the interview below, P.H.I.L.T.H.Y. lets in on the secret to how he became a phenom without losing himself in the process.

MIHH: You’re known for practicing what you preach. You wouldn’t be mistaken for an artist who only mentions God when accepting his Grammy. How do you incorporate your beliefs into your music and your life?
I’m never going to have a song where I talk about someone else’s problem and how they need to change it. I’m going to attack myself and the problems I need to work on. I think that if people saw an example and see there are possibilities of finding a way out of it, it would guide them more instead of saying, ‘Jesus this, Jesus that, if you don’t do this, you’re going to Hell.’ I don’t like that or respond to that well. I would never describe myself as a Christian rapper. Because by definition, I believe if you’re a gospel or Christian rapper, your audience is primarily Christian or gospel. Even Jesus said he had to save the lost and heal the sick. I don’t think I came to entertain the people who already have it or are already on the right road. Being overbearing isn’t the right way to do it, and I try to use myself as an example. If I’m talking about faults I’m talking about myself, my faults and how I dealt with them. I think that’s the best way to do it.

MIHH:  Have your beliefs ever caused a conflict when working with other artists who don’t have the same point of view?
No and I think the thing that works is that I’m not overbearing with it. A lot of people who I do shows with are of different faiths or no faiths. The way I look at it is dope music is dope music. You may not have the same beliefs as me but I can still like your music.

MIHH: Tell us about some of the songs on the EP, Love Songs for Losers & Ballads for Ballers.
“Say It” is the single. It’s about something everyone can relate to—when you have someone you’re interested in and they’re interested in you, but neither of you know it because you won’t say it. I think if both of you knew about it, you could do something, and at least figure out what to do next. It’s pretty dope! [laughs]

You may think that the EP is going to be all about love letters and breakups and making up, but “Love Letters” is about the love an artist has for his fans. It lets fans know I have a lot invested in them and the music, and they are one of the main motivators behind it. I have RideOut on it. I think the people who may be turned off by rap talking about love will appreciate that one. It’s a really effective track on the EP.

“Adams Rib” is talking about love and marriage in a very serious way. People with a passion for instrumentation will really like this one.

MIHH: “Voice of Voiceless,” from your last album Save Us All, really got my attention. Explain what it’s about and what inspired you to write this.
It’s about helping others. I was at a meeting for MRULE (a student activist group at Michigan State University), and we were watching “A Closer Walk,” which is a documentary about the global AIDS issue. There was a part about Africa and they showed a bunch of the little kids affected. I went home and thought about that the whole time. The following week I took my Facebook profile picture down and put up a picture of a starving African child. Friends were asking, ‘What is that? Why do you have that as your picture?’ I was just engulfed in it, and I wanted to know all I could about this issue. Then I heard a beat and this song came to me. Being able to see these children and issues really inspired this song. It made me want to give it a voice and really let other people know. You can see a face and ignore it and act like it doest exist, but when you hear a voice it adds more power to it.

MIHH: You’ve been so moved by this that you’ve arranged to go to Africa to help. What will you be doing there?
I’m a member of MRULE (Multiracial Unity Living Experience) and VVOCF (Vumundzukubya Vana – Our Children’s Future) and next semester I’m going to be going to Africa through them, which is the object of the group. I’m going to intern at a HIV/AIDS orphan care clinic. I will help the director run the camp, plan programs and make sure the kids have something to do. As a side project, I may possibly do some recording with the kids, letting them do their poetry and songs and using that to raise awareness and money for the camp.

MIHH: Why is volunteering and being active important?
Part of it is my upbringing and the other part is my faith—which would be a part of the upbringing as well. I feel like if you have the capacity and ability to help people, use it. If you don’t, it’s useless. And how can you expect other people to help you if you’re not willing to do the same? If I see an opportunity that I can help anybody in any way I will do it. I’m one of those people where if a homeless person comes up and asks for change, it doesn’t matter if I have a hint of suspicion they are going to shaft me or cheat me, if I have money in my pocket I’m going to give it to him because I’d feel bad if I didn’t. But probably if you need money, just walk around with me and ask and I’d probably give it to you. I can’t help it.

MIHH: Hmm… I do have student loans to pay back…

MIHH: You’re going to school for Human services and Social Work. What do you plan to do with that?
Weird thing is I don’t want to be a social worker. And not knocking social workers, they definitely are needed, but I can’t see myself sitting at a desk. I’m a little too hyper and wired for that—I’d lose my mind. But what I would like to do is start a non-profit organization where I’d use music to reach at-risk youth and use my social work background so I’d have the credentials to actually work with the kids.

MIHH: You music is already helping some kids. Tell us about the teacher who used your music in his classroom.
I think he’s a teacher in Brazil for elementary or middle school kids. His first day of class he used one of my songs to introduce himself to explain his motivation behind wanting to be a teacher. It’s kind of unreal and I’m flattered. I didn’t expect it. He used another song to teach them alliteration. I knew him because of my friend RideOut, and he emailed me to let me know he had done that.

MIHH: You’re a musician, an activist, a God-fearing man and I’ve seen you and you’re pretty cute. Plus you’ve made a project about love songs and ballads. You sound like a great catch. So let your admiring fans know: Are you single or taken?
I’m single at this day and time.

MIHH: Okay, let me put that in bold: Ladies, he’s SINGLE. [laughs] Are you hoping to get involved with anyone anytime soon?
I definitely like the idea of being involved with someone, but the only thing that kind of makes me not want to is because of the South Africa trip. It’s so close so I’d probably wait until after I came back. But I’m definitely not opposed to it. I like the idea of being in a committed relationship.

MIHH: Okay, don’t come back from Africa with like three wives!
Nah, nah! I’m going only for the kids!

MIHH: Who would be your ideal person to be in a relationship with?
Oh… wow… You mean name a person or what kind of person?

MIHH: No, what kind of person.
Oh, OK! I was about to say, you’re about to get me in trouble! [laughs] Definitely somebody who is religious; goal-oriented; knows how to dress; cultured; into activism, social change and social justice; and energetic. I bounce around a lot and if they can’t handle that it won’t work. And you have to have great music sense.

MIHH: Now I am going to get you in trouble. Do you have a celebrity crush?
I’m going to be a jerk and name a celeb who isn’t a mainstream celeb and say MaeDay.

MIHH: Since you have this album being about love songs and ballads, does that mean you’ve been in love before?
I don’t know! I think I have. I’ve said I’ve been in love but I don’t know if it was very strong infatuation… But to be safe I’m going to say yes.

MIHH: Have you ever used hip-hop as a way to pick up girls or to impress them?
No [chuckles], not at all. But I think some girls use hip-hop as a reason to want to be interested, but for the most part, if I meet you for the first time I’m going to say ‘My name is James.’ If you happen to find out I rap it will be weeks later.

MIHH: What is something a woman should never do to try to get your attention?
The first thing that comes to my mind is being too forward and trying to throw it at me. That’s red flags all the way up.

MIHH: Ever have a stalker?
Not that I know of… But I guess if they’re really there you don’t know. [laughs]

MIHH: What is the best advice you’ve gotten from someone about love and relationships?
“Never look for someone to complete you. Always go into a relationship as a whole person.”

Follow P.H.I.L.T.H.Y. on Twitter @p2dahi, check his blog P2DaHi’s Pulpit, and listen to his music at his Bandcamp page.


  1. Janene Gardin says:

    Love it brother. Great article…this man is the truth! Listen up people you won’t regret it.

    November 18th, 2009 at 11:24 am

  2. random detroiter says:

    Dope article.

    November 18th, 2009 at 2:29 pm

  3. typeonegative says:

    Okay so PHiLTHY is a phenomenal artist, of course and the lady interviewing him is a mess! Does she not know who her demographic is….she sounds like she’s interviewing someone for Cosmo! The reason I enjoy reading Will’s interviews so much is because he asks GOOD, BOLD questions that he doesn’t back down from….so its a challenging int to read! She should def be working for a women’s magazine, and I say that being a woman myself! Sorry if I’m too critical but the 2nd half of this int took a turn for the korny and the worse! Love PHILTHY and he was a great sport!

    November 18th, 2009 at 4:02 pm

  4. D-town Dina says:

    The article was pretty cool. I hadn’t heard of Philthy before but I’ll be looking out for him and downloading his EP from iTunes. I liked that the reporter got different sides of him to show who he is. I don’t even think the last part was bad since his EP is about love. Seemed fitting.

    December 1st, 2009 at 12:25 pm

Leave a comment