Champaign, Illinois native GATSON (Jamie Gatson) started his rap career differently than many rappers. Although he has written poetry for some time, he didn’t necessarily enjoy rapping. When his best friend died, he turned to rap music to deal with the deep depression that was rooted in him. He blending his rhymes with rhythm, dedicating himself to finding a positive outlet for his pent-up sadness and sense of loss and anger. He let the world hear his unabashed thoughts, crafting tales about his inner turmoil and weaving his worldview into his lyrics.
Having seen GATSON perform live during my time in Champaign, I can attest that his words and messaging will absolutely captivate you. He has an emotive presence that commands attention and it’s obvious that this passion is his outlet. And that’s why I’m really excited to share my thoughts with you all on his latest project, a 3-track EP titled Holding On that was released earlier this year as a collaborative production effort with Vagrant Real Estate. Sticking true to his intentions behind pursuing a rap career in the first place, GATSON delivers feel-good messaging to create a project that is genuine and enjoyable.
The project opens with “Free Spirit,” a soulful track which infuses jazz elements in the instrumental production, featuring Andrew Howie on saxophone. GATSON’s smooth rap verses are complemented by a dynamic vocal performance by Brandon T on the hook. The song really focuses on the desire to not be put into a box by other people, whether that box is based on religion or race, and wanting to be a free spirit. It reveals pieces of the journey that GATSON has been on and the resounding sense of self he has found.
The tempo picks up in “Running” but the soulful vibe remains strong within the production which takes on more drumbeats and guitar strings with bright embellishments. GATSON picks up the pace in his bars as well, which plays into the idea behind the song’s title. He continues to pull from his life experiences to craft the lyrics which, aligned with another powerful hook from Brandon T, explore the need to keep pushing for better things in life no matter what people might tell you or how they might view you. It’s a meaningful message of perseverance, but also ends by reminding listeners that it’s important to pause every now and again to enjoy the life you should be living.
“Holding On (Believe)” closes out this meaningful messaging. Although the production returns to a slower tempo, GATSON doesn’t slow down his bars as he thoughtfully lays down some final thoughts in the final track of this EP. The track was also produced by Jack Kelly and features glistening vocals from Khadija Davis to elevate the feel of the track. Jaye Newton provides velvety bars that flow over the jazzy production in the second verse. The bright production and hopeful lyrics close the project with an introspective and optimistic note.
You can listen to the full project below. With a total run time of under 10 minutes, this is an EP that can ease you into your weekend.