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On the Phly

Producer, songwriter, clothing designer — James Garland wants to be a media mogul.

Record-label owner, producer, dancer, songwriter, choreographer, manager, James Garland, aka G-Dance, is all of these, but they’re not enough.

He might settle for master of the known universe, but his immediate goal is master of the entertainment industry. Garland wants his own Death Row. His own Rocafella, Bad Boy, No Limit entertainment empire.

His shall be called Phly Guy.

Dressed in an understated but stylish outfit, looking very much like one of his idols, Sean Combs, Garland thinks back to 2001. “I took control of my life and started Phly Guy Records,” he says. The 34-year-old South Side resident started off performing, doing background work (dancing, backup singing and the like) for local artists such as Serious Trip, Brothers By Choice and CPE. Duties for CPE brought him into the realm of management and promotion. It was then that the proverbial light bulb blinked on: “I’m working with these guys on music,” Garland recalls thinking, “so why don’t I start a record label?”

After two years of dabbling with his own label, Garland says he recently quit his job as subcontractor for a courier service to manage Phly Guy full time. He operates the management and recording company from his South Side home. There he oversaw the production of the label’s first full-length CD, a 2002 compilation of its artists titled “Phly Guy Records Presents: The Album.” Garland wrote the music. It features spoken word artist Kelvin da Poet, rapper Golden Chyld, female vocalist Yasmine and rapper (Kneel) Dimins. Since the album’s appearance, Golden Chyld left to pursue other interests and Yasmine moved to New York, though she stays in contact with Phly Guy. Dimins, 31, a rapper who grew up in the East End, remains Garland’s signature act.

Likening himself to Nas and other “street” MCs, Dimins first started rapping at college parties as a joke. But he says friends often told him he had talent. Under the shorter name Kneel, he seemed to come out of nowhere when he won a talent show at the Hippodrome in 1993. A friend told him, “you spit a lot of jewels on the mic, you should go by Diamonds.” Now Dimins is Phly Guy’s most polished artist, its franchise player. “When you think about Biggie, you think about Bad Boy,” Garland says, as he flips through the pages of a scrapbook he’s been keeping for his company. “When you think about Kneel, you think about Phly Guy.”

Garland wants to make Dimins the attractive bait that lures record execs to the larger operation. “If one part blows up,” he says, “the hope is it will take the rest of it with it.” As for the rest, Garland has many plans for Phly Guy, including two lines of clothing: men’s suits called J. Garland, and sportswear called Phly Wear. Everything helps, he says. “The more you do, the more attention you bring to yourself.” S

Hip-hop in the 804 ...

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