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Who's Van?

Van Gammon wants his listeners to get one message from his work: that love is alive in a dying world. With a life revolving around connection, empowerment and self-discovery, his music makes the point. “It seems like it’s unpopular to really be in love, show love or stay in love. I never saw it growing up, but I made the decision that I would love in a way that I hadn’t known,” he says. Much of Van Gammon’s career has revolved around community and collaboration. After spending much of his Fayetteville, North Carolina childhood in rap groups and battling circles, he moved to Alabama as an adult and formed the award-winning duo Hydroplanes. When he moved to Dallas in 2010, he added spoken word poetry to his repertoire and cofounded an open mic called The Lounge to build with other artists. He continued his teamwork by making an album called Natal Oasis with San Francisco producer SelfUno, and he began to book shows around the country. But Van Gammon also converted to Christianity while living in Dallas. He always went to church with his mother while growing up, but for the first time he began to study the Bible—and as his faith strengthened, his relationship with music he fell in love with began to suffer. “I was conflicted with my message,” he says. “I didn’t know who it was reaching, even though people told me it was good.” He eventually settled into a relationship with both, and DeadLifts, Van Gammon’s welcoming new EP, taps into his faith while investigating the love he’s intent on exposing the world to. He uses a melodic, rhythmic flow that melds with the tapestry of his soulful, piano-laced production. His rhymes shift between vivid storytelling and abstract, poetic emotiveness, covering issues of perseverance (“WalkThatWalk”), racial identity “&IWishIWasBlacker”), and self-discovery (“Suite Suit”). “There's a lot friction and conflict about what it means to love outside oneself, and it's resolved throughout the album,” he says. “I want to understand the sides of life I haven't been on instead of straight out condemning it. Finding a starting point for the mess and going from there to find a way out.”

- William E. Ketchum, Hip Hop DX/ COMPLEX