Wednesday, April 6, 2016

J. Bair Just Wants To Be Happy

J. Bair Just Wants To Be Happy

By Dexter Kendrick

            “Man, I shouldn't have to do this!”, exclaims Harrisburg rapper/entertainer extraordinaire J. Bair, as he drops his luggage and the boxes of his newly released cd “The Pursuit of Happiness” onto the floor of Harrisburg indie urban suite, PM Bistro & Lounge. Taking a seat at the ticket table of his own album release party, his cousin who was assigned to the task is a no call/no show, and throngs of people have already begun seating themselves to apparent free access.  But, the show must go on.  “The Pursuit of Happiness” is Bair's sophomore work, and comes 3 years after the success of his first project “Dare To Be Different”.  “[The last] 3 years gave me time to grow as an artist and as a man. When you're passionate about something, all the drama, headaches, and tests [of life] can be overcome.”  Eventually, his brother arrives to relieve him of the task of taking tickets at his own show, and professionally walked around and collected admission from those who slipped in for free.  Regarding “The Pursuit of Happiness” Bair states “I said [to myself] what if I started making songs about being happy; about making it through the storms and dark clouds.  What if I talked about a desire to go to a better place mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  The rest of the evening, like J.'s local indie career, goes on to be a success. 

The album itself is a journey into hip-hop soul that invokes jazzy memories of A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul.  As though the growing pains of life compelled Bair to go into his past (and his closet), pull out everything that had been left unsaid, and expose it to the light of day.  The album title “The Pursuit of Happiness”, he says, was inspired by the biopic movie itself about the rags to riches story of Chris Gardner who eventually finds his way out of homelessness and poverty, to using his skills at a prestigious brokerage firm.  “That story just seemed so similar to my story, just trying to make it and find peace”, he says.  Recognizing that no man is an island Bair called upon an All-Star cast of rappers and singers to help him express his journey.  The many cameos of other local renown’s such as Alonda Rich, DJ Smitty, Chance Kacey, AL Cloud, and executive production from Alberto “Prem Touch” Mariluz, further invoke the bygone hip-hop soul era of Spike Lee productions we've come to remember nostalgically.  Amidst samples from Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, and the Spinners, Bair and his colleagues spin us a tale of trials and triumph we've come to demand from our indie hip-hop.       

“I was going through a lot of things [during the making of this album]” Bair reflects on the musings and creative inspirations behind “The Pursuit of Happiness.”  We're standing inside the album lined walls of the Music Man  record store.  The premiere hangout of music aficionados, rappers, singers, and DJ's in the Harrisburg area.  As he speaks to me of life and music, Bair waves around two cds he is holding like Moses delivering the 10 commandments, one of which is 2 Chainz' album “ColleGrove”.  A fitting accessory to his sermon on life's growing pains.  “I lost my mom who was like my rock.  I stayed with my father for a time after that, but my step mom put me out before I could finish raising the money to move.”  All of this, he says is food for an artist like him, who channels it into his music.  “Man, there were times when I was writing songs on a cot at the mission, sleeping in the park, or having to spend the night at my job.”  He states that torture through life experience is what inspires a true artist to create. “You have to appreciate wherever you find yourself in life, and be thankful...after all that [I'm] still alive.”  As his album echoes in the background through the library of artists like Mary J., Trey Songz, French Montana, and 2 Pac, I ask J. Bair what happiness means to him.  His expression becomes reflective as he recites me a line from one of the songs on his album, “In this thing called life there's a twist in the plot/we're all searching for the one thing we've already got.”  With that philosophy, I'd say he's found his way home. 

Check out “The Pursuit of Happiness” here:

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Dexter Kendrick is an indie correspondent for and a lover of all things indie. He can be reached at