There’s a saying in the music industry that Nashville is a ten-year town. That generalization applies to the perseverance it takes to make it onto a familiar Music Row career path. Tim Gent, on the other hand, has spent the last decade working out his own professional model for hip-hop.
A scrappy, lo-fi YouTube video from 2012 shows a crew of three teenaged rappers surrounded by a crowd of their peers in Clarksville. The most hyperactive figure is a 19-year-old Gent. He hurtles into his verse, only to abandon it midway and start chanting and chopping his arm in the air like a hype man.
“We had just made a song the night before and we decide to perform it,” he recalls. “And I forgot the words when I was on stage. It was a moment that I vowed I would never go back to that place again.”
He made good on that, moving on to more confident performances, to greater lyrical dexterity, and to this West Nashville condo that he shares with his fiancé and fellow artist Jamiah.
“The sun sets on the west so we can always see a real beautiful sunset and everything like that,” gesturing toward the balcony window as he gives his interviewer a brief tour.
On the kitchen counter, Gent proudly points out, is a picture of his seven-year-old son from a previous relationship: “It’s his soccer photo. It’s his first time playing soccer. That’s my guy right there.”
Gent settles on the living room couch, and from where he sits, reflects back on the Clarksville Nights mixtape that brought him his first regional recognition in 2015.
“I was laser focused on attempting to catapult my career forward,” he says. “I knew that my son was about to be born and I was working at a call center.”
When Gent wasn’t on the clock, he was recording furiously in his bedroom. There was already promising style and precision to many of his flows, enough that he occasionally revisits those cadences for inspiration. “But I know that I wasn’t that comfortable with my voice,” he clarifies. “I hated my voice back then, actually, and I was just always working to figure it out.”
That process accelerated when he moved to Nashville and started hanging out with singers, not only Jamiah, but his roommate at the time, Bryant Taylorr, and their friend Lauren McClinton, along with instrumentalist and producer A.B. Eastwood. They formed a collective, and Gent started focusing more on melody. On his 2020 project, In Every Fall, that took a thoroughly broody form.
“I feel like that tape expresses a melancholy era of my life,” he says. “My younger brothers were getting into some trouble and things like that. My mom’s home had been shot up, you know, policemen raided my mom’s crib. I was dealing with a lot of things with my family and a lot of personal things and balancing living in the city and spending time with my son and learning how to just manage relationships.”
That same year, Gent and Bryant Taylorr each landed publishing deals with Prescription Songs, and trade publications covered the milestone: “They were saying that, with me specifically, I was one of the first hip-hop artists signed on Music Row.”
Jamiah has witnessed, and encouraged, a world of growth since Gent nearly skipped his first official co-writing session out of nervousness. “He really didn’t know what he was doing at all, because it was so pop,” she says, joining the conversation from a loveseat. “And I love pop. I consider myself an R&B-pop artist, so I feel like I’m a pro at this. I’m like, ‘Okay, these are pop melodies. You’ve got to make a catchy hook. This is the format of a pop song.’ So it’s been cool to see him become, like, a genius at it.”
When Gent was invited to attend a songwriting camp hosted at a mansion by media mogul Issa Rae’s company last year, his contributions made it into Rae’s comedy series “Rap Sh**.” “I almost turn into somewhat of a composer,” he explains of his approach to such sessions. “I’m not writing sheet music or anything like that. But I’m just placing things, a producer, if you will. I always work to make a lasting impression in the room, so that network can continue to expand and the respect can expand.”
Gent’s bringing those sharpened skills to his own music. He’s about to reintroduce his artistic range to listeners, and flaunt how much he’s expanded it over the years, with a string of new singles, beginning with “Get Down.”
“I was just introduced to someone by one of my homies,” he says, “and they were like, ‘Yo, this is Tim Gent. If you ever want to just relax and sit back, you can play his music.'” Gent gives a knowing chuckle: “I was just like, ‘That’s not really a good representation of what I got going on right now.”