Jean Peter Exantus’ soulful brand of R&B-infused hip-hop is a throwback to a time when a sultry voice — think Nate Dogg’s vocals in Warren G’s “Regulate” — was the backdrop for the genre’s hits, while embracing some of today’s production nuances.
The Wyoming musician, who performs under the name Jeanius, is both emcee and vocalist on his original tracks, and he plans to release his latest record, “Castles In The Sky,” on May 5 when he’ll perform at Levels in Scranton alongside signed artist A Boogie.
A father and active member of his church and community, Exantus hopes to use his artistry as a conduit to spread a positive message and be a role model for children in the area.
His particular style of hip-hop, Exantus said, feeds off a combination of influences from the two places he lived and performed before moving to Northeastern Pennsylvania and the institution at which he received his musical education.
The 35-year-old artist grew up in Brooklyn, where he says he was exposed to the music of The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, 2Pac and Eminem.
But he didn’t start creating and performing his own music until he lived in Japan for six months, where his uncle owned a club and needed a DJ.
“I learned how to move a crowd,” Exantus said. “With my music, I incorporate the deejaying skills I picked up in Japan to take you into the groove. Hip-hop culture in Japan was huge. That’s where a lot of the influence around (my music) comes from. There was a time when things were all about the hook.”
Exantus’ enrollment at Five Towns College in Dix Hills, N.Y., a school that boasts alumni like Wyclef Jean, Chrisette Michele and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine, also had an effect on his creativity.
“The reason I picked up the R&B is that school focuses on that,” Exantus said. “I grew up in that culture. That’s where I learned to make music.”
While he does a lot of the singing on his records, Exantus said he also features backup vocalists on some of his tracks.
“I have half of a song where I’m singing solely,” he said. “It has a little reggae to it.”
The emcee said he’s also worked with producers, among them French Montana and studio engineers from the West Coast, who have been another fortunate byproduct of his music-school network.
“I’ve worked on projects for movie placements,” Exantus noted. “I’ve also worked on projects where I worked with Sadat X. He’s old-school hip-hop. That’s how I had to earn my respect in terms of the lyrics, because he rapped with Biggie Smalls and Pig Pun.”
The result, a song titled “Ignorant,” is available on iTunes.
“That was my initiation to prove that I had skills,” Exantus said.
But it was a song on which Exantus collaborated with another local artist that got played by Fishboy on 98.5 KRZ. The tune, “Self Power,” was recorded with Hazleton musician Brooke Gerhart and was played as part of a radio contest pitting it against signed artists like Ed Sheeran.
“(Fishboy) told me it was the the first time they had an artist like that who was unsigned,” Exantus said.
Gerhart, who works as a worship leader on the LCBC Church campus in Hazleton, said he enjoyed linking up with Exantus musically.
“We got along really well together,” Gerhart said. “He’s kind and always wanting to help people out. Whatever style we were doing, country or hip-hop or worship, it always had that purpose of impacting people. We always tried to have a deeper inspiring meaning to it.”
Gerhart said the church has held arts-related events in the past with which Exantus has been involved..
“We used to put on different live music events, open mic nights, and we’d open it up to children in the community,” Gerhart said. “Jean would help me with those and connect with the kids. We also had a weekly potluck, and we’d get together after to do some songwriting.”
Exantus — who was, at one point, homeless — said sharing his story with kids and performing for them is hopefully a source of inspiration and an escape for anyone who might be living in difficult circumstances. Helping others in his community, he said, is a practice he learned growing up in a church-going household.
“A lot of my music is uplifting. There’s a lot of troubled children out there going through abuse,” Exantus said. “I just want to give back. Children are the future, and I have kids myself.”
Beyond being a steward for good in the community, Exantus said he hopes to help other local artists get their music to people beyond NEPA.
“I notice there’s a lot of beautiful local talent,” he said. “I think being that I have culture from New York and a lot of my business is done in New York, I’d like to create a platform where artists can get their music out there.”
Exantus’ new album will be available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and CD Baby on May 8.