Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tomorrow Isn't Promised: My reflections on a fatal accident along I-240

Posted By on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 at 4:41 PM

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Yesterday (Nov. 26th), I took a detour to get to work. I usually take Poplar or I-55 to get to the Memphis Flyer headquarters.

Traffic had been backed up lately on I-55 due to road construction, so I decided to take I-240 instead.

As I took the I-240 North exit toward downtown, I noticed that cars were backed up. It appeared that I decided to take this exit on the wrong day.

After accelerating 2mph every so often for about five minutes, cars began to increase pace. That's when I noticed southbound vehicles on I-240 were backed up as well.

Approaching the exit for South Parkway, I saw multiple police cars, a fire truck, and several cars parked on the side of the road. People were standing outside their cars in the rain, looking on at something I could not see. As I drove a few more feet up, I saw a Mack Truck with a white car smashed on the side of it.

The image brought a cold feeling across my body. Inside of my mind, something told me that it was a good chance whoever drove the car didn’t make it.

Still in awe, I slowly drove on to take the Union Avenue exit. I was in shock as I drove through the traffic lights along Union. The image of the crashed car was burned into my mind.

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It made me reflect on a roadway accident that I was involved in, where I could have lost my life. It was my sophomore year at the University of Memphis. Christmas break had come around, and I was heading home to see my father in Chattanooga.

I was in my Honda Accord, which already had some wear and tear on it (prior to leaving, I had been involved in two fender benders and a hit and run with an old Silverado pickup truck).

As I came off of I-565 East in Madison, Alabama, I traveled down a small hill. I drove calmly in the right lane as I went through several lights, passing gas stations and fast food spots. I noticed an 18-wheeler in my rear-view move over into the left lane.

As the 18-wheeler got halfway in front of me, the driver — a middle-aged male — began to merge over into my lane. It seemed as if he was oblivious to my much smaller automobile.

The semi-trailer portion of the big rig slammed repeatedly into the driver’s side of my car. The impact sent my Honda swerving in and out of the lane. I was eventually knocked off the road and into a ditch.

I didn’t see my life flash before my eyes as I swerved, but it definitely terrified me (I was scared as a turkey in November). Fortunately, I came out of the accident without any bumps or bruises. The only casualty was the driver’s side of my champagne Honda Accord, which was completely dented in and lacerated.

After it was over, my perspective on life changed. I learned to appreciate everything much more — good and bad.

Looking back on the experience years later, I’m thankful that the Lord spared my life. I know that so many more people are less fortunate. In Tennessee alone, there have been more than 900 roadway fatalities this year thus far.

Furthermore, Memphis has the third highest roadway fatalities percentage in the state with 132 so far, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety. Nashville has the highest amount with 181 roadway fatalities this year. Knoxville has the second highest with 146 roadway fatalities.

The incident on I-240 bothered me so much that I looked up the accident as soon as I got to my desk at work.

When I googled information on the crash at I-240, the search engine instantly revealed that the wreck left one individual dead and one person in critical condition.

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As the day went on, I received an update from the Memphis Police Department’s Public Information Office that revealed the crash’s details:

On Monday, November 26, 2012 at approximately 8:00 a.m., officers received a Fatal Crash call to I-240 south of South Parkway.

Upon arrival, officers located a three car crash at this location. The preliminary investigation revealed that Vehicle#1, 1997 Chrysler Cirrus, was traveling southbound on I-240 in the middle lane when the driver of Vehcile#1 attempted to change lanes striking Vehicle#2, 2000 Ford Taurus. After striking Vehicle#2, the driver of the Cirrus then struck Vehicle#3, 2009 Mack Truck, which was also traveling southbound I-240.

The driver of Vehicle#1, 24-year-old Monique Howard, was pronounced deceased on the scene. A passenger of Vehicle#1, 24-year-old female, was transported to the Regional Medical Center in critical condition. Driver#2, 35-year-old female, was transported to the Regional Medical Center in non-critical condition. Driver#3, 48-year-old male, was not injured.

I’m still in awe that I saw the aftermath of the scene that left one person deceased, another critically injured, and many more with the wake-up call that it’s important to drive carefully, defensively and stay alert at all times.

It’s safe to assume that the driver of the Chrysler Cirrus didn’t think she would lose her life yesterday. It’s extremely unfortunate that it happened in such a gruesome manner.

Stating that, I’m a firm believer in the saying, “everything happens for a reason.” This should be another solemn reminder that life is not promised. You can lose it at any second.

May God be with all of the families involved and affected by the crash on I-240. I’ll keep you all in my prayers.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Memphis Emcee Skewby is Humble But Hungry

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 10:04 PM

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As a young journalist, the first artist I interviewed was Memphis emcee Skewby. It was for a story I wrote in 2010 on Memphis rap for the University of Memphis student newspaper The Daily Helmsman. The article, “Rap: the good, the bad, the ugly,” focused on whether or not rap music has the power to truly influence its listeners.

A couple years later, I got the chance to interview Skewby again — well, actually twice. He’s one of the 10 influential Memphians I interviewed for the Flyer cover story, “How Do We Change Memphis?”

A week later, he took some more time out to speak with me about growing up in Memphis, his musical career, why he's refraining from signing to a major record label, and who influenced him musically. I learned some cool things about Skewby’s upbringing and his introduction into the hip-hop culture.

A military baby, Skewby moved often with his family. They eventually ended up migrating to Memphis from Charleston, South Carolina. He quickly took a liking to the local rap scene.

“When I got here, all the kids looked up to Three 6 Mafia,” said the 24-year-old emcee. "They had personal stories of meeting Project Pat or meeting 8-Ball at a barbecue spot. They were like idols. It pushed me to express my opinion in that same way.”

Known for boasting a laid-back, soulful flow, he admits that, as a kid, he spit his verses in a fast-spaced fashion similar to Koopsta Knicca or Lord Infamous (both formerly with Three 6 Mafia).

He was also heavily influenced by artists who told stories in their verses, such as Project Pat, arguably one of the best southern storytellers within hip-hop.

“Project Pat had his own style. His flow patterns were different,” Skewby said. “He was actually a lyricist, which was something that a lot of Memphis emcees weren’t doing. I mean 8-Ball and MJG told stories, but outside of them, Pat was the new wave of that. He used to make you feel like you were in the movie theater when you listened to him.”



Skewby began doing his own share of storytelling within his music. Releasing music independently since a youth, he made his national introduction into hip-hop with the 2009 mixtape Proving You Wrong Since 1988.

The mixtape received great responses and helped him earn a placement in The Source magazine’s "Unsigned Hype" column, which has also featured artists such as Nas, the late Notorious B.I.G., DMX, and Eminem before they went on to sell millions of records. He was the first Memphis rap artist to be featured in the famed column.

“I had a complete album done with all original music before I released the mixtape, and I just didn’t like it,” Skewby said. “I listened to it all the time and it really just sounded like what was going on at the time [within] mainstream hip-hop. I thought, ‘what do I really just love?’ It was that '90s hip-hop. It was that late '80s feel. I wanted to pay homage, because I feel like a lot of kids, as time goes on, don’t know where hip-hop comes from. I thought it would be cool to pay homage [to that era] while making some dope music that people can listen to today at the same time.”

After releasing the mixtape, he also got a chance to tour with Lil’ Wayne for his Farewell Tour, and received endorsements from the likes of famed producer 9th Wonder and Memphis’ own Yo Gotti.

Proving You Wrong’s follow-up installment came in 2010 with the digital album, More or Less, which was followed by the 2012 EP Humble Pie.

“I treated More or Less like an album. I wanted it to be me and I also wanted to get away from what I did on Proving Me Wrong,” Skewby said. “If you listen to More or Less, I sing on some of the records. I have different sounds and instruments. It was more like me trying to show people that I can make complete songs rather than just rap.

Humble Pie is like a realization to me. As you get older, you get to know yourself better. The one thing that I keep finding out about myself is that I’m not the entertainer guy. For some people, it’s easy to sacrifice a certain part of themselves to obtain certain things. I can’t do that, and that’s what Humble Pie was about — [showing that] I’m comfortable with myself and enjoying my life just as it is. Is there anything wrong with that? Nah.”

In addition to rapping, Skewby also contributes some of the production for his releases. He’s even produced for other artists. The one song that stands out among the tracks he's laid is “Southside (Grey Cassette)” by YMCMB artist Short Dawg. The song features the late Pimp C, which is one of Skewby’s favorite artists.

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Skewby recently jumped into the world of merchandising with the release of his Humble Hoodie. A black hoodie with the word "humble" emblazoned in the middle of it, it can be purchased here.

Before ending our interview, I asked Skewby to name the top five artists, dead or alive, he would like to work with if given the chance.

“I want to work with Common, UGK,” he said, "Curtis Mayfield on the hook, 2Pac, and a skit from Richard Pryor — he was the man.”

Skewby's currently prepping a new EP and full-length album. He plans to release both in 2013.

Follow him on Twitter: @Skewby
Visit his website: Somethingaboutskewby.com
Follow me on Twitter: @Lou4President

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Young Dolph Releases Latest Mixtape, Blue Magic

Posted By on Tue, Nov 13, 2012 at 11:45 AM

Those familiar with the 2007 biographical crime drama, American Gangster, and its portrayal of heroin kingpin Frank Lucas know that he branded the product he sold as Blue Magic due to its high potency and purity.

Considering his latest mixtape to boast similar qualities musically, Young Dolph stamped his new body of work with the same moniker.

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“Blue Magic was the best product in the streets [in the movie],” Dolph said. “This mixtape is the best product in the streets. I’m the best product in the streets. That’s how I feel.”

Blue Magic boasts 20 songs and is hosted by legendary southern turntablist and Maybach Music Group’s own, DJ Scream. Memphis duo 8Ball & MJG, Houston hard hitter Paul Wall, Atlanta giant Gucci Mane, and Dolph's Paper Route Empire labelmates Tim Gates and Muney Makkn Murda all make appearances on the mixtape.

Memphis-bred producers DJ Squeeky, Drumma Boy, and Young Neiman (the in-house producer for Dolph’s label, Paper Route Empire) handled the beats. Other contributors included Peezy and Izze the Producer, who has laid tracks for Young Jeezy, Future, Freddie Gibbs, among others.

“I want listeners to know that my music is authentic. It’s real. They’re getting the real,” Dolph said. “I’m telling them my story and where I come from. I want them to know that if I can come from where I come from and do what I’m doing then they can do anything.”

With five mixtapes under his belt, Dolph considers Blue Magic to be his best work yet. Among other bangers, the mixtape features the tracks “Dream” and “My Real Life" featuring Gucci Mane. He considers the tracks to be two of the best songs he’s ever recorded.

“On the songs, I’m explaining a whole lot and walking people through what I’ve been doing from day one [up to this point],” he said. “Overall, all my projects are better than the last one. You’re never gonna get a Young Dolph project and be like, ‘damn, I don’t know about this one.’ You know what I’m saying? When you get this one, Blue Magic, you might be like, ‘damn, this my favorite.’"

Dolph has no plans of signing with a major label any time soon, but he’s not opposed to it if the appropriate deal presents itself. In the meanwhile, he’s pushing his record label, Paper Route Empire. His labelmates, Tim Gates and Muney Makkn Murda will both drop mixtapes in 2013.

A few weeks ago, a video revealed Dolph seated next to Gucci Mane during his interview with Hot 107.9 Atlanta. In the interview, Gucci called Memphis rapper Yo Gotti a “busta” for dropping his mixtape “CM7: The World Is Yours” on the same day as his “Trap God.”

Despite Yo Gotti being a fellow Memphis artist and person whom he’s collaborated with, Dolph said the situation doesn’t concern him.

“I don’t feel no kind of particular way,” Dolph said. “I just look at it like everything else that ain’t got nothing to do with me. What they got going on is between them. I’m not about to turn down Gucci, because he said something or got something going on with somebody from the same city as me, because that doesn’t make sense to me. I mess with him and that’s what it is. I can’t control him from saying what he wants to say. He’s grown.”

Blue Magic can be downloaded here.
Follow Young Dolph on Twitter: @YoungDolph
Follow me on Twitter: @Lou4President

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