Imagine nearing the finish line of a marathon after running 26.2 miles. Your heart is pumping. Your adrenaline is rushing. You're flooded with euphoria and determined to make it to the end no matter what.
Just as you’re about to complete your journey, the impact from a sporadic explosion knocks you off your feet. Another one follows seconds after, knocking limbs from your body and leaving you covered in massive amounts of blood. The pain that you're experiencing is indescribable.
By placing your feet in these shoes, you're becoming one of many who participated in the world-renowned Boston Marathon on April 15th.
More than 260 people were injured from the explosions that took place in Boston's Copley Square just before 3 p.m. The bombings, which occurred within 12 seconds of each other, also left three people dead: 8-year-old Martin Richard, 23-year-old Boston University graduate student Lingzi Lu, and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell.
I was at the Memphis Flyer headquarters working on some assignments when a co-worker asked me if I had heard about the explosion. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what he was talking about. However, I didn’t anticipate it to be as horrid as it was once I looked it up online.
An avid “jogger,” I run more than 20 miles a week (not day). It’s a hobby that I picked up in 2007, and I’ve stuck with it ever since.
Over the last year, I’ve began to participate in 5k runs for recreation but nothing remotely close to a marathon—not even a half-marathon. But I do know that I enjoy running. It’s an outlet for me to clear my mind and release any frustrations. Plus it’s good cardiovascular exercise.
Out of all things, it's not something that I associate with life-threatening injury or death. But since the bombings on April 15th, it's safe to presume that those will be things that come up when running competitions are mentioned moving forward.
The two men responsible for the bombings, bloodshed, and heartache during the 117th annual Boston Marathon are 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and his brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev (who was identified as the brains behind the attacks and also a supporter of radical Islam). The two brothers are Muslim and ethnic Chechens from Russia. They had been living in the U.S. for a decade at the time of the bombings.
Surveillance cameras revealed that each brother wore a dark backpack, which held bombs composed of kitchen pressure cookers packed with shrapnel, on the day of the bombings. The backacks were placed on the ground near the marathon's finish line. They used a remote control device to detonate the two bombs inside of them.
But the bloodshed didn't stop there.
The brothers shot 26-year-old Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus officer, multiple times to possibly rob him for his gun in hope of expanding their arsenal. Shortly after that, they car-jacked a man for his Mercedes Benz SUV.
While steering the stolen SUV through Watertown, Massachusetts, about 20 minutes away from Boston, the two began to notice that they were being followed by city police and engaged in a gunfight with the officers.
Tamerlan was killed during the shootout, which took place early Friday, April 19th, while Dzhokhar managed to escape with multiple gunshot wounds. He was later found bleeding inside of a boat in the backyard of Watertown resident, David Henneberry.
When police apprehended Dzhokhar, he was in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs, and hand, and he had suffered massive blood loss, according to an F.B.I. affidavit.
Despite the injuries documented in the affidavit, reports show he’s also suffering from a gunshot wound to the throat, which may be self-inflicted. As of today, he's said to be in fair condition at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Dzhokhar’s been charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death. He could receive the death penalty if convicted for his role in the bombings.
Witnessing the coverage on the event over the last week—the memorials, the articles, the blogs, the news coverage, and even from doing my own research to write this post—it's really sunk in how unfortunate the entire occurrence is. Those people in attendance at the Boston Marathon that day weren’t expecting to lose limbs, hearing, or even their life. They were there to run for a good cause.
On the contrary, because of the occurrence, a husband and father (Tamerlan) is now dead, leaving behind his widow to raise their daughter alone. And a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth college student (Dzhokar) will possibly never live life again as a free man. In no means am I justifying what they did or sympathetic for them. I just feel that this situation is unfortunate for EVERYONE involved.
The Boston Marathon bombings are yet another occurrence that conveys how extremely significant it is for us to cherish every day we’re alive and be appreciative for everything within our lives. Any one of us could take our last breaths in a matter of seconds.
Only God knows if a life-changing tragedy will occur, and more so, when it’s our time to leave earth. My prayers and condolences go out to all those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. I understand there’s no restart button for us to push, to go back in time, and do things differently. I just hope that all of the survivors can push forward as strong and positively as possible. I could never place myself in your shoes. However, I do want you to know that you’re not the only ones hurting from this catastrophic event. People across the globe—family, friends and concerned citizens—are feeling the effects of this devastating mishap as well.
Stating that, I hope everyone takes something from this unfortunate occurrence, which will inevitably become another piece of history. If nothing else, it reminds us that we can’t take life for granted. It may sound cliché, but it’s true. Just ask those who were in attendance during the Boston Marathon.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Menino, launched One Fund Boston, a way to support those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. The fund has currently raised more than $23 million.
If there was a table designed exclusively for the forefathers of Memphis rap, Alphonzo “Al Kapone” Bailey would be among the artists seated at the head. With the release of several albums and compilations, he’s managed to sell thousands of units independently, and is viewed as one of the most respected artists within the underground rap movement.
Penning rhymes since the sixth grade, Al Kapone began to obtain musical notoriety as a teenager with his song, “Lyrical Drive-by.” This led to his debut album, Street Knowledge: Chapters 1-12, which secured a spot on Jet Magazine's Top 20 Albums chart and solidified his presence within the Memphis rap movement. Underground albums such as Pure Ghetto Anger, Sinista Funk, the compilation Memphis to tha Bombed Out Bay, and Goin’ All Out, followed soon after his debut, and expanded his fanbase from the South to the West Coast.
Aside from creating underground classics, Al Kapone is a talented songwriter and producer. He co-wrote E-40's "U and Dat," Lil Jon's "Snap Yo Fingers," (which both charted on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop section), and "Hustle & Flow (It Ain't Over)", the theme song to the 2005 Memphis-based film, Hustle & Flow, and more.
I got a chance to speak with Al Kapone about his music career, what attendees can expect from his performance at this year’s Beale Street Music Festival, songwriting for E-40 and Lil’ Jon, what led him to create a song that supported past Congressional candidate Republican George Flinn, rock music, and more.
How did you get into making music?
I was into storytelling. It went from that to writing stories to actually writing songs from the stories. When the hip-hop craft stage kinda took off, I fell in love with it. Even though I love all forms of music, I just fell in love with hip-hop to the point that that’s what I wanted to do.
I got into just the whole hip-hop scene and the whole culture. It was more than just the rap part of it, it was the DJ-ing, the breakdancing, the graffiti, the fashion. It was really the whole culture of hip-hop, but I ended up sticking with the rap side more than anything.
What made you choose the name Ska-Face Al Kapone as your rap moniker? And why did you eventually drop the "Ska-face" part?
I was living in the Lamar Terrace projects at the time, and I was looking at this old black-and-white movie called Scarface Al (Scarface, 1932), it was basically the old version of the Al Pacino Scarface.
I remember seeing that and Scarface Al just grabbed me. It was at the time when NWA was poppin', so the gangsta rap scene was real hot. And I knew I wanted a name that was gonna be edgy, so when I saw Scarface Al go across that screen, I was like, ‘That’s it. That’s the name.’
And actually, this was before Scarface from the Geto Boys had kinda ran with his name, because I think at the time, he was going by the name Akshun. So it was before him, but that leads to the reason I ended up dropping Ska-Face because when “Lyrical Driveby” popped off for me on a solo tip, I was still going by the name of Ska-face Al Kapone. I added the Kapone part because I began noticing that the Houston rapper Scarface was starting to get popular, and when I did out of town shows, people were starting to get me confused. They were asking me where Bushwick [Bill] was. So I thought, ‘Okay, I’m gonna go ahead and drop the Ska-face part because it’s starting to create confusion.’
At what point did you know music was something that you could fully rely on as a way to provide for you and your family?
When “Lyrical Drive-by” popped off. I was working at Red Lobster at the time. When I was going back and forth to work, I started to notice cars going by blasting that song. It was like several cars, and that’s when I realized, ‘Oh shit, people recognize me now.’ That’s when I started getting calls to do more shows. At that point, I was able to leave Red Lobster and actually start doing shows full-time, and that’s when I was able to start providing for me and my family.
In 2003, you released the album Goin’ All Out on E-40’s label, Sic Wid It Records. How did you link up with E-40?
My main connection to the Bay Area was initially with this magazine called Murder Dog. They featured me in a lot of their publications, and from that, as an independent artists, I started networking with a lot of the independent artists out there. And from that, E-40 took notice, and then, he reached out to me. From the independent artists to E-40, I really established a strong Bay Area connection.
My connection with 40 came in the late '90s. Like I said, he's originally from Murder Dog. He just started noticing my name a lot through Murder Dog and the independent scene. He reached out to me to be apart of a compilation that he was working on at the time called Southwest Riders. It was a lot of independent artists from the West and independent artists from the South.
How did you end up signing with Sic Wid It?
After I ended up doing that compilation with [E-40], just through my connections with independent Bay Area artists, I did my own compilation called Memphis to tha Bombed Out Bay. What I did was, I took a Greyhound to the Bay. I had a cousin who was staying in Sacramento, and I still had my Murder Dog connection. So I took a Greyhound out there with all my product. I just went out there promoting blindly, didn’t know, all I had was straight ambition. I rented a car and was getting directions from people and literally driving from Vallejo to Oakland to Frisco to Sac Town [Sacramento] to even smaller towns in between, from Richmond…it was crazy. It was before GPS. I was strictly going off people’s directions from the highway, and I was actually getting there.
I ended up running into E-40 in Vallejo. It was a picnic that he was having, and again, I was out there promoting Memphis to tha Bombed Out Bay, and he just noticed, ‘Damn, dude just came all the way from Memphis and he actually has a line of people he’s signing autographs for at my picnic.’ He sent his brother over to let me know that they were going to pick me up and bring me to his house. I was staying at the Murder Dog house at the time.
His brother came and picked me up. I went to 40’s house. He was working on some music, and he said, ‘You feel like you can jump on this song?’ I was like, ‘Holy shit, he wants me to jump on a song!’ I immediately wrote a verse like in 10 minutes and jumped on the song and at that point, he was like ‘I’m gonna be reaching out to you. How you feel about signing to Sic Wid It?’ And after I came back to Memphis, he reached out to me and we made it official. He sent me a contract and we sealed the deal.
You did some writing on E-40's album, My Ghetto Report Card. How did that come about?
That was one of those amazing times. Not burning bridges allowed me to. I wasn’t signed to him at the time. This was like some years after the contract had ended, but we kept a good enough relationship that he reached out to me when he was working with Lil’ Jon and wanted me to come to Atlanta and [work] with them on some music. It was kind of a blessing to be in that particular space and time to offer some of my writing skills, which out of that spawned the “Snap Yo Fingers” song that Lil’ Jon had.
When you’re songwriting, are you actually writing verses for artists, or are you contributing ideas?
It’s more of contributing ideas. Coming up with ideas and concepts and writing hooks to give the song the direction that it needs to go into.
What are some other albums you’ve had a hand in that people may not know about?
Off the top of my head, I know I did something on the Stomp the Yard soundtrack. I did something on the Cadillac Records soundtrack. That’s a couple I can think of off the top of my head.
You also wrote a couple songs on the Hustle & Flow soundtrack.
Most definitely. That was another one of those space and time blessings that you don’t see coming. It was all again, not burning bridges, because I knew Craig [Brewer] way before. He was doing independent films and having them distributed through Select-o-Hits whereas we were doing the independent CDs, so we knew each other from that time. And I always kept in touch with him.
I just so happened to randomly call like I normally do, and it doesn’t have to be about no business, just to reach out to people on a personal level. So I was just reaching out to him one day and seeing how he was doing, and that’s when he informed me about what was going on, that John Singleton was going to get behind the project and John was going to be in town the next day. They were looking for a particular song. John really had his mind set that he was going to let Three 6 [Mafia] do everything, but they were going to give me a chance to present something. It was almost like, ‘He’ll just check it out’ but his mind was pretty set.
I went straight to the house and wrote the Hustle & Flow theme song. When John came in town, he came to the Cotton Row studios. Me and Niko [Lyras] had just finished producing the music and I dropped all the lyrics and everything. When he came, he heard it, he said it was on point…the whole subject was on point with what they were looking for, and I was in.
From that, he wanted to hear some other songs that I had been working on personally. That’s how he ended up hearing “Whoop that Trick” and “Get Crunk, Get Buck.” He was like, ‘damn, we need to work with those songs too.”
Over the last few years, you’ve incorporated more of a guitar-infused style into your music, especially with your album Guitar Bump. You’ve also branched out and collaborated with different bands and musicians. What influenced you to take a different lane with your music after creating that more gangsta, buck sound for so many years?
My initial reason [for] going into the live zone of music rather than staying in the crunk zone was because the rest of the country made up in their mind that Atlanta was known for crunk. Even though we had the proof, nobody was going to dig into the truth enough to give us credit for it. The rest of the country saw it as we would be the followers, even though we weren’t. We were the originators. So instead of fighting against it, I wanted to do something that was uniquely a Memphis thing. I started thinking about the live sound of Memphis as far as Al Green, the rock side and everything. I started thinking, let me go more into that direction and see if I can incorporate live music with the Memphis sound and see how that would be received.
My main thing was to show the hip-hop culture of Memphis. Even though y’all don’t want to give us our credit for the sound, give us credit for at least our musical roots, and that’s really why I started going in that direction. But in the process of recording that type of music, I ended up having to perform it live, and I actually fell in love with having that band on stage. It was an amazing feeling to have all that live music. It was like another level of performing, so I kinda ran with it. There's nothing like performing with that live instrumentation on stage.
Have you always been interested in guitars and the rock genre?
Even though I was into hip-hop earlier on, I was always into soul and rock. From Ozzy Osborne to the Black Sabbath, I was always into it. When Nirvana hit at the time, I was heavy into that. I was heavy into Metallica. If anybody really followed my music career and they listened to some of those old songs, you would actually hear songs that had the rock element or the soul element to them. It was always there but when I went with the band, it kinda stood out more.
You’re performing at this year’s Beale Street Music Festival. What can attendees expect from your performance? I read you’re working with some live guitarists for the show.
If you’ve never seen a live performance from a Memphis rap act, my goal is to always give you a concert. Not just go up there and rap the songs, I want to truly entertain you with the whole spectrum of the music—from my performance to the musicians adding the instrumentation. My goal is to give you an experience where you can walk away and say, ‘You know, I don’t really listen to rap but I enjoyed that show. That was a good show.’
An eye opener for a lot of people was when you created the song "George Flinn" that encouraged Memphians to vote for Republican George Flinn as Congressman for the state’s 9th district last year. What persuaded you to endorse Flinn?
I did it because I felt like he supported not just me, but through his station [George Flinn owns several radio stations that cater to such genres as hip-hop, classic rock, Christian, and country], he supported the Memphis rap scene.
When I go to different places, I notice that a lot of radio stations do not support their local music scene. For us to have a station here that really supports and plays local music at times when the rest of the country had kind of stopped supporting Memphis hip-hop, I just felt the need to show support to someone who was supporting the music scene that I came from.
Did you worry about receiving any backlash from endorsing Flinn?
I did think about [receiving backlash] before I did it. I didn’t feel like the black community would embrace that I was supporting a Republican. The way I saw it was, if I don’t do it, it’s not because I don’t wanna do it, it would be because of what other people think. And at that point, I realized that I didn’t want to look back years later and say, ‘I shoulda did that and the only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to be worried about what somebody else thought.’ When it’s all said and done, I can’t live by what other people think. And at that point, I felt like I was supporting him regardless.
You’ve released all of your albums independently. What has caused you to avoid going mainstream for so many years?
The thing about being independent, you’re pretty much in control of what you want to do [and] release. That’s the biggest thing. You have total control. As long as you know how to budget and try to keep some consistent releases out there. You can kinda maintain some pretty decent cash flow to come in. But your main thing is your freedom to record what you want and release when you want to. You’re able to design your own artwork. But it does require work. Being independent is not just the freedom. It’s a serious work ethic that goes along with it. And I always had that drive to grind. I actually love the hustle of promoting and working on that level. I also love to write and produce, so it works out for me because I enjoy that whole hustle.
I had situations where I could’ve signed some major deals here and there but it was never in my favor. The thing is, you can lose a lot signing the wrong type of contract. You can sign away your rights. Right now, I own pretty much all of my catalog, so I can release it whenever I want to. I have a whole catalog of music that I haven’t even released digitally yet that I’m in the process of releasing. If I would have signed to a particular major [label], I wouldn’t have had any rights to release none of my previous music.
What’s next for Al Kapone?
I’m finishing up this album. It’s back to the roots of that straight underground Memphis rap. I did a song called "Memphis Pride" that pretty much represented the whole Memphis rap scene. So basically re-representing the original Memphis rap sound. That early Memphis sound. I got a project representing that sound but it’s today, but it’s still that sound at the same time. That’s the next project I’m [about] to drop. I’m thinking I’m going to drop that some time in May, so look out for that.
You can’t mention pioneers within the Memphis and Southern rap scene without name-dropping Three 6 Mafia. One of the most legendary Southern rap groups in history, the collective has sold millions of records throughout the years by delivering hit after hit. The group even made history as the first rap group to win an Oscar for penning the song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" for the Memphis-based film Hustle & Flow.
Originally a six-member collective consisting of DJ Paul, Juicy J, Gangsta Boo, Koopsta Knicca, Lord Infamous and Crunchy Black, the group went through some lineup changes throughout the years due to members withdrawing to pursue their own careers. The group is currently composed of original members DJ Paul and Juicy J, who also co-own the record label Hypnotize Minds and have been successfully making music for more than two decades.
DJ Paul, one half of the Oscar-winning and Platinum-selling group, took time out to speak with me about his latest album/DVD A Person of Interest, working on a new mixtape with fellow Memphis artist and producer Drumma Boy, stepping back into the DJ-ing realm, creating his own barbecue rub and sauce, the potential for a new Three 6 Mafia album, and much more.
There’s been a lot of coverage on fellow Three 6 Mafia member Juicy J and his new endeavors with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang imprint, but can you give readers out there an update on what you’ve been up to lately?
Just DJ-ing man. Still doing my live performances obviously, but I’ve been doing a lot of DJ performances as well. I’ve got the new album out. It came out the end of last year. I’m still promoting that. I’m shooting videos from that. And we’re finalizing a new mixtape called Clash of Da Titans. It’s me and Drumma Boy. We’re making a mixtape together.
You released your solo album, A Person of Interest late last year. What are your thoughts on the album?
It’s my favorite solo album that I’ve done. I loved the Scale-a-Ton album. A lot of people loved that. I actually like this album more than I did the Scale-a-Ton album, because I think it was a lot more raw than the Scale-a-Ton album. I like the piano solos that we put in the album, because I’m a fan of piano solos. Like at the end of “Witha Shit” and all of the orchestrated intros. I love the hell outta this album.
You’re back DJ-ing now as apart of the group S.I.M. (Sex is Mandatory) DJs. Isn’t DJ-ing how you got your start with music?
Yeah, I used to DJ in [Club] 380 Beale, and I had a couple clubs myself. That was how it all started. That was originally how I learned how to use my studio equipment. I just wanted to be a producer. I didn’t want to be a rapper. So I would make beats for Lord Infamous, and [he] would rap. But as a way to get extra money, I would take the equipment I bought, which was a keyboard, a turntable, and a four-track recorder, and I would make mixtapes and sell them in high school. But then I got slick with it. I would start mixing my artists’ songs in between it. You know like sneak it in and kinda introduce the song. So I might be playing like some LL Cool J, then I throw in some Skinny Pimp in the middle of it, and then come out of it into some N.W.A., Geto Boyz, or whatever the case was. And I eventually started making mixtapes with more of our songs on them until the mixtapes turned into just our songs, like mixtapes are now today.
Memphis can take the credit of being the creator of the format of the mixtapes that are out these days, because that’s what we did. Mixtapes, back in the day, was just a mix of people’s favorite songs. Like if your uncle or whatever would take his favorite O’Jays songs, his favorite Staples Singers songs, and put them all on one tape, so when they have a party, they could play all of their favorite songs instead of sitting up there, putting a needle on a record and going back and forth to [a particular] song.
That’s what traditional mixtapes were. DJs back in the day would just mix different songs off different albums, but then Memphis took it a step further. Like with DJ Spanish Fly. I would say he’s the first person I heard put his own songs on his mixtapes. So that’s what me, DJ Squeeky, and Juicy J would do. We would put our own songs on our mixtapes. That’s what people do today, but we were doing that back in ’88.
What made you return to DJ-ing?
The reason why I’m back in it today is because, well, I look at it two ways. One way is, obviously, I’m getting older around here. I’m trying to think, I can’t predict the future, but I can’t imagine that somebody is gonna want to see me bounce around a stage at 65 years old talking about ‘Tear Da Club Up,’ ‘Sippin’ on Sizzurp,’ and I got a glock in my drawers and shit like that. So I’m just prepared for the future. It’s easy to sell and play somebody else’s hits than to be sitting up here, 55 years old, trying to write your own, because ain’t nobody gonna believe that you’re still sippin’ on sizzurp and you still sittin' on the block selling rocks.
And it’s fun to get up there and DJ. You got all your boys in the DJ booth with you and your girls. You travel state-to-state and country-to-country, just playing records, rocking the crowd, and still get on the mic and do your own songs.
And then it’s something that I always liked. When I’m at the house and I throw parties, I have a DJ booth set up in my living room with the speakers that go out all over the house — to the theater room upstairs, to the swimming pool outside. In my living room, I got disco balls lights and all that. You’ll think you’re in the club when you’re in my house. I be up in there just DJ-ing. It’s something that I do at the house anyway, so I was like shit, I might as well start back doing it in the club and get paid for it.
It's been several years since Three 6 Mafia released their last album, Last 2 Walk. Is there anything in the works to be dropped for the future?
Naw, there ain’t nothing in the works right now. You know, both of us are doing our solo thing. He’s doing his thing with [Taylor Gang] right now, and I’m doing my thing with Drumma Boy and the DJ-ing and all that, so we really haven’t had time to do anything together. We still talk about the next project and this and that, but we haven’t physically recorded anything. But in the future, we’re definitely going to do something.
You’re in the process of creating the Clash of Da Titans mixtape with Drumma Boy. What can listeners expect from that?
Us being two of the hardest producers to come out of the South, we thought that it would be cool if we come together and make one. Both of us are producing and rapping on it. We’ve got features on it. We’re gonna drop it on 7-11 (July 11th).
Who are some artists that DJ Paul is listening to right now?
I like Waka Flocka. I like A$AP Rocky. I like Kendrick Lamar. I don’t listen to a lot of rap to be honest. I listen to more shit like David Guetta and Diplo. I like a lot of the EDM [Electronic Dance Music] cats like Skrillex. I listen to a lot of 80s and 70s music.
I’m getting into listening to a lot of music from the '70s and early '80s era, which is referred to as 'Pimpin’ in Memphis. Who are some good artists from that era that you recommend for me to check out?
Aw yeah, the pimpin’ man. You gotta go with some Al Green, some David Ruffin, Willie Hutch. He’s my number one favorite. I actually worked with him in Memphis before he passed away. And you gotta go with some [Bobby] Womack. The Isley Brothers are good. Rick James. Man, I could go on for days, but your core dudes is going to be your David Ruffin and your Willie Hutch. That’s the underground cats. They’ve got songs that weren’t on the radio all the time.
Over the years, you’ve had the opportunity to work with a large catalog of people. But who are a couple people you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I want to do a song with A$AP Rocky. I like him. And I worked with Waka [Flocka], but I want to do another one with him. There are a lot of other guys out there I would like to work with. I would just have to think, but I could go for days. Dr. Dre. We’re trying to keep it realistic around here.
Outside of music, you’re heavy into the barbecuing culture and recently developed your own barbecue rub and sauce. How’d that come about?
What happened was, in 2006, [Three 6 Mafia] moved to Cali. We still kept our places in Memphis but we got the houses in [Los Angeles]. Living in L.A., obviously I was missing my Memphis barbecue. So what I would do every time I went to Memphis, I would take two suitcases — one for clothes I was going to be traveling with and one bag to bring back the seasonings, [from places like] Rendevous, Corky’s and all of that. I got sick of doing that, plus it got expensive, so I was like, ‘Man, I can just create my own rub because I know how to do this.’ I knew I liked the taste. So I sat down and created my own rub and let my neighbors taste it. And my neighbors loved it. They were like, ‘You oughta sell this stuff. You oughta bottle it up and sell it.’ I was like, ‘You’re right. I oughta bottle it up and sell it to your ass. Instead of giving it to you for free.’ And then I bottled it up and started selling it, and it started doing good for us. I made the rub first. About nine months later, I made the sauce. It took a long time to get the sauce together because it was liquid, so it’s harder to match what I made in my house. And now I’ve got two more seasonings coming out. I’ve got a buffalo wing seasoning, a garlic butter seasoning, and I’ve got a hot sauce coming out.
And you’re creating a cookbook as well?
We’re working on a cookbook now. It’s going to be more than just a regular cookbook. It’s gonna have stories in it. It’s gonna tell how I got into all of this and how I came up with each recipe and why and a little info about me. It’s going to be a fun little cookbook.
Is the cookbook going to be strictly for barbecuing?
Naw, it’s everything. You’re gonna have Italian in there. Asian, which is my favorite. Some of everything is gonna be up in there.
What are some of your favorite barbecue spots in Memphis?
I have a bunch, man. Rendevous. Corky’s. A&R. Tops. Those are my favorite ones.
I read that you’re also involved with the relaunch of the liquor, Sizzurp. Can you briefly explain your role in that endeavor?
It came out in 2000. Even though it was ours, Sizzurp, the company, from what they said, well I don’t know how it originally went down, but Jim Jones and Cam’ron [bought the brand]. They were my boys, so I wasn’t trippin’ if they had it. It was cool. Jim Jones actually brought us in and broke some bread with us to help promote it and we shot the “Sippin’ Sizzurp” video with them.
That deal went away that they had and new people came in to run Sizzurp. Once the new owners came in, they called me and they were like, ‘We remember that you were the original guy to create the Sizzurp and this and that and we want you to be a part-owner of [its] relaunch’ and I was like, ‘okay, cool.’ So we relaunched it. It’s out in stores right now. I think it launches in Memphis next month and in Las Vegas. It’s already in Florida. It’s already in Massachusetts, New York, Texas, a lot of places. We’re slowly getting the distribution through. We’ve got a big event in Orlando, Florida on the 28th-30th [The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America 70th Annual Convention & Exposition]. It’s a liquor convention down there. All the brands go down there and set up down there in the [Grande Lakes] hotel. You go from suite to suite tasting new brands. We’re gonna have a suite down there.
I noticed on your website that you emphasized Sizzurp is a lot safer than trying the actual purple drank concoction that consists of promethazine/codeine mixed with soda.
Aw yeah, of course. This is overseen by the government. This is real liquor. That’s drugs that they be drinking. This is real liquor. It’s safe as hell. As long as you don’t drink and drive ... you drink responsibly and make sure you don’t get so drunk that you don’t use a condom. Other than that, it’s pretty safe.
What’s next for you? Are you working with any new artists?
The only artist I’m pushing right now is my nephew Locodunit, who’s from Memphis. And I’ve got a Mexican artist from L.A. named Kokoe, and that’s all I’m messing with right now. You can’t do too much at the same time, because you want to be able to focus on the ones you got. You don’t wanna have your hands full with a bunch of artists and you can’t do nothing for all of them at the same time. The only things you can do at the same time is women.
It’s not every day that you see a rap group coming out of South Memphis that’s influenced by rock artists such as The Killers, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. But when you do, you see The Sidewayz.
Composed of Havier “Havi” Green and Salazar “Sal” Diego, the childhood friends have been crafting tunes together since 2009. Thrived with the struggles that the average kid residing within a single parent, low-income household experiences, they’re life stories play a nice balance to the eclectic style they possess on the beat.
“Music has always been the best escape from our upbringing, which wasn’t that fuckin’ good,” says Havi. “It’s pretty bleak growing up in South Memphis. I’ve probably lived in every project in South and North Memphis; I’ve been homeless for a time. You kind of get used to it.…you’ve got to adjust to being where you’re at, but in the inside you know it’s something bigger out there.”
The Sidewayz has released two musical installments independently thus far: 2011’s Endless Summer, a 22-track mixtape in which the group spits clever verses over other artists’ instrumentals, and 2012’s Social Pop Art, a 12-track release that displays the duo’s growth over all original production.
Both mixtapes were well received in Memphis and enabled the duo to perform in front of crowds at such venues as the Hi-Tone, Brinson's, Daily Planet, and the Buccaneer Lounge.
“The response, since we’ve followed our own artistic vision, it’s been pretty well. When people hear it, they automatically recognize it’s something different than what they’re used to,” says Havi. “We’re trying to bring change into something that’s been the same for a long time. We’re trying to grow and do something that’s actually going to break down a lot of barriers and let people know that you can still grow.”
Growth is what the group promises to continue to display with their upcoming mixtape, Art Appreciation. The Sidewayz assures it will be their best offering to date. Shortly after the mixtape release, the group plans to drop their debut album, Goodbye Gods, June 30th exclusively at the Memphis Rehearsal Complex on 296 Monroe Ave.
“Art Appreciation is a continuation of our growth,” says Havi. “Social Pop Art really was our step to try and escape from the rawness of Endless Summer, and this one, we’re trying to blend both of them together.”
Dedicated to their craft, both members dropped out of college to pursue music full-time but their tales are a little different. While Sal attended Southwest Tennessee Community College in the city for a little while, Havi actually received a full scholarship to attend the prestigious and world-renown Vanderbilt University.
Taking a different lane than the average rap artists coming from South Memphis, or the city as a whole for that matter, isn't something The Sidewayz is worried about. The group embraces their uniqueness with open arms and encourages others to try things outside of the norm.
“We never thought about doing what we do and people take it in a negative way,” says Sal. “Like, ‘damn, it sounds different. It’s not cool.’ It’s cool to be different. But you’re taking a chance with anything. The creativity of being an artist is taking chances, because you’re expressing yourself through your art. We know, yeah, we’re from South Memphis and when you listen to most of the music from the area that we come from, you know what to expect. With us, it’s totally different and we take a lot of pride in being an outcast.”
With the recent success of his protégé and fellow-Meridian, Mississippi native, Big K.R.I.T., Big Sant was viewed by those unfamiliar with his musical efforts as nothing more than a hype man for the Def Jam Records-signed artist.
However, Big Sant is far from that. The son of legendary Mississippi Blues singer Patrice Moncell, music runs through his bloodline. He's personally been trying his hand at music for nearly two decades, but decided to pursue it professionally around 2005.
In late 2012, he dropped MFxOG, a 13-track mixtape fit to be released as an album. He’s currently headlining his own tour, "MFxOG," which also features Kamikaze a.k.a. Mr. Franklin, who was once part of the group Crooked Lettaz, along with successful artist and producer David Banner.
First introduced to Big Sant on the song "Return of 4eva" off of Big K.R.I.T.'s mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, I quickly took a liking to his aggressive, but lyrical and pimpish flow. I had the opportunity to speak with Big Sant about his unique style, growing up in a state known for its racist past, balancing fatherhood with his rap career, a future release from The Alumni (a group consisting of him and Big K.R.I.T.), and he even shared something with me that many people don't know about him.
What inspired you to pursue music as a full-time profession rather than a hobby?
Everything is a hobby until you start making money off of it. My whole life is surrounded by music. My mother is a singer. I grew up in the church. Music is my life. It was only natural for me to look for a way to convey my feelings to my peers.
I’ve been rapping for 15 years. I transitioned into doing it professionally in around 2005-2006. That’s when I started doing a lot of shows and things like that.
I became familiar with you initially through your collaborations with Big K.R.I.T. How did you develop a relationship with him?
I’ve known K.R.I.T. since he was 13. When you come from a small city like Meridian, it’s not hard for brothers and sisters to get together. He already knew I rapped. I found out he was rapping and then we started rapping with each other. That was 14 years ago.
I understand you guys have a group together called The Alumni. Are you two working on any music together currently? Possibly planning a mixtape release?
We know better now, so we’re trying to get the money. The Big K.R.I.T. ticket is really high right now. As far as all the work he’s done, it speaks for itself as far as the value, so we’re trying to raise my value. So when it’s time for us to do a mixtape, album, or whatever we decide to release, we’ll be worth a lot more. Somebody will have to pay us for real. That’s all we’re trying to do is build the demand up, because when we do it, it’s going to be epic.
I’ve heard some of you guys’ music from 2010 to 2011. It reminds me of vintage 8ball & MJG or something of that nature.
That’s what we’re on. We’re still living the glory days. That’s why it’s called the "Return of 4eva." We didn’t do anything but bring back the stuff that was already here. We just shined the spotlight on the South. That’s all what we want to do is put it down for the South.
I’ve never been to a Big K.R.I.T. show in person but I’ve seen several online. I've often noticed you on stage with him as his hype man. However, I also knew you rapped as well. But this has caused many people unfamiliar with your music to get the assumption that all you were was K.R.I.T.'s hype man. But on your mixtape, you show you're much more than that. Do you think it’s important for you to show people you can hold your own musically aside from collaborating with Big K.R.I.T.?
Definitely and that’s what MFxOG is all about. It’s my own soapbox. Me and K.R.I.T., we never approached it in that fashion. It was just that he had just got a deal. He was going on the road and he was like, ‘There’s a job for you to do and then you know all the songs, so come with me and let’s get out there and get this experience.’ Thank God, I was able to get out there and get the experience myself. You know, a lot of hype men get caught up with the stigma of not being an artist themselves. And that’s what it was all about. That was really kinda his idea. Even while I was out there being a hype man, I was doing my own features and working on my own music. I wasn’t boxed into being a hype man.
Is MFxOG your first mixtape release ever?
Some music that I recorded in 2005 and 2006, I released it in 2007. It was called Top of the Food Chain. I wasn’t in position to push it appropriately, so all I did was drop it online and that was it. I did my shows, but it fizzled out. Now that I know better. That’s why I’m out here doing the MFxOG tour, getting better features, and building relationships with people, so when it’s time for me to record my next project or start talking about getting a deal for an album, I’m more well-versed in the politics of the game now.
On the song, “Cadillac Music” off your mixtape, you reveal that you’re a father. How challenging is it to balance the role of being a father with your rap career?
Well, I’m a single father. I raise my sons by myself. And I have a daughter now too. Like I said on “Live,” it’s just having to explain to them that I have to leave and all that stuff. I still have to go to work. It’s just that I’m not going to work everyday like a regular parent would. The 40 hours that a person [works] all week long, I do it like on the weekend. I do it from Friday to Sunday and then I’m back. It’s all good. Everybody's with it. My son, he’s a little older now. He’s six, so he can dig it…when I gotta go to work it ain’t no big deal.
After listening to “Cadillac Music,” I became curious if you’re a big Cadillac fan. Is that your favorite automobile?
A Cadillac is like the first luxury vehicle that somebody from the ghetto would’ve saw, somebody from the country would’ve saw, because there ain’t no benzes and BMWs and shit like that in the hood. But you know, the Cadillac is like a black man’s BMW. It’s easy to obtain. All my uncles had Cadillacs. Pimps had Cadillacs.
Are you a big car fan or car collector?
I recently got into the car culture a few years ago after hanging out with Curren$y and it was like, ‘aww aite, I understand now.’ I used to not bother with things I couldn’t get but now, we’re out here, we’re working, we can go buy things now, you know, I’m real interested in the car culture.
Do you have a dream car?
I want a ‘66 Lincoln Continental. It’s just clean man. It’s the one that homeboy drove on Entourage. It’s before suicide doors and the doors still open up that way. That bitch is just clean. It’s long. It’s a man’s car.
Listening to your mixtape and some of your collaborations with the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Fiend, Smoke Dza, and Corner Boy P., to me, you give off a vibe similar to the late Pimp C but in a somewhat more lyrical fashion. How did you develop the style that you have, because it doesn’t sound like any other rap artist out right now?
I just hear the beat and I try to out-perform the people around me. Whether they’re my friends or whether I just met them, I want to earn my keep. I don’t want to just come in your house and sit on your couch and let that be it. Ima come in, I’m fixin' to vacuum, I’m fixin' to wash dishes around this bitch. I’m fixin' to go to work. That’s just the way I roll. I’m aggressive. When I walk into the room, I make noise. I want my personality to have a presence in my music.
What inspires you when you're creating music?
It could just be the day’s events. I usually go with my first or second thought when I hear a beat. Whatever sticks to me first and whatever feels right, I write about that. Life experiences. My friends’ life experiences. Things like that. I like to keep it natural. I’m not gonna get on there and do a whole lot of lying about nothing.
Who are some of your musical influences and inspirations—past and present?
Scarface. I listen to a lot of 'Face man. UGK of course. 8Ball and MJG, Ludacris, T.I., [Big] K.R.I.T. A lot of my peers like Smoke Dza. Fiend is a real mentor. Killer Mike. These are the people that I look to for inspiration when it’s time to get out here and write ghetto rap songs.
I saw in an interview that among the people you would like to work with are Three 6 Mafia and 8 ball & MJG, which are both groups from Memphis. Are you a big fan of the Memphis music scene?
Absolutely, because all that is right around Mississippi. Mississippi, we don’t have a real sound. If you’re from Mississippi, you gravitate toward north, south, east or west. Either you’re listening to a whole lot of Texas music, or a whole lot of Louisiana music, or you done went East and you’re listening to a whole lot of Atlanta music, or what’s right above you in Tennessee. So all those people were right around what I had going on.
Matter of fact on the song “Everythangs Workin',” Project Pat was supposed to be on it but we could never get it together. I wrote the song with him in mind. I called and tried to get the verse first, and he said yeah, and then I wrote the song. That’s why it's got the Playa Fly mention in it. That’s why the hook is real Project Pat-ish. But we just couldn’t get it all together. But he gave me the blessings to use his style on the hook, so it’s all good. I ain’t just out here perpetrating.
I understand you’re from Meridian, Mississippi. How was it growing up as an African-American in a state with such a racist past?
When you live in it, it’s home. It takes other people on the outside to tell you, ‘Yo, where you live is crazy.’ But I’ve never seen shit. When I was going to school, I had white friends and everything like that. Coming from me personally, the perception is what’s all messed up. It’s the history of everything that’s all messed up. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be [and] that’s why we’re always repping Mississippi so hard. You know, the same shit goes on in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida. You know racism is everywhere, especially in the South. But I haven’t had anybody run up on me sideways and act crazy as far as no racism is concerned in Mississippi.
What’s something that the average person or fan doesn’t know about Big Sant that you think would be cool to share with readers?
Me and my crew, we’re some hardcore gamers man. We be on X-box Live getting it on. Right now, we’re on that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. I’m trying to set up a match between us and all my Taylor Gang homeboys. Sledgren and Cardo, because they’re always talking shit, but I’m trying to set up something real and get some sponsors involved and donate the money to charity or something. I just wanna whoop they ass.
No NBA 2k for Big Sant?
I ain’t got the patience for it. I rather get in there and commit my random acts of violence and get off. I ain’t here for 82 games.
How has the experience been thus far with the MFxOG tour?
It’s great man. I’m going back to cities that I’ve already been through with K.R.I.T. Like with the "Live From The Underground" tour, I was the opening act. We haven’t done the whole hype man thing in over a year. Going back and seeing the same people that’s down to come to just a Big Sant show, it’s all love. I can’t describe it in words.
What’s next for you? Any new mixtapes or other endeavors in the works that you would like readers to know about?
I’m working on something that I’m gonna drop for the summer. Me and K.R.I.T. are talking about doing the Drinker’s Club tour. Ain’t nothing in stone yet, but that’s what we’re debating on right now. We all out here working.
Are you entertaining any major labels right now?
If the money's right and it’s an obligation that I can really fulfill, I ain’t got no problem with it. You hit a ceiling with being independent. Whatever I can do to advance and make more money and do more business, I’m always open for it.
Any thing else you want to add?
Everything is good. Life is good. Thank God.