More than 200 miles east of the Bluff City, Nashville, a place that many consider to be the nation’s “Music City,” continues to birth fresh talent.
Largely known for being the mecca of country music, the city also boasts an impressive hip-hop catalog. Such artists as Platinum-selling lyricist Young Buck, independent heavyweight Quanie Cash, and more so lately, a witty and charismatic artist by the name of Starlito (formerly known as All $tar), have taken “Cashville” by storm.
The latter of the three aforementioned Cashvillians, Starlito, began to make a significant impact in the underground rap realm with his 2005 single, “Grey Goose,” which featured Young Jeezy and Yo Gotti on its remix. The standout club heater, along with other bangers, would lead to him signing a deal with Memphis rap forerunner Yo Gotti’s record label, Inevitable Entertainment, and subsequently land him a spot on Cash Money Records.
However, after playing the background on the label for a couple years, and the shelving of his Cash Money debut, Streetball, Starlito declared his independence. Forming his own label, Grind Hard Records, he’s released a solid collection of mixtapes, along with a couple independent albums over the last few years. He also collaborated with Memphis artist and Interscope Records signee Don Trip for the duo's well-received mixtape, Step Brothers.
Starlito took time out to speak with me about his latest mixtape, Funerals & Court Dates, nearly giving up rap, some of his favorite artists to listen to, Step Brothers 2, his upcoming mini-movie, and a lot more.
Was music always what you wanted to do as a career?
It was probably sports at one point growing up—way more than music. But it got to a point where I realized the odds were way against me to make a living playing sports. With that, I gravitated toward taking music seriously. It was first a hobby that people always told me that I was good at, and I pursued it from there.
You released the mixtape Funerals & Court Dates in December 2012. Was there a message that you were trying to convey with the mixtape?
The message behind it is pretty clear and obvious if you listen to it, and it’s that we, and when I say we, I’m speaking to likeminded people, or people who experience similar things, or come from similar upbringing, we, as people of that demograph, don’t have much to look forward to. I narrowed it down to funerals and court dates. The message was, not just to glamorize the darkness of it, but to bring in the reality to the forefront. As an artist, I choose not to paint an inaccurate picture. I’m more familiar with the picture that I paint on Funerals & Court Dates more so than anything that I could have said with any message and purpose to it.
Judging by your catalog, it seems like you stay in the studio a lot. How often do you record?
I don’t record nearly as much as I used to a couple years ago. The end of 2009, all through 2010, I was in the studio four or five days a week for no less than ten hours a day. It was a job. I looked at it like I was being deficient if I wasn’t in the studio for forty hours a week, because I want this to pay. Since then, I’ve fallen in and out of love for making music, and music in general. So many things are bells and whistles these days, and I’m just really, really intent on being real and bringing the reality back to the culture. That’s pushed me to not recording as much honestly. I’ll get disconnected with the trends and how music is going so far in one direction. It’s like people forget to be themselves. So sometimes that will keep me out of the studio.
A large amount of your music is on original production but you release it for free. Do you worry about this affecting your sales?
That’s not my primary concern. The music business is different now. If I was still signed to a label, still an artist underneath a company’s guidance, I wouldn’t make money off the units sold. That’s just the nature of the game. That’s not how I would make my money. If you consider that, I guess it was never my concern. Understanding that I’m in a transitioning period, or understanding how virally my music moves, I’m willing to sacrifice one for the other, because if they meet in the middle then I see a benefit. If I was putting out a CD just to make money off of it, I would have to compromise my audience, or I would have to compromise my material, and I’m not willing to do either.
So how do you stay afloat financially with your career?
All of my releases are available on Bandcamp.com, where you have the option to donate whatever you want. I tour. I might have done 30, 40 shows last year. I’ve been charging between $5,000 to $15,000 a show for the last two years. The basis for that is the music. As a businessman, you sometimes make certain concessions for things in order to see a return elsewhere. My audience is definitely growing. And as a businessman, I’m constantly trying to evolve my ideas and my visions to how I can turn that audience into revenue, but I don’t ever want to lose myself in-between. That’s what keeps me going. Knowing that I’m being true to myself through it all. Whatever I make in-between is a plus, because I used to do this shit for free.
You had a stint with Cash Money Records. Do you ever regret leaving the label considering its success throughout the years?
I don’t deal so much with regret. I think it’s one of the unhealthy emotions. When I was growing up and music became interesting to me, before I became an artist, during my time there and after, I’ve always found a lot to learn from what [Cash Money has] had going on. I admire success. If you don’t, you almost fall into the hater realm. I’m happy with my independence. I’m satisfied with it, and I think there’s certain liberties of an artist that are necessary for you to be at your best. Not saying that you can’t have that in any other way than just being a complete independent [artist]. They’re cons just like they’re pros, but I'm satisfied with it. I try to appreciate things more than regret things.
Are you considering signing back to a major label?
I’m open to any lucrative business endeavors where I don’t have to lose myself in-between. At the same, I enjoy making my music on my terms and putting it out when I want to. Without being an independent, I’m not sure if that would be possible.
Do you feel underrated within the rap game?
I don’t look at myself as part of the rap game. I don’t see myself as playing the rap game like everybody else. I didn’t make Funerals & Court Dates for you to rate it against project X, Y and Z from artist one, two, three. Appeal and all that, I don’t go to sleep and wake up on that. I kinda feel love more than the fame. I hear and see people telling me that they love what I do everyday. There’s nothing to call underrated about that. That’s overwhelming. The fact that I have an audience is a blessing. I’m just pushing to make growth. I couldn’t live with myself bitching about being underrated, or ‘I’m not where I should be.’ I think I’m beyond where I ever dreamed I’d be.
A lot of people know you from being with Yo Gotti, but there’s been a lack of collaborations between you guys lately. What caused the change in the relationship?
I don’t really know.
Is there an issue between you guys?
Outside of Yo Gotti, you’ve collaborated with other Memphis rap artists such as Young Dolph and Don Trip, which you released the mixtape Step Brothers with. How did you develop a relationship with Don Trip?
[Don] Trip and I met on the road with Yo Gotti a couple years ago. They were trying to work something out, and I don’t think it worked out in terms or whatever. During that time period, we began doing some music together and kinda put the idea of the Step Brothers mixtape together. Right around the time I released At War with Myself, I was about to quit rapping. The only other thing I had on my agenda to do was the Step Brothers project with [Don Trip]. We probably had four songs at that time. We had two more studio sessions and the CD was done. It just happened like that. He got his deal some time in between that. We were able to push. We did hella shows together all over the country since it released. I think it’s just a blessing for each one of us just to be able to contribute to each one of our careers.
Is there a release date for Step Brothers 2?
Do you think it will have a larger impact than the first one?
We’re going to do a tour, and I think that will naturally make us reach a lot of audiences, and help us do more numbers. There’s the whole sophomore jinx thing, and I guess [Step Brothers 2] would fall under that. The good thing is we’re only competing with ourselves, and what expectations we created with that. At worse, we hope to match it. Expectations are subjective. What you’re expecting of it may be completely different than what we expect ourselves. The worse you’re going to get from it is our best.
I understand you went to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) but didn’t finish. What were you taking up when you were pursuing school?
I was doing music business the most recent time. The first time I went to school, I wasn’t taking up anything. I was just there. A year after being there, I was passing out CDs, selling CDs, and trying to come up, because it was 10,000 people there and the majority of them were in that rap demograph. About four or five years later, by the time that I was re-enrolling into college, I was rapping. I had a record deal and all that. I tried that for about a year, but my road schedule was really demanding. I was paying about $7,500 to miss classes all the time. That’s kinda silly. On top of that, I was leaving to go make money. It was kind of a no brainer to put school on pause. I put it in my music, because it’s a lot of people in those crossroads. I’ve got friends that graduated from college or got multiple degrees, and can’t get a job or are not doing anything they love. I’m on the other side of that. I didn’t finish, but I’m doing something. I’m working with what I’ve got.
You created the Grind Hard Scholarship, something that’s out of the norm for most rappers. How’d that come about?
I put the idea out there when Mental Warfare [ a digital album Starlito released in 2012] dropped. At the time, one of the reasons I was trying to sale Mental Warfare as an album was to generate money for the scholarships. Being a small business owner, it’s another one of those tax deductions. I would rather give the money to somebody going to school than to send it off in an envelope to Uncle Sam. I know the core of my listening audience is between 15 and 25, high school and college age. I was trying to peep the interest of those high school age people, because I know they’re hanging onto every word that you say. Even if they don’t apply for the scholarship, I just want them to be aware that they have options.
[Graduating high school seniors were given the opportunity to apply for the Grind Hard Scholarship in 2012. Two winners were selected. Each scholarship is $1,000. Starlito said he plans to provide two more scholarships to graduating seniors in 2013.]
Your style can’t be compared to any rap artists in particular, but I’m sure some had an influence on you. Who’s some of the artists that you can listen to forever?
I like Tupac a lot. I like Lupe Fiasco’s music. I wish Andre 3000 had more music to consume. I really like all of his old stuff. I think he’s a really, really creative artist. I’ve really been a fan of Jay-Z for a while. I like Lil’ Wayne. I’ve always liked Lil’ Wayne since I was in middle school, high school. Where he’s taken his career, man that shit is awe-inspiring. New artists, I like Kendrick Lamar, Future, Don Trip. Gucci Mane is one of my favorite artists. I think it’s something raw and pure about what he does. I like Snoop [Dogg]. Scarface. I listen to Scarface about as much as any rapper. UGK. 8ball & MJG. I listen to everything.
What’s up next for you?
I don’t have a title, but I have a mini-movie that’s coming out real soon. It’s going to be based real closely off a lot of my 2012 music. If you remember For My Foes, which was like a musical, mixtape stuff, it’s going to put you in the mindframe of that, but with original music. It’ll be like a mini-film. That’ll be something to look forward to. Other than that, the stuff with [Don] Trip is what’s in bold letters on my calendar.
In a city known for street-oriented rap, influencing listeners to embrace hip-hop with a Christian message is a massive task.
Despite the disadvantage, several hip-hop artists in Memphis have decided to take on the challenge.
Terence June Gray is among the group of lyricists that have chosen to exhibit a Christian worldview in their music. Although not as popular as secular rap, Gray said there’s a substantial market for Christian rap in the Bible belt.
“Initially, I saw a little bit of hesitation of people wanting to hear it but the culture has warmed up to it more,” Gray said. “By hearing a lot of the negative, it makes you want something positive. We have so much pain, trials and so many issues [in the city]. We have a significant amount of crime. We have a significant gang issue. It’s a lot of hurting, a lot fatherlessness. I think a lot of young people are looking for some hope, and I think my message of the gospel speaks right into that desire for hope. When I share a song or a new CD, people tell me that there’s certain songs they listen to when they’re struggling with something, or certain songs encourage them, or certain songs give them hope.”
While a senior in high school, Gray gave his life to Christ and subsequently tapped into the world of Christian hip-hop. He’s currently prepping the release of his mixtape, Mission Muzic Vol. 1. The musical installment, which will be available for download late January, is being released through his Mission Muzic imprint.
Gray recently released a video for a track off the mixtape titled “One Million Views.”
Christian rap was introduced in the 1980s—a few years after secular rap made its mark. The first full-length Christian rap album was Bible Break (1985) by Stephen Wiley.
Nearly three decades later, artists such as Lecrae, GRITS, Trip Lee, the 116 Clique, and Flame have helped the movement obtain worldwide appeal.
It’s introduction in Memphis dates back to the cusp of the new millennium. One of the founding fathers of the city’s Christian rap movement is Delmar “Mr. Del” Lawrence.
On Easter Sunday of 2000, Mr. Del returned to the Bluff City to visit his family and church home. At the time, he was a member of Three 6 Mafia’s Hypnotize Camp Posse collective.
“I was on tour. Living the rap life. I came home [with plans] to surprise the church and the family, and that’s when I heard God speak to me,” Mr. Del said.
Prior to experiencing God’ presence, Mr. Del had signed a contract with Hypnotize Minds, and was featured on the album, Three 6 Mafia Presents: Hypnotize Camp Posse (2000).
However, his interest for the secular rap world changed when he accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. Stepping out on faith, he left Hypnotize Minds and pursued a profession with Christian hip-hop.
More than a decade after transitioning into what he calls “holy hip-hop,” Mr. Del is prepping the release of his seventh solo offering Faith Walka. He’s owns the record label Dedicated Music Group, has been featured on B.E.T., and nominated for a Grammy.
“It was no way I would have known that Holy hip-hop would get to the level where people are making millions off of it,” Mr. Del said. “Now, we’re in the same circles as mainstream rap artists and that’s a blessing, because it started out as a joke. It’s making an impact now more than ever, because of the time put in and just the message in the music. People want a message of hope. They want to hear something other than murder music, trap or dope music.”
The market for Christian hip-hop in Memphis continues to blossom as time progresses. Throughout the years, more rap artists have followed in Mr. Del's footsteps, making a transition from jotting rhymes about worldly topics to being more Christian-oriented in their songs.
Among other Christian rap artists within the Bluff City, Adrian “Fro” Johnson has made a notable name for himself. He managed to sell more than 30,000 records independently with his debut album, Highway to Heaven. Since then, he’s released three more albums and created the label, Gods Wheel Records.
“With my music, I talk about real things. I talk about how life is a struggle. Everyday you’re tempted to do something that you might not want to do,” Fro said. “I want people to know that you can change. Jesus loves you and He wants you to change and He’s waiting on you. Christian rap is the new way of getting the gospel out.”
To the average individual that listens to underground or mainstream secular rap, Christian rap is something that may take some time adjusting to. Although it doesn’t focus on uplifting sinful practices, it does acknowledge them, the adversity they can bring forth, and how to overcome them through Jesus Christ.
“Sin is fun. People living in their flesh like to hear people rap about drugs and sex and all that," said Christian rapper Latrell “Yung Titan” Freeman. "That’s why Christian rap is hard to get into, because a lot of folks don’t want to let go of what they’re doing. When I was listening to [secular] hip-hop, it was kind of difficult for me to listen to Christian music, because it wasn’t what I was used to. I just want to encourage everybody to give us Christian rappers a chance, because we’re not doing it for the fame, we’re doing it actually to help people and build the kingdom.”
Follow Mr. Del: @mrdel
Follow Terence June Gray: @missionmuzic
Follow Fro: @Froministries
Follow Yung Titan: @Titan_Flash
Follow me: @Lou4President
Hayward Ivy, better known as DJ Squeeky to the music industry, is a pioneer in the Memphis rap scene. A native of Orange Mound, he grew up immersed in the same musical culture that bred such hometown legends as 8ball & MJG, DJ Zirk, Three 6 Mafia, Playa Fly and Kingpin Skinny Pimp.
Most notable for his trunk-rattling production, DJ Squeeky’s signature sound has filled the ears of more than a million listeners across the country. His extensive music catalog includes production credits on the albums (or mixtapes) of Pastor Troy, Young Jeezy, Young Dolph, Criminal Manne, 2 Chainz, Yo Gotti, 8ball & MJG, and a long list of others.
He’s also released several albums independently under his record label, Mo Cheda Records. Among these, albums such as DJ Squeeky & The Family’s On a Mission, Tom Skeemask’s 2 Wild for the World, and Project Playaz’s Til We Die remain Southern rap classics.
Stepping away from the drum machine and Pro tools, DJ Squeeky took time out to speak with me about how he got into producing, his involvement in creating the “signature” Memphis rap sound, having his style mimicked by Platinum producers and Three 6 Mafia’s remaining members DJ Paul & Juicy J, who he wants to work with in the future, and much more.
Follow DJ Squeeky on Twitter: @Djsqueeky4Eva
To purchase one of his beats call (901) 878-9208 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (SERIOUS INQUIRIES ONLY)
How did you get into music?
I have a lot of family members that go to church. Some sing. Some play instruments. I used to play drums at my church, so that really gave me a lot of good interest for the music game. Everyone was a fan of music back then. Either you were rapping or you were beat-boxing or you were DJing. You were doing some form of hip-hop. I started off being a DJ, but being a fan of hip-hop, I didn’t just want to play the music. I wanted to be involved with making the music.
What inspired you to primarily focus on the production aspect of hip-hop?
I think production came when I started doing mixtapes. I was DJing at the clubs but I wanted to start doing the mixtapes too. I really got inspired by DJ Spanish Fly (legendary Memphis DJ and rapper). He used to be on the radio at 12. Club Expo. If you were a young cat, you were waiting to hear the Spanish Fly mix. You knew it was fixing to go down. I used to be like, ‘I want to do that too.’ I was still more curious with producing, because everybody was involved with the rapping part. [That's] what everybody got into, but you had to have music to rap.
How old were you when you first started producing? And who were some of the first artists you produced for?
I was probably about 15 [or] 16 years old. I did some work with 8ball & MJG, Criminal Manne, Project Playaz and Tom Skeemask. We all kinda grew up together in the same neighborhood. My house was the place that we came and put it down at. I had [Kingpin] Skinny Pimp, Al Kapone. Anybody that had a little name back then was at my house.
Did you have a studio setup in your house?
Yeah, it was in my bedroom. The mic and everything was in there. We were young cats, you know. We didn’t know nothing about mic booths and all that stuff. We had the mic booth, all the equipment, and everything all in one room. We had the microphone standing in the middle of the room. You just come in and you drop.
I noticed you haven’t done a collaboration with Three 6 Mafia. . Why was this? Were you guys in competition with each other?
It really wasn’t a competition, it was an issue with them re-making my music. They were really on the ‘stealing people's music thing back then.’ Their whole style, their beats, hooks, everything were based on shit I did. All the hooks that you heard from them [earlier on] were samples they took off my mixtapes. They were making their own songs off them. That’s how they got started.
Did that cause an issue between you guys?
I had a real big problem with it back then. I felt like, I’m just a dude over here in the 'hood trying to do my own thing with my music, and I see another guy trying to jump in on what I’m doing, sample what I’m doing, and steal the style of what I’m doing. Then you want to make beats like I’m making and everything. It was like they weren’t sticking to their own shit, which is what they should’ve been sticking to instead of trying to be a DJ Squeeky fan. I know they couldn’t help but be a DJ Squeeky fan, because I was the only thing around back then. But the thing about it was instead of sampling me, [they] should have been apart of what I was doing.
Are you referring to DJ Paul and Juicy J in particular?
I’m referring to both of them. I just look at them like they took what another man worked hard on doing. You want to be like him. You want to sound like him. You want to work your music like he works his music. And try to be me. Every album by Three 6 Mafia that’s came out to date got some DJ Squeeky on it. It’s got a DJ Squeeky hook, a DJ Squeeky sample, a DJ Squeeky beat pattern. It’s got something on that record concerning me.
Would you say that you helped establish the early Memphis sound production-wise?
Fasho, I did. Back then, everybody was doing it, but I took it to the streets. I was doing the mixtapes, putting them in the stores. Nobody was putting rap mixtapes into stores. Everybody was trying to get into record stores. I was going to Mr. Z’s, the stereo shops, and all that.
At what point did you decide to take your music career seriously?
I had left Memphis for about a year and a half. I was staying with 8Ball & MJG down in [Houston], Texas. They were doing real good. They were like in their second album and going into their third album. I was on their third album, On Top of The World. When I went down there, they really motivated me on what I really need to be doing in life. If I wanted to do the music, I needed to really get focused on doing the music.
[DJ Squeeky left Houston to come back to Memphis and raise his newborn daughter. He would later reconnect with Criminal Manne, Thugsta, Yo Lynch, and Tom Skeemask. The group would come together and create the album, On a Mission—DJ Squeeky’s national debut.]
How did people respond to On a Mission?
I sold 10,000 records the first week independently. We had a deal a couple months later. That’s when Relativity Records came down and signed me (and his record label Mo Cheda) and they signed Three 6 Mafia. We were on the label with Bone, Thugz-n-Harmony, 8ball & MJG, the Dayton Family, and a lot of other people.
[Relativity Records ended up folding, and the contracts of its signees were sold to Loud Records. Frustrated with waiting on the sideline for a release date, DJ Squeeky to his imprint elsewhere. Mo Cheda would have a short stint with Warlock Records before deciding to pursue the independent route once again. The label has been releasing music independently ever since.]
Who were some of your musical influences from a production standpoint?
We were more or less listening to Dr. Dre and them. 8Ball & MJG with T-mix and them making the music. M.J.G. taught me how to start working the keyboards and stuff. I didn’t know anything about the keyboard. I had a drum machine back then. MJG used to come back to Memphis [with his] Sonic keyboard. He used to show me a lot of tricks.
With my music, I wasn’t trying to sound like [my influences]. Their drive and the love for the music that they have, that’s how I looked upon them. I wanted to be that person to have that same drive to really, really make it happen.
What are some of the machines that you use to produce?
I’ve used the SP-1200 [drum machine]. I had a Boss Dr-660. I had an old Roland keyboard before Mini came out. My music back then was more like a sample thing. I was sampling things that I heard and was putting beats to it. I’m still using the drum machine to make beats. The MPC-3000. I’ve been dealing with Fruity Loops too.
How long does it take you to produce a song?
A few minutes. It all depends on what level I’m on. If I’m on a good level and got some good cheeba, it’s going to be a couple seconds. I know a few musical notes, but my music is based off feel, how I’m feeling at that moment, what I’m on at that moment.
Do you feel like you’re underrated?
Hell yeah. It’s like I know all the stars, but they slick want to fuck with me. But they slick don’t want to fuck with me. Some do and some don’t, but they know that I’ve got talent. It’s not like I’m some new cat that just started a few years ago. I look at it like they’re sleeping on me.
Who’s some of your favorite artists to work with?
I like working with Pastor Troy, Criminal Manne, Young Dolph, Playa Fly, I dd some stuff with [Young] Jeezy. He’s cool. I’m just naming people on work ethics. Not just people who’re saying they rap. I like to work with 2 Chainz. That’s my homie. He’s a good dude.
Are there any artists that you want to work with in the future?
I want to work with Young Money (a record label founded by Lil Wayne). That’s the camp I’m trying to get into right now. Young Money and Rick Ross. I’ve kinda touched base with everybody else that’s doing something.
You have a massive catalog of production credits. Is there a favorite song that you’ve produced?
I’m going to have to say “Lookin for da Chewin.” [A song off of DJ Squeeky’s album In Da Beginning: The Underground Volume One, which features Kingpin Skinny Pimp, 8Ball & MJG, DJ Zirk and Kilo G]. A lot of people don’t know that I made that song, because that’s another episode of DJ Paul and them trying to sound like me, trying to be like me.
What advice would you give for up and coming artists and producers?
All I can tell you is that you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing, and the best thing that you can do is to try to keep loyalty with the people that you’re dealing with. It’s hard trying to keep people in a group or a situation when you’re trying to make a dream come true. You have to really be focused on what you’re doing. I’ve had a lot different distractions from people who just tried to get me out of my direction in life. You just have to stay focused. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody’s going to believe in you.
What’s up next for DJ Squeeky?
I’m in the process of putting a mixtape together. I’m getting ready to come back out in 2013. I’m fixing to kill the game. They haven’t heard anything new from me in a minute. I haven’t dropped a record since 2004 [or] 2005. I’m going to come back with the mixtape and get it back going again.
Follow me on Twitter: @Lou4President
Today, Marcus Matthews, native Memphian and author of I Am Not the Father: Narratives of Men Falsely Accused of Paternity, will be featured on the nationally syndicated program, The Maury Show at 4pm CST.
On the show, Matthews will discuss his book, upcoming documentary, and his personal story of being falsely accused of paternity when he was a 17-year-old senior at Westside High School.
“False paternity is something that affects so many people. It’s something that the public needs to hear [about],” Matthews said. “Getting the opportunity to talk about it on Maury accomplishes the goal of getting it out there. More than three million [viewers] will get to hear my story in brief and have the opportunity to learn more about my story if they purchase the book.”
Matthews released his book, I Am Not the Father, in August 2010. It profiles his personal account of being falsely accused of paternity, along with stories from four other men who were also falsely accused. He’s currently prepping the release of a documentary centered on the same topic.
In February of this year, I wrote a cover story on Matthews and the false paternity epidemic. You can read it here.
Nationwide, about 17 percent of all paternity tests reveal that a child's alleged father is not, in fact, the biological father. In Tennessee, 25 percent of paternity testing reveals the man not to be the biological father, according to the Department of Human Services
In Memphis, the percentage of men excluded by DNA paternity tests is significantly higher than the national average. Stephen Conn, director of Medical Testing Resources, says from 55 to 75 percent of the paternity cases he handles each month in Memphis are found to be "exclusions." His company does about 90 percent of the private paternity tests in the city.
To find out how Matthews’ experience on The Maury Show went, pick up next week’s edition of the Memphis Flyer.
You can order I Am Not the Father exclusively on Matthews’ website: marcuslmatthews.com
Follow him on twitter: @MarcusLMatthews
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
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.
“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
Anyone familiar with the hip-hop scene during the late '90s up to the new millennium has heard of the Hot Boys. Comprised of Lil’ Wayne, B.G., Juvenile, and Turk, the New Orleans-bred group was respectively one of the most successful rap collectives during that time.
Signed to Cash Money Records, the Hot Boys managed to snag a platinum plaque with their second album, Guerrilla Warfare. They also enjoyed individual success during that time period: Juvenile released 400 Degreez, B.G. dropped Chopper City in The Ghetto, and Lil’ Wayne dished out his debut effort Tha Block Is Hot. Each of the albums pushed more than one million units.
The last member to release a solo effort was Turk due to legal troubles.
In 2001, Young & Thuggin’, his debut album hit record stores. Although not as successful as his predecessors’ releases, he managed to go gold.
Turk would leave Cash Money shortly after Young & Thuggin’s release due to financial differences and pursue the independent route. He released Raw & Uncut and Penitentiary Chances independently through Laboratory Recordz and Koch Records. The success of the two albums combined didn’t equal the record sales of his debut, but they managed to keep his name buzzing.
Things appeared to be going well for Turk, but his independent success saw derailment in January of 2004.
A couple months after moving to Memphis, Turk would find himself caught in the middle of a drug raid at the Hickory Pointe Apartment complex. During the raid, a shootout ensued that left two Memphis S.W.A.T. Team members wounded.
Turk was accused of shooting one of them—a sheriff's deputy—and convicted of attempted murder. He was sentenced to serve a 12-year sentence in the Forrest City, Arkansas Federal Prison. Prior to the murder conviction, he had received a 10-year sentence for being a felon in possession of a firearm and an unlawful user addicted to a controlled substance in possession of a firearm.
Laboratory Recordz released two more albums by Turk during his imprisonment, Still A Hotboy and Convicted Felons.
Eight years, eight months and 16 days later, Turk was released from prison on Oct. 12th. Upon his release, he found himself heading back to the very place where he lost his freedom and picking up where he left off—musically.
I had the opportunity to speak with Turk about his new imprint, the Young N T.H.U.G.G.I.N. (Taking Hardships Using God’s Gift In spite of Negativity) Empire, possibly signing back to Cash Money, overcoming drug addiction, growing up in the notorious Magnolia housing projects, upcoming musical endeavors, and much more.
Follow Turk on Twitter: @TurkMrYnT
Follow Turk on Instagram: @Turk_Emani
Follow me on Twitter: @Lou4President
How did you get into rapping?
Just trying to find a way out the hood. Coming from where I come from it was hard. Either you rapped, sold dope or you slung pistols, or you did all three of them. I just so happened to choose the first one. When I started doing it, I wasn’t really serious with it. I was into sports. I was running back and linebacker coming up. But as I started playing around with it and more people started asking me to rap at parties, I was winning contests at radio stations and stuff like that, I just got serious with it. One day, I met Baby and Slim (owners of Cash Money Records) in the Magnolia Projects and I rapped to them. They gave me a card and the rest was history.
You joined Cash Money in 1996, years before it gained mainstream exposure. What was it like to be apart of platinum albums, star in a movie, tour the world, and make all kids of money?
To be honest, I didn’t see it. When we “blew up,” I didn’t see it, so that’s why I didn’t take it serious like I do today. I see the influence that I have now and I see how big it can be now, but then, when I was young, I didn’t take it how people think you would take it. I was doing what I love to do. When you’re in it and you’re living it, it’s not like how other people see it. None of it got to me, because I still felt like the same person. I still felt like I could do whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t take responsibility for being a superstar. It was a job. Now I look at it more as a livelihood and a job.
After parting ways with Cash Money, you took the independent route. How was the transition for you?
As far as being independent, I like it because you call your own shots and you’re your own boss instead of having to report and do what other people say. I’m 31 years old now, so I’m not really trying to be no boy and have nobody looking over me. I’m bossin up.
Your debut album went Gold, but the independent releases that followed didn’t have the same success. Why do you think they didn’t do similar numbers as your first one?
All my albums that dropped, I was locked up, even on Young & Thuggin’. It would have sold more than that if I would have been hands on and had my face on it. That was selling by word of mouth. But as I started getting into all kinds of jail trouble, I started to fall out of favor with God. Once you fall out of favor with Him, everything else is going to fall apart. Because I was messing up that was the fruit of my labor. I take full responsibility for it. Just like I messed up and things fell apart, now I’m doing the right thing and things are going to be uplifted.
There have been rumors that you’re signing back with Cash Money. Is there any truth to this?
It’s in the air right now. We’re working and communicating. It’s about this Young N Thuggin Empire right now. All options are still open right now. I’m focusing on my own imprint. I have my book, the Autothugography of Turk, and I got the screenplay for that, Reckless. I got the double CD, the Audiothugography of Turk, and I’m doing this mixtape, Blame It On Da System, with Drumma Boy.
How did you link up with Drumma Boy?
When I came home, I was talking with Gangsta Boo and I believe she made a phone call to Drumma Boy, and he [direct messaged] me on Twitter and tossed me his number. He was like, ‘Let’s Get It.’ I had been talking to him off and on while I was incarcerated, so we developed a little relationship. When I came home, he said, ‘Man, I’m going to do your whole mixtape.’ So far I’ve done eight songs.
Are you a fan of any Memphis artists—past and present?
Yeah. Me and [Don] Trip just did a song. Emani the Made Woman is my artist on YNT. She’s from Memphis. I fuck with Yo Gotti. 8ball & MJG, they legends, you know I fuck with them. I was just in the studio the other night with Tela. Criminal Manne. All the Memphis artists that got movements and are doing what they do, I got love and respect for them. I’m looking forward to doing something, if they’re about their business. Let’s get it.
You grew up in the Magnolia housing projects, which is synonymous for crime. How was your upbringing?
It was like the average project kid living in a single parent household. My momma was raising us. She was working two jobs trying to supply for the three boys that she had. I was just seeing and hearing things happen in the street. Just the average kid in the hood without a daddy.
Your younger brother was murdered during your incarceration. How did this affect you?
It was bitter and sweet. It was bitter, because I couldn’t be there to protect him. In my eyesight, he was still my young baby brother. It was sweet because it made me stronger. Even though that situation happened, I was able to gain strength from it—take a negative situation and turn it into a positive. Being locked away for eight years, eight months and 16 days, people would grow to be bitter but I came out sweet with love, loyalty and a whole new outlook on life and why people do things. I had to go through all the things that I went through, had to take all the hardships, and use God’s gift in spite of negativity. Now, I’m [helping] teach the next young brother on how to live and what to do and what not to do, and how to be responsible and man up.
[He’s forming the T.H.U.G.G.I.N. Foundation, which will involve traveling to schools to talk with kids and inform them about the trials and tribulations of indulging in the wrong lifestyle.]
Did you read and learn a lot while incarcerated?
Yeah, I did. I always had my head on my shoulders. I wasn’t the average project kid that was in the projects, that’s just people’s wrong perspective of the projects. You learn as you live and experience—life is the best teacher, experience is the best teacher. I didn’t have to pick up a book to learn common sense but it’s always good to pick up books to learn how to be on a whole other level. I did that while I was in jail. I didn’t really read no hood novels or nothing like that. I mostly read books like “Think and Grow Rich” and “The Richest Man in Babylon.” I read books on how to get money, be determined and find your way. Things that I had flaws and gaps on. I misused my money coming up, [so] I had to reeducate myself on how to count my money.
What was the most beneficial thing you learned while incarcerated?
I learned how to manage my money, how to be a man, how to be responsible, and most importantly, I got my high school diploma while I was incarcerated. I was determined to get that just because it was a lot of people saying that it would be a waste of time. It took me six months to get. I put my mind to it and I thought it and I got it. I graduated in September and I came home Oct. 12th. Everything was in God’s plan. I’m a living example of change. I’m a living example of taking hardship and using it in spite of negativity, and overcoming drug addiction, and overcoming critics. I’m here to shame the devil.
You mentioned drug addiction? What drugs were you addicted to in the past?
My drugs of choice were heroin and cocaine. I started doing them at 14 years old, the reason being, it was glorified in New Orleans. All the rappers were rapping about it and I happened to be a rapper, so I felt like it was the right thing to do. We were partying and having fun, so we didn’t see any affects of it. It wasn’t affecting home like it started to as the years began to pass. The drug habit started growing and growing and you start losing more and more but you can’t see it, because you’re not conscious—signs are for the conscious mind. I had to go through everything that I went through to get to where I am now. I don’t regret anything. I was put on this earth to be an example for people and what they’re going through that you can overcome it, you don’t have to stay this way, and for the people that are not going that way, you don’t have to go that way.
How did you overcome your addictions?
I overcame my drug addiction while I was incarcerated. It took incarceration, because if I hadn’t got locked up, I probably would have been dead or in a worse situation, because I was doing drugs heavily. A lot of people didn’t know because I was hiding my addiction. At the same time, I knew and my family knew and the people close to me knew. I was hurting them and I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t. With an addiction, if you’re addicted to anything it’s hard to quit, addiction is not just drugs, it can be sex, the internet, or whatever. Anything you can’t control and it’s controlling you is an addiction. At that time, I needed those drugs. It wasn’t just a mental thing, it was physical. When I didn’t have those drugs, my body started to hurt. I’m just thankful to be able to kick those habits and tell about it.
You mention God a lot. What’s your view on religion?
When you get in a pit, you have nothing but time to yourself and you begin to hear your own thoughts and your thoughts really be your spirit and it becomes awakening to you and that’s your true self. I had plenty days and plenty nights like that. When you hear me talk about God, it really be something that’s took over me and naturally comes out. I can’t explain it. I’ve always been a believer of Jesus and that’s what I come from. I’m just not stuck into the traditional way of believing—I believe God is a spirit and those who worship Him, worship Him in spirit and truth. I walk in the spirit and I speak the truth and I stand for that.
If there were a search for a true emcee in the Bluff City, people wouldn’t have to look any further than 23-year-old Hip-Hop head, Nick “Knowledge Nick” Hicks.
The University of Memphis graduate and Towers Watson analyst has been dabbling with words since his mid-teens.
“Writing songs started off as something to do for fun, but as time progressed it became my form of relief,” Hicks said. “When nothing is there and nobody is there, music is there for me to release my innermost feelings.”
A hobby during his teen years has blossomed into a second career. Hicks has two albums under his belt, The Enlightenment and The Transcribed Sentiment, which he estimates have collectively moved more than 1,000 units.
He’s currently prepping for the release of his third album, “Memphis: The Soul of Hip Hop,” on December 8th. Along with his previous work, his latest project can be purchased on knowledgenick.bandcamp.com.
“The new album is like an ode to Memphis and all the influences from my upbringing,” he said. “This album broadened my track selection horizon. With my first two, it was more or less like I could only listen to them in a certain setting, which is cool. But I think with this album, it’ll reach so many different people and you can listen to it in different settings — when you’re riding, at home, whatever.”
Hicks released a four-song EP in September to provide fans with an appetizer while they wait for the full course this December.
On the EP’s opening track, “Livin’ the Broke Life,” Hicks finds himself expressing the hardships that come with pursuing a rap career while low on funds. At the end of each verse, he states, “Even though I live the broke life, I’m blessed regardless,” which conveys his dedication to stay driven despite any obstacles. Boonie Mayfield produced the track.
With the second song, “The Karma,” Hicks provides listeners with an earful on his failure to grasp the true meaning of love during his younger years.
He spits honest, heartfelt lyrics about seeking women primarily for physical satisfaction but over time developing a different appreciation for them. Over a mellow beat laced by Fathom 9, Hicks cites utilizing God’s unconditional love to help eradicate the old habit and enjoy growth.
The third track, “Reign Supreme II,” featuring Toby York, would make hip-hop legends such as KRS-One (Hicks’ favorite emcee) and the Wu-Tang Clan proud with the stellar lyrical deliveries provided on it. The song is produced by Arze Kareem and boasts an East Coast-oriented feel.
The EP’s final song, “Flexxin No Plexxin’,” featuring Sincere and A-Quest, finds Hicks and company showcasing their lyrical prowess once again. The smooth, bass-ridden track provided by Mark G is a great addition to the trio’s witty lyrics, which don’t disappoint.
Hicks’ music possesses a sound that’s different than the typical Memphis rap artist. He has the ability to cater to the raw and gritty hip-hop heads, along with those who prefer a more laidback and mellow delivery.
He credits his diverse delivery to growing up on a wide variety of artists that include Playa Fly, Three 6 Mafia, Gangsta Blac, KRS-One, EPMD and Gang Starr.
Although he’s chosen to take a musical lane that might not be every Memphis rap fan’s cup of tea, he’s not worried about this limiting his success.
“I think Memphis has to really embrace the fact that there are a crop of artists who are different, who are just changing. It’s not the same monotony of stuff just being infiltrated over and over and over again. I think change is good from time to time,” he said.
Follow him on Twitter: @kdotnick
A couple weeks ago, I had the chance to fly nearly 2,000 feet above the city on a replica of the legendary aircraft, the Memphis Belle. I wrote about the experience in the Memphis Flyer's Fall Fashion issue (Oct. 18-24th).
Many are familiar with the Memphis Belle, but for those who aren't, the aircraft was one of the first B-17 World War II bombers to complete 25 missions and safely return all of its crew members. When I boarded her replica, I prayed that I'd have the same fate.
My flight came courtesy of the Salute to Veterans national tour, presented by the Liberty Foundation, which began in March. The tour stops in a different city every weekend, and was developed to bring awareness to WWII veterans. According to the Liberty Foundation, more than 1,500 veterans die per day.
Since March, the Memphis Belle replica, which was used in the 1990 film "Memphis Belle," has traveled to cities such as St. Louis, Tulsa, Minneapolis, and Chicago providing rides to locals. During each stop, local veterans also come out and share their war experiences.
“My goal is to let the local veterans know not only do we appreciate the sacrifices in WWII, but we wouldn’t be sharing this history today without them,” said Scott Maher, director of operations for the Liberty Foundation and one of the Memphis Belle’s pilots. “We want [people] to come out and experience these things in its natural habitat, which is in the air. The experience gives a history lesson that’s not in the pages of a dusty book.”
The original Memphis Belle is being restored at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. The replica I flew aboard was equipped with 10 seats, 13 50-caliber machine guns and bombs, and a glass nose, from which passengers can gaze down onto the city.
Flying throughout the city on the historical aircraft was something I never thought I'd have the opportunity to experience, but I'm thankful that I did.
Last weekend, I traveled to the Paradiso and purchased a ticket for the supernatural horror film, Sinister.
A good friend of mine informed me that it would be “a great horror flick to check out.” That advice, along with the fact that James Blum (Insidious, Paranormal Activity) produced the movie, finalized my decision to watch it.
The movie was released on Friday, Oct. 12th and stars Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Hamlet, Assault on Precinct 13), Juliet Rylanche, Fred Thompson, James Ransone, Vincent D'Onofrio (Brooklyn’s Finest, Full Metal Jacket, Men In Black), and others. Besides Hawke and D'Onofrio, I wasn’t familiar with the cast.
The film centers on Hawke’s character, who plays a true-crime novelist named Ellison Oswalt. He, along with his attractive, English wife Tracy (Rylanche) and their two kids Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario ) and Ashley (Clare Foley), move into a home in which the previous residents were murdered. Initially, Oswalt is the only one who has knowledge of the murder.
Minutes into the movie, the murder (the family of four was hung from a tree in the backyard) is displayed across the screen in Super 8 camera-style footage.
That captured my attention instantly. I hadn’t done much research on the movie’s plot, so that built up intrigue.
As the movie progressed, I found out the significance behind the murder: Oswalt is using it as the basis for his latest novel.
Oswalt finds a box in the attic labeled “home movies” that has a projector and several reels of footage inside. He views the reels throughout the film. Each reel, which has its own title, shows families being murdered in various ways — having their throats slit, being drowned, hung, burned to death, and having their heads run over with a lawnmower.
The footage made me think about the harsh reality that real people have probably been murdered in similar fashions. Nevertheless, I was curious to see what would happen next in the movie.
As Sinister continued, Oswalt began to analyze the footage, taking note of things that caught his eye. He noticed a bizarre, demonic face appearing in each reel.
When I saw the dark, demonic figure for the first time, it spooked me a little bit. It just looked evil. It also built up more suspense, and I stayed glued to my seat for the bulk of the film.
As Oswalt continued observing the films, he also noticed a strange symbol painted near each of the murders, and that there’s a young child missing in each of the families. With the help of a deputy (Ransone), Oswalt investigates the murders to determine if they’re related.
He’s also put in contact with a college professor (D'Onofrio) who specializes in religion. The professor informs him that the demonic figure in the home movies is a pagan deity named Bughuul.
Known as an eater of children's souls, Bughuul is presumed to be responsible for influencing young children to murder their families and then travel off with him to a different world.
I felt a few chill-bumps when Oswalt and the professor discussed the demonic being. I thought he was going to appear out of the air and start annihilating people. Unfortunately, this DIDN'T happen.
What DID happen was a series of creepy events inside the house: The film projector starts mysteriously running in the middle of the night. Dead children play a game of hide-n-seek through the house. Oswalt sees all five children who were missing during the time that their families were murdered viewing one of the home movies in the attic. This is also when Bughuul makes an appearance that frightens Oswalt and sends him falling through the floor of the attic.
After seeing a physical sighting of Bughuul, Oswalt becomes concerned for his family’s safety. He decides to burn the box of home movies, discontinue his novel, and move his wife and kids out the haunted house and back into their previous place.
A new beginning for the family?
Of course not! It wouldn’t be a true horror movie if that were the case. I must add that I personally would have been pissed off if the credits rolled after the family left the haunted house. The movie wouldn’t have been complete.
Oswalt makes a shocking discovery while in the house’s attic: the box of home movies that he burned at the previous home has made its way to the new house without a burn on it. The box also has an additional reel of film inside that’s labeled “extended endings.”
Of course Oswalt checks the new footage out. It shows the same murders as the past reels did, but this time the missing child from each of the families comes onscreen before disappearing. This implies that the kids are responsible for the slayings of their families.
It doesn’t stop there.
Oswalt receives shocking word from the deputy that there’s a link to all of the murdered families: they all lived in the same house where the hanging took place before they moved to new locations, which subsequently resulted in their murders. In other words, he basically informed Oswalt that he and his family were probably going to die and there was nothing they could do to avoid it.
Shortly after he’s provided the startling information from the deputy, Oswalt begins to feel weird from the “coffee” he was drinking and loses consciousness. When he comes to, he notices that he’s tied up and gagged. The same fate goes for his wife and son.
What about little Ashley??? Why isn’t she tied and gagged too??? Uhmm, it’s because little Ashley is the culprit that tied and gagged her fam.
She appears in the room where they’re laying with an axe and video camera in hand.
The next occurrence is pretty predictable but I won't spoil it for those who haven’t seen the film.
After the credits rolled, I left the Paradiso satisfied with Sinister’s performance overall. The murders weren’t as graphic as I would have expected, and the film had its dull moments here and there, but overall it was a well-created horror movie. Outside of Insidious, it was definitely one of the best scary movies that I’ve seen in a while.
Next up for me is Paranormal Activity 4. I wonder if it will knock Sinister out of the water? Only time will tell.
The third annual “Grammy GPS: A Roadmap for Today’s Music Biz” took place this past Saturday at the Stax Music Academy and Museum of American Soul Music. Sponsored by the Memphis chapter of the Recording Academy, the event featured a number of local and national influential music figures including hip-hop artist Talib Kweli, Grammy-winning engineers Andrew Scheps and Chris Finney, Grammy-winning producer Steve Jordan, and many more.
During panel discussions, the guests provided insight on music marketing, promoting in small markets, producing and engineering, exploring social consciousness through hip-hop, and other topics.
New Orleans-bred rapper, Fiend, spoke on two panels during the event. A true southern legend, he’s released a nice catalog of albums including There’s One In Every Family and Street Life on No Limit Records, Can I Burn 2 (my personal favorite), Go Hard or Go Home, among other solid installments.
In recent years, Fiend has adopted a mellow and soulful delivery that differs from his aggressive style in the ’90s and early into the new millennium. Although he owns his own label, Fiend Entertainment, he’s also signed to popular lyricist and fellow New Orleanean Curren$y’s imprint, Jet Life Recordings.
I got a chance to speak with Fiend about his experience at Grammy GPS, how he likes the Bluff City, his music history, where he likes to travel, and a handful of other things.
Follow Fiend on Twitter: @Fiend4daMoney
Check out his websites Fienddigital.com and Sleepybeartees.com
Download his latest mixtapes for free on datpiff.com or livemixtapes.com. Fiend plans to release a new mixtape mid-October.
Flyer: How was your experience at the event?
Fiend: It was dope. I met some cool ass people. I networked with people. I hung out with some people who share the same interests that I have. Good times. It was a hell of an experience. I can’t wait until the next one.
What’s one thing that you shared with attendees regarding the music industry?
Just stay focused and be patient, and let great things happen with your music. You’ve got to get out there and believe in you and promote and represent. And do it the best you can every chance you can. If not, nobody’s going to take you seriously.
How do you like Memphis?
I love it out here. I don’t get a chance to come out here as much as I would like. When I do, I like to visit Select-O-Hits. From now on, I’ll be visiting Stax. I just like the city. Get me a spot at the Peabody and chill. Walk around the hotel. Enjoy beautiful girls, good smoke, good people.
Along with DJ Paul and Juicy J, you were in a collective known as Da HeadBussaz, which released the independent album Dats How It Happen To’M. How was that experience?
It was dope. It was cool. We hooked up and showed the world that fellas could hook up and make music with no conflict — make great music without no problems or no negativity.
Are you a fan of any Memphis artists, past and present?
Of course. I like everything past and present and even the kids who are coming up and doing their thing. I got my ears to the streets. I like everybody from 8ball & MJG to Three 6 Mafia to Playa Fly. You’ve got a few dudes doing their thing. I want everybody to do good.
What’s one of the most important things that you’ve done to stay relevant?
The thing is, you gotta stay at it. That’s the most important thing that I can say.
You released your first album on independent label Big Boy records in 1995. Were you around during the label’s rivalry with Cash Money Records?
Yeah, I was but it never affected me. It was all in the love of hip-hop. Cats sometimes don’t see eye—to-eye, so they take it to music and stuff like that. It’s all good. I was there. I was very instrumental in a lot of big things over there. That was a nice run. Me, Mystikal, Partners-N-Crime, Ghetto Twinz, G-Slim, Sporty T, we had a lot of people over there.
Transitioning from there, how’d you link up with Master P?
I was making music, making noise. We had people who knew each other, and they were saying, you guys could be working together. I ended up getting with them boys and we ended up working out something. I ended up having one of the biggest songs on the [“I’m Bout It”] soundtrack. “I’m Bout It” ended up being one of the biggest [independent] movies. After that, I got a chance to be involved with all kind of shit. Over 80 million records sold, I can say that I very much played a serious part of that.
Did you have a personal relationship with C-Murder, Mac or the late Soulja Slim?
All those are my homies. Me, C-murder and Mac, we hung out real, real tight. They’re both incarcerated right now. Soulja Slim is deceased. I’m just pushing. I want to be able to do more with my life so I can help out my homies one day.
[Fiend ended up leaving No Limit and starting his own independent label, Fiend Entertainment. From there, he would link up with one of the most successful rap labels ever, Ruff Ryders Records, home to DMX, the Lox, and Eve.]
How did you end up getting with Ruff Ryders?
DMX was getting ready to depart the label, so they were like ‘We want somebody who will be just as dope or that could shake up the world with that same attitude or that same aggression.’ They heard some of my music. We sat down and met, and we really dug each other’s movements. I was already kind of doing my thing, and them cats were already doing their thing. It was an honor to bring that legacy further than where it had already gotten to. And then being a southern boy who got with them, it was even more dope.
I understand that you’re known as International Jones, because you enjoy traveling. Where are some of your favorite places to visit?
Some of my favorite places have to be London; Mulan, Italy; Paris of course; Lahonce, France; Seattle is dope, I mean Seattle is awesome. I like LA. Atlanta. And I just found a little place called Sarasota, Florida. That shit is awesome. Another place is Canada! Montreal, Victoria, and Vancouver Canada. It’s a lot of dope places. I’m a water man too. I don’t mind traveling by water. I rent a yacht maybe once a month just for me. I really like being on the water. It’s just relaxing. It’s tranquil.
There’s an artist on your album, Can I Burn 2, named J-Boy. I really liked his flow. On the album, you mentioned that he would be releasing his own album soon, but I never heard anymore from him. What happened to him?
He was murdered. He ended up getting away from me and doing his own thing. He got into some other things, and people got envious of him. They saw a well-off, young dude doing his thing. I don’t really know what else he was into, but from what I heard he got set up and they killed him trying to rob him. (Takes a moment of silence and utters ‘Rest in Paradise J-Boy’)
Your music has changed. It was more rowdy earlier on but now it’s more smooth and relaxing. What brought the change?
It’s whatever the beats call for. I’m just an instrument. I vibe off the track. It’s wherever the track pulls me. I fit the music. I still make it all. That International Jones shit is just me man …traveling, women, fast cars, just chlling, just having fun.
You were invited to Dr. Dre’s house to work on his Detox album? How did that pan out?
We got word that he was interested and he reached out, but [there was a conflict of schedules and] it just didn’t work out. I haven’t worked with him before, but I’ve been making joints, so hopefully one day he’ll call me and tell me, ‘C’mon man.’
You’re also a producer and have produced for Jadakiss, Lil' Wayne, and others. Do you like producing more than rapping?
I love producing. I love rapping. I just love making music. I do love producing, but I’ve kinda took a break to focus on one more than the other.
How has it been working with Curren$y and being signed to Jet Life Recordings?
That’s the homie. It’s all good. I fucks with him. We out here living this Jet Life. Iron Gang shit. We chilling, making good music, traveling, making alternative tunes for people to chill to, because it’s so much around them that’s going on.
What’s up next for Fiend?
I got a few things coming. A book, some movies, I’m not just putting all my ducks in a row. But more entertainment, real life, partying, and just showing cats this cool shit. I want to help cats get some money. Just hold tight, it’s gonna be real nice. Well worth the wait.
Memphis rap legend M.C. Mack knows the true meaning of consistency. He hasn’t looked back since penning his first rhyme in the sixth grade. By age 37, he’s sold more than 150,000 records independently and is considered a legend by many in the South.
He’s currently prepping for the October release of his latest album, Pure Ana Volume 4: Portrait of an Assassin. The album, which is the fourth installment of his Pure Ana series, will be available exclusively on iTunes, Selectohits.com, and IAPStore.com.
“With this record, listeners can expect that Memphis flow. I’m gonna keep it Memphis,” M.C. Mack said. “I have a track called “The Black Emmanuelle” that’s real laidback. I’ve got life songs like “Bring My Homie Back,” which is for all my dead homies.
“There’s “Do You Remember,” which talks about the old club days, the old skating rink, the old Libertyland and all that. I’ve got the “Drug Song Pt. 3” featuring Scan Man. I try to give fans a wide variety of songs to select. If you’re a M.C. Mack fan, you’re definitely going to dig part four. It’s most definitely my tightest work yet.”
M.C. Mack obtained his initial exposure through his affiliation with Three 6 Mafia. He was once signed to DJ Paul and Juicy J’s Prophet Entertainment (the two would later go on to found the extremely successful label, Hypnotize Minds).
His smooth but tongue-twisting lyrics can be heard on several of the labels gold- and platinum-selling albums, such as Three 6 Mafia’s Chapter 2: World Domination and When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1.
He was also a founding member of the group, the Killa Klan Kaze, along with labelmates Scan Man and K-Rock, who would later be replaced by Project Pat (fresh from incarceration at that time). The group shortened its name to The Kaze and released its first and only album, Kamakazie: Timez Up. It’s sold around 50,000 units independently since its 1998 release.
“I’ve achieved a lot as far as the Memphis music game goes,” M.C. Mack said. “There haven’t been too many Memphis rappers who have been heard on platinum records and gold records. I’m one of few. Thanks to Paul and J. They gave us an opportunity to get heard and exposed.”
Noticing the success that could be obtained from taking the independent route with music, M.C. Mack, along with partner Scan Man, decided to form Kami Kaze Productions. Still signed to Prophet Entertainment as artists, the two, also producers, provided local artists with production.
However, this caused some confusion with DJ Paul and Juicy J, who both wanted a cut from the duo’s profits. The issue also brought forth a delay in M.C. Mack’s solo album release. He would later depart from the label and, with the assistance of Scan Man, transform Kami Kaze from a production company into an actual music corporation.
“Once we started doing our own thing and making a little noise, I felt that they felt threatened or something because they stopped answering calls and stopped coming around when it was time to get down to business,” M.C. Mack said. “When we started making music and distributing it, the business part kind of fucked up the relationship. They didn’t want to fulfill their end of the contractual obligations with my solo album.
“It was like, damn, I’m stuck between not being able to record or put out my own music because they wanted a cut out of it. The distributor didn’t want to put it out because he didn’t want to take the risk of getting a lawsuit for putting out music that wasn’t authorized. It basically held up my whole career [at the time]. That’s kind of when the falling out began. Really, it was just a misunderstanding because now record labels are allowing artists to do their own thing,” M.C. Mack said.
After leaving what could be considered the most successful rap record label in the city, M.C. Mack put his all into transforming Kami Kaze Inc. into its own successful enterprise. Acquiring a handful of artists and releasing nearly 20 albums on the label to date, it’s safe to conclude that the label has been prosperous.
Now a couple of decades into the game, M.C. Mack said his passion to create music is as strong as it’s ever been. He said the idea of leaving the rap game is a thought far from his mind.
“Music is my life,” M.C. Mack said. “When I go in the booth to record, I still get the same chill bumps from back in the day. The passion is still there. It’s probably even stronger now. Back in the day, we were doing it just for the sake of recording. Now that we’re able to make money off of it, there’s even more passion in it. It’s an art of expression just like dancing and poetry readings. It’s also something that keeps me out of trouble and a way to do something positive.”
Follow him on Twitter: @MCMack4Life
Check out some videos on his YouTube Channel: MCMackMusic
Hailing from the New Chicago neighborhood in North Memphis, 23-year-old rapper and producer Lil Lody has come a long way. In 2011, platinum-selling rap artist Young Jeezy snagged him to produce several songs on his album, Thug Motivation 103: Hustlerz Ambition. In addition to Young Jeezy, he’s also produced for Plies, Fabolous, Yo Gotti, Waka Flocka Flame, Rick Ross, and P. Diddy among others. As an artist, he’s released a hefty installment of mixtapes.
Lil Lody took time out to visit the Memphis Flyer headquarters to talk about his latest mixtape, Foolish, along with what artists he enjoys working with the most, the passing of his 10-year-old sister, being sued by Memphis rap heavyweights Project Pat and Juicy J., and much more. You can follow Lil Lody on Twitter: @LodyLucci.
Flyer: On your latest mixtape, Foolish, you touch on some personal topics primarily in the song “Foolish.” One of them is losing your 10-year-old sister a few years ago. Can you elaborate on this?
Lil Lody: It happened on December 28th, three days after Christmas. She was in a car wreck. She was on her way home from the skating rink in the car with some more people. As they were getting ready to turn, a police officer was coming fast down Jackson. He tried to hurry up and turn the lights on, but it was too late. They were in the turning lane. They had their turning signal on, and the police car just hit them. Boom! The car flipped multiple times. She flew out of the car. We couldn’t even find her.
By the time we did find her, she was still alive, but they said her brain was dead. She was pretty much gone when we got there. They tried to put her on machines and stuff, but she wasn’t responsive. It fucked me up mentally and physically. I’m past all of that. I feel like death is something that’s going to come. Nobody can run from it, and you can’t change it when a person dies.
In “Foolish,” you also mention being signed to D. Brady Entertainment, a record label founded by Project Pat and Juicy J, and subsequently being sued by them. How did that happen?
When I deal with people, I don’t deal with people on a business level. I deal with people on a more personal level first, then we can get into business. When I did the agreement with them [signing to D. Brady Entertainment], they promised me a lot of stuff. They told me, ‘You should sign with us. We’re going to do this for you. We’re going to get that.’
But when they brought me into the picture, it basically wasn’t that. They were just trying to use me to get beats. I kept telling them, ‘I’m a rapper. I was a rapper first.’ They were hearing me ,but they weren’t hearing me. They signed me as an artist. That’s what the contractual agreement was about. The beats didn’t have anything to do with it. They wanted me to be a rapper, come out with an album and all that. If you look in one of the albums’ artwork they put out during that time, you’ll see my name, ‘Coming soon, Lil Lody.’
I was seeing that they weren’t fucking with me, but I was still making moves. One day, I just called them and told them I wanted to get out of the contract. I told them, ‘I don’t feel like anything moved for me. Y’all are not keeping your promises. Y’all have breached the contract because y’all haven’t done anything that y’all said y’all were going to do. Y’all haven’t given me an advance. Y’all haven’t given me any money. Y’all haven’t done anything but bought a few beats from me.’ I was giving them, like, 10 to 15 beats for $1,500 to $2,000. I know that they’ll never tell you anything like that but I will. I can’t sugarcoat anything.
[Lil Lody signed a contract with D. Brady Entertainment. He was sued due to producing for outside artists without the company’s permission. A settlement for $50,000 resolved the matter. He also left the label.]
Since leaving the label, have you signed to anyone else or started your own label?
I’m unsigned right now, but I have a lot of deals on the table. Right now, I’m trying to be my own solo, standout artist. I don’t really want to sign to anybody that already has some other people. People would be saying, you got co-signed by such and such and that’s really the reason you’re on. Right now, I think I’m on the right track. My priorities are all straight. And right now, my name as an artist is getting where it’s supposed to get. That Foolish mixtape touched a lot of people, and I didn’t know it was going to do that.
Considering that you began as a rapper, what drove you to producing?
I started rapping and I was looking for producers to make me beats. Nobody could make the type of beats that I wanted. Everybody who I tried to spend money with tried to charge me a high price. The price wasn’t anything but their sound was whack. I was like ‘Fuck it. If I can do this, I can do that too, so I started making beats.’ It took me about two years to get it down. I’m not gonna say I was the best then. I was alright, but the more that you fuck with it, you’re gonna get better. It’s day by day.
What are some musical devices or instruments you enjoy using when you produce? And is there a certain approach that you take?
I started off with Fruity Loops. The next step was MPC 4,000, the MPC 3,000, the Phantom, Triton, Reason, Logic. I started messing with everything just trying to combine them all together and see what I could come up with. I like Fruity Loops the most [because] I like to move quick. Not saying that the other types of equipment are a waste of time, but they’re going to make you take longer. With Fruity Loops, I have all my stuff down-packed. I have all of my sounds. When I put in my beats, people know it’s me.
How long does it normally take you to produce a song?
It takes me 10 minutes to make a beat. I have to be zoned out or be in a certain type of mood some time. I might go a whole two weeks without making beats because I’m handling stuff that’s going on in real life. I got a really busy life. When I do get time out, whatever I’ve been doing is going to come out on that keyboard. Once I finish making beats, I play them to my homies. I ask them what they think. The beat has to go through five or six different people before I release it.
Who are your three favorite artists to work with when you’re producing?
Out of all the artists that I’ve worked with, my three favorites are [Young] Jeezy, [Yo] Gotti, and Plies. When I get in the studio around them, I can relate to them more than anybody else. We’re all hands on, and we all kind of act the same.
Who are some artists that you would like to work with in the future?
I would like to work with Dr. Dre., Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube. I like messing with the legends. I like to get in with them and see where their minds are at, because they can show me more with what I got going on with myself.
Nationally, you’re known more as a producer than an artist. Do you think it’s important to show people that you’re not just a talented producer but an artist as well?
It doesn’t really matter. They’re going to catch on sooner than later. A lot of people tell me, ‘You one of the hardest rappers-slash-producers that’s out.’ Not trying to compare me to Kanye or any of them, but a lot of people can’t do that. You have to have a real skill and talent to do that. Like Kanye, he’s dope at it. Dr. Dre was dope at it when he did The Chronic and all that.
In a lot of your music, you make reference to the street life. How was it for you to indulge in that type of lifestyle?
It was kind of cool. You get your money. The thing that I can say is when you’re playing in that field, it makes you really paranoid. You’re cautious of everything and everybody. It’s with certain stuff that you do, such as you watch how people talk on the phone. I still don’t answer my phone for anybody to this day. I don’t text that much. None of that. If I want to see somebody, I still speak to them face-to-face because of my past. A lot of stuff can mess you up, so you have to watch everything really close. The money comes really fast and it’s cool, but you have to pay attention because the wrong move can mess you off.
My mom and dad always spoiled me. Whatever I wanted, they always spoiled me. My daddy, he lived the fly life — had cars everywhere, houses, and all that. But he ended up getting busted and going to jail. A lot of that came on to me. Whatever was left over came on to me, and it was up to me to continue what was going on. I knew that at some point in my life, I was going to have to stop what I was doing before it got too late. I had to transfer and do something the right way to keep the money coming in.
How is your view on religion? Were you raised in a religious household?
I believe in God. You gotta pray for every dollar that you make. Keep your head up and believe in God. My family wasn’t just real Christian, go to church every Sunday, and all of that. I can’t act like I go to church every Sunday. I can’t remember the last time I went to church, but I heard if you pray, it’ll work. I pray a lot.
What’s up next?
I got another mixtape coming out in September. I feel like I got the game right now nationally. Foolish touched the people so much, and it’s like they’re addicted right now. I’m also working on Plies’ “Purple Heart” album. That’s fixing to come out. It’s going to be crazy. I did a few of the songs. I’m working with Young Scooter. I did the Colombia track for him. I didn’t put my signature. That’s how I’m starting to mess everybody up.
This past Friday I rappelled down the city’s 24-story iBank Tower, testing my faith and conquering my fear of heights.
I participated in media day for “Over the Edge.” This is the third year for the event, which is sponsored by Special Olympics Tennessee, a nonprofit that helps thousands of children and adults with disabilities improve their physical fitness and sports skills, enhancing their self-confidence and social competency in the process.
To participate in the actual event, which was held the following day, a person must have raised a minimum of $1,000, been at least 18-years-old, and weighed no more than 300 pounds. The money raised will benefit the more than 16,000 athletes who participate with Special Olympics Tennessee.
Other media figures that participated on Friday included Tom Dees and Greg Cory from FOX 13, Carries Anderson from Action News 5, Eli Savoie from Sports 56, and David Basham from ESPN.
When I left the Memphis Flyer headquarters around 12:30 p.m. Friday, I was unsure of how everything was going to turn out.
I had already watched a video of people rappelling down the building the night before, but I wasn’t convinced that it was something for me to try out.
My drive to the tower was an interesting one.
I prayed and meditated on life and prayed some more. I asked the Lord to give me strength, courage, confidence, and most of all, to keep me safe and sound.
Pulling into the iBank parking lot, I noticed an area that was blocked off. People stood inside it with bright-colored shirts and smiles across their faces as music played.
This eased my anxiety a little.
I saw my coworker, Sloane Taylor, who volunteers for Special Olympics Memphis. She greeted me with a big smile, assured me that everything would be fine, and walked me over to a table where I signed my “life away” on a sheet that basically said I couldn’t blame anyone if I fell to my death.
Fortunately, this didn’t stop me. I knew God was with me and that was all that mattered.
A lady helped me put on the appropriate gear for the expedition: a full-body industrial harness equipped with gloves, a walkie-talkie, and a teal-colored helmet with the words “Over the Edge” in the middle.
After I was suited and booted, a gentleman provided me and two ladies with a brief training session on rappelling and how to use an industrial descender—the gadget used to go down the wall—before we practiced rappeling down a 15-foot wall. I learned by squeezing the decender’s handle, I could accelerate downward. Letting go of the handle stopped me completely.
When I finished my practice trial, I was guided to the elevators inside of the tower.
It was time to tackle the 200-plus foot building.
The ride to the 24th floor was real slow and quiet. I thought about my last chance to change my mind and chicken out. I couldn’t find it in me to do so, however. I had come too far. There was no turning back.
When I stepped off the elevator, I was guided to the roof. The view was both amazing and scary.
I looked on as a couple people stood on the edge of the tower before disappearing down the wall.
My palms begin to sweat.
While I sat and waited for my turn, I prayed one more time. I was even provided some encouraging words from a man with the DeSoto County SWAT team, who was helping participants get situated before they rappelled down the wall.
He calmly recited the verse from the book of Matthew to me that says, “With faith the size of a mustard seed you can move mountains.” He then told me that this was a test of faith and that I had nothing to worry about.
This placed me at ease.
From that point on, I knew that I was no longer worried about my safety. I knew that I would be alright. I knew that I would successfully rappel down a 24-story building with no problem.
The hardest part for me was getting over the actual edge of the roof. Everything after that wasn’t so bad.
I kept a steady pace while traveling down the wall. I never looked down.
I heard cheers from the crowd below as I traveled story to story, stopping ever so often to catch my breath and get a better grip on the rope.
It took me about 10 minutes to get to the bottom.
When I finished, I was extremely fatigued, and my maroon shirt was drenched with sweat. Rappelling didn’t appear to be so intense, but it indeed was a real workout.
I felt great that I faced my fears and rappelled down the building. Prior to participating in the event, I wasn’t too thrilled about heights. I’m still not head over heels about them, but rappelling down a 24-story building definitely contributed to me becoming more comfortable when I’m high up in the air. Who knows? Maybe I’ll try skydiving one day.