This past Saturday, Christian-based, non-profit organization Agape Child & Family Services held its 15th annual HeartLight fundraising event featuring Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow.
Clad in a red-and-white plaid shirt, jeans and loafers, Tebow was greeted with a standing ovation as he entered the FedexForum. He opened up to the crowd of a couple thousand about his upbringing, his love for Jesus Christ, and how he got involved in sports.
“I was the baby of five,” Tebow explained. “I grew up on a farm on the west side of Jacksonville, [Florida]. I had four older siblings, so you learn to be competitive at an early age. We always competed in the yard. By the time I started playing sports, I was four, about to turn five. [My parents] signed me up for T-ball. The last thing I’d do on Saturday [was] play a game, but the first thing I would do on Sunday [was] go to church. When I’d go, I’d tell everybody, ‘look, I hit three home runs yesterday. I went four for four.' At a young age, I was very arrogant, very proud.”
Boasting a haughty personality during his childhood didn't sit well with his mother. She made Tebow memorize bible verses on humility because of this, such as Proverbs 15:33, James 4:6, and 2 Chronicles 7:14. He had to repeat the verses word for word to her before his weekly games. He said this eventually lead to him becoming a more humble athlete.
“I realized you are no better just because you’re decent at a sport,” Tebow said. “It doesn’t make you special just because you can play baseball, football, basketball—those are just gifts from God. We’re all blessed with different gifts but that doesn’t make us more special or better. God gave us a gift and it’s about how we use it for his honor and his glory.”
Tebow is known universally for his signature prayer after scoring touchdowns and also for wearing references to biblical verses on his eye black during his college football career with the Florida Gators. [In 2010, the NCAA's Football Rules Committee introduced a new rule that banned all words, logos, numbers or other symbols on a players' eye black. It was dubbed “The Tebow Rule.”] Tebow revealed that he came up with the idea to put Bible verses in his eye black shortly before playing the Tennessee Volunteers his junior year.
“I’m in the training room getting ready for the game and I see a bunch of my teammates putting on eye-blackener under their eyes,” Tebow said. “I start thinking, ‘if I took a silver Sharpie and I wrote something on there, maybe I could inspire someone.' I start thinking, ‘God bless? No.’ Then all of a sudden I think of Philippians 4:13: 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' I said, ‘perfect. That’s what I’m going to go with.’ So I put it under my eyes, and we went out there and played and beat Tennessee. Every single week, I wore that under my eyes. By the end of the year when we were getting ready to play Alabama in the SEC championship, thousands of Gator fans were wearing Philippians 4:13 under their eyes.”
By the time the Gators played the University of Oklahoma in the BCS National Championship, Tebow had changed the Bible verse to John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He said he did this because the verse is the essence of Christianity
After Tebow wore the scripture during the championship game on Jan. 8th, 2009, more than 90 million people Googled John 3:16.
“I said, ‘how the heck did 90 million people not know John 3:16’,” he jokingly reminisced.
Three years later on Jan 8th, 2012, Tebow and the Denver Broncos played the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL playoffs. During that game, he threw for 316 yards. His yards per rush were 3.16. His yards per completion were 31.6, his time of possession was 31.6, and the ratings for the night were 31.6 percent of all U.S. households. It became known as the 3:16 Game.
Aside from football and Christianity, Tebow also spoke about the philanthropy he does through his Tim Tebow Foundation, and what sparked his interest in helping others.
“When I was 15 years old, I went on my first missions trip outside the U.S.,” Tebow said. “I was in the Philippines and we were speaking at hospitals, market places, and prisons, all over the place. But it wasn’t until one day I was at an orphanage and I was playing with orphans who had been raped and beaten; we were telling them that God loves them and cares about them, and you could see their lives change. You could see the joy in their life. It was amazing. It changed my life. I realized at that moment, I want to be the best quarterback that I can possibly be, but more than that, what I want to do with my life is impact lives, and that’s why I decided I wanted to start the Tim Tebow Foundation, which was going to bring faith, hope and love to those needing a brighter day in their darkest hour of need.”
The event was ended with a prayer by Memphis Mayor A C Wharton. The event raised more than $600,000.
There are so many things that come to mind when a person thinks of Memphis. It's a city known for popularizing rock and blues. It's home of some of the best barbecue in the nation. And it's plagued with some of the country’s highest levels of poverty, homelessness, and crime.
Although all of the aforementioned things are accurate about Memphis, individual perceptions of the city vary tremendously. How one person views the city may be totally different from another person's perception.
Artist Walter “Sir Walt” Andrade is providing people with a look into his personal interpretation of the city through “Mudworkz with Memphis,” his month-long art exhibit. He’s created more than 20 original, three-dimensional (3D) graphic art pieces for the exhibit.
“Everything in [the exhibit] started as an idea in my head, and instead of drawing it on a piece of paper or taking a photograph, I decided to push the envelope and do something out of the ordinary,” Andrade said.
The opening reception for the exhibit took place Monday, June 3rd at the Benjamin L. Hooks Central Library. The exhibit will remain open until June 29th.
Andrade created all of the pieces in the exhibit from scratch using salvaged sheetrock, construction mud, wood, and paint — hence the name of his company, Mudworkz. Aside from 3D graphic art, the company specializes in interior design and construction.
“Mudworkz with Memphis” boasts 3D graphic art of people like Mayor A C Wharton, Zach Randolph, B.B. King, Knowledge Knick, as well as Andrade’s personal friends from "The Word," an event that takes place every Monday at the Rumba Room.
There’s also a “Mudworkz Memorial” section with portraits of deceased Memphians such as slain Memphis Police Officer Martoiya Lang, weatherman Mark Walden, and Isaac Hayes (this piece is designed in a style similar to the cross-shaped layout you see when the cover art from Hayes' Black Moses is unfolded). All of the memorial pieces will be donated to the families of the individual after the exhibit concludes.
“This idea for Mudworkz Memorial kind of came by accident. When I was planning this exhibit, all of the people were alive besides Isaac Hayes,” said Andrade, who’s been brainstorming the exhibit for more than a year. “I was working as these people were passing away. I was like ‘Let me do a Mudworkz for this one. Let me do a Mudworkz for that one.’ I thought about it and said, ‘Let me do a whole display of people who I was close to in some type of way, or had some connection to.’”
Anyone interested in purchasing artwork from the exhibit can place an order with Andrade, and he’ll provide a duplicate copy. The prices vary from a couple hundred to more than $1,000 depending on the size. He charges $75 per square foot. On average, pieces takes Andrade four or five days to complete.
In addition to the memorial section, there's also “Mudworkz Nature,” in which Andrade has taken decaying bark and created 3D graphic artwork in different designs from it.
Andrade said he hopes the exhibit encourages people to take a step outside of their comfort zone and do something extraordinary.
“What I want people to get out of Mudworkz is inspiration. That’s what drives me,” Andrade said. “I [want to] inspire somebody from my artwork to pursue something in their life, because all of this started from nothing. It started from a bag of sheetrock and some wood that I had in my basement, and it just arose from there.”
Check out the Mudworkz Facebook page to view more of Andrade's artwork.
Those interested in having some artwork, construction or interior design done, can contact Andrade via email: email@example.com or by phone: (901) 570-3917
Rap producers hailing from Memphis are largely known for bass-filled, dark-sounding, buck beats perfect for gangsta walking or jookin’ to, but they're not recognized for being influenced by famous composers like Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
However, Christopher “Drumma Boy” Gholson was influenced by the aforementioned historical composers. The beat craftsman behind billboard-dominating hits like “No Hands” by Waka Flocka featuring Roscoe Dash and Wale, Young Jeezy's "Put On" featuring Kanye West, and "Lose My Mind" featuring Plies, Drumma Boy has been creating hits for years.
Aside from Jeezy and Waka, the Grammy-nominated, multi-platinum producer has laid tracks for Usher, Chris Brown, Rick Ross, Wiz Khalifa, Yo Gotti, Gucci Mane, and Lil' Wayne just to name a few.
Currently working on Chris Brown’s latest album, prepping the release of his joint mixtape with DJ Paul of Three 6 Mafia titled Clash of Da Titans, and cultivating new projects on his Drum Squad imprint, it's evident that his work ethic is unparalleled.
Drumma Boy talked to me about his unique musical upbringing, crafting the theme song for the history-making Grizzlies along with DJ Paul, what it takes for an artist to get a Drumma Boy beat, his strong love for Memphis, and much more.
Your musical upbringing is different from the average producer or artist. Can you briefly touch on it?
I come from a family [with an] orchestral background. My pops was in an orchestra. My mom, she was in the opera. My father is the first chair clarinetist of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. I always heard him rehearsing and practicing. By the age of three, I had a recorder in my mouth. I started practicing E-flat clarinet by five or six and then went up to the B-flat clarinet. And then I was taking piano lessons and all that.
The first pieces of music was Beethoven and [Johann] Sebastian [Bach], Für Elise, and Mozart, and all of that. I started getting into the hip-hop scene at like nine or 10—getting up on S.M.K., Al Kapone, Project Pat, Gangsta Pat, Playa Fly, 8 ball & MJG, Three 6 Mafia. I was at a point where I was starting to rebel from the orchestra background, because that’s all I knew. Once I started getting familiar with hip-hop, I remember this record came out called “Regulators” by Warren G and Nate Dogg. Something about that record hit me, made me want to rap, make beats. I just started fooling around with the chemistry of meshing what I knew from music appreciation, music history, and the knowledge of music theory with the urban world of hip-hop.
What has Drumma Boy been up to lately?
We've got Chris Brown’s X project dropping July 16th. We’re working on DJ Drama’s project. We’ve got something exclusive coming with DJ Drama and Young Jeezy. It’s going to be a nice connection with the city of Memphis, so definitely stay tuned for that record.
We’re working on Welcome To My City 3, which is the unification projects of Memphis. We’re growing. We’re getting stronger. We dropped volume 1. We dropped volume 2. Now we’re coming with three. We’re going to include an exclusive DVD. It’ll pretty much show you how we made the first one and the second one, and how we're working on this third one. Just a visual of how we get down in Memphis and what Memphis has to offer.
I had the opportunity to speak with DJ Paul last month and he talked about you guys’ mixtape together, Clash of Da Titans. Can you touch on the project and what fans can expect?
We’re working on the project. We just dropped another record called “We Don’t Bluff,” which is the Grizzlies’ theme anthem.
And that’s really a clash of two of the best producers in the city of Memphis that have come together to drop a historical project full of energy, lot of dark, hard-hitting tracks, as well as a lot of bright, synthy anthems. A lot of people are excited about it. It’s dropping on the 11th of July.
You've produced for a wide variety of artists. How long does it take you to create the sound that a particular artist is looking for?
A lot of times, it depends on what kind of sound the artist wants. Some sounds can be created within a month. I’ll go in the chemistry lab and just come with all of these different formulas of what may work. You always know it. It’s like a feeling that you get when you hear a particular sound that you know is right for a particular artist. And then vice versa. The artist can hear it and then they’re like, ‘put me in the booth.’ It’s something that motivates you instantly to come up with ideas…that gives you this energy to create a hit or a classic record. It’s all about emotion. It’s all about the right vibe.
How long does it normally take you to produce a song in particular?
Some beats, like “No Hands,” I did for Waka Flocka and “White Girl” I did for [Young] Jeezy, beats like that, I do in about five to 10 minutes. A lot of the things that I do with scores and with the movies, that might take me two weeks to a month. There are a lot of different things that are in-depth and then there are a lot of different things that are just strictly off the vibe.
It’s the same way with songs that I’ve written. I’ve written songs in 30 minutes and then some songs have taken me six months to finally get the right vibe and complete the record.
You mentioned that you scored some movies. What are some of those?
The most recent movies that we scored was Holla II. All of the music you hear, I scored. I also got a producer credit on the film. I did another film score called Blood First. It’s an independent film, more like a Paid in Full or a Belly type of movie.
Who are some of your influences production-wise?
My first inspiration is a composer. I always looked up to Beethoven. I was a big fan of Mozart. Those are, like, two of my biggest composers. But Beethoven specifically, by how he was able to write and do what he did without his hearing, I thought that was amazing like ‘Wow, to lose your hearing but still be able to write within your mind.’ That was just an amazing fact to know about Beethoven to me. That made me like, ‘Wow, if he can do that, I’ve got to be as great as this guy.’
From Beethoven, my second top producer, composer, arranger, I would say is Quincy Jones. His relationship with the musicians and how he put together Thriller, and Q’s Juke Joint, [and] all of his classic albums. He’s an amazing person.
And my third would be Dr. Dre just because of his music quality and his consistency. To be able to always be on that top level and to make a brand out of his beat and not just to make beats, but to make a brand out of it, and to elevate through from Death Row to Aftermath to Beats by Dre. It’s always an evolution.
How long would you say you’ve been producing?
I would say I’ve been making beats since 13, but I’ve been producing since about 16.
What's the difference between making beats and producing?
The beat-making process is, okay, I make a beat. I take it to an artist. I drop it off. I leave. I have no input whatsoever as to building the complete record.
But a producer is one that calls you to the session. He vibes with you on how the hook should go, ‘Maybe you should do it like this. Maybe we should do it like this. Let’s try this.’ He might be involved in the writing process, and he’s involved in the complete entirety of the record. And then he also understands arranging the music and setting up the music in the form where it’s a song form and not just a beat loop.
Earlier on in your career, you worked with artists like Gangsta Boo, Pastor Troy, Tela, and others. What are some of the songs that you think really began to put your name out there on a major level?
The first song that I did that got me a lot of recognition was when I did the track for Tela titled “Tennessee Titans.” That was me singing on the hook as well. I did three tracks on the Double Dose album. That kinda put me on an incredible level in the city of Memphis.
Also, the "Tennessee Titans" record consisted of Yo Gotti, which we broke on that record. A lot of people got more familiar of who Yo Gotti was and he came out with his Life album right after that, which I had four tracks on. It was just a momentum shift from just the underground beat level.
Also, on that track was Gangsta Boo, Haystack, Criminal Manne. He was broken off that record. We really broke a lot of Tennessee artists off that record and put the shine and the limelight on us and what the state has to offer. It was a pleasure for me to bring that record to the table.
That’s when Pastor Troy was like, ‘Man, I gotta holla at you. I need a record.’ I did a couple records for Troy. And what put me over the top in Atlanta is a record I did for Pastor Troy called “Pop That Pussy.” All of the strippers got familiar with who I was and embraced me as a little brother.
Who are some of your favorite artists to produce for?
I just enjoy producing period and changing people’s lives. It’s not really this artist or this artist, or I’m biased about who I work with. It’s people that just love to do what they do. It’s almost like playing basketball. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing as long as who you’re playing can play. You just want to continue to play and continue to have that competition and those peers in the room with you keeping you up on your tip toes, making the best records possible.
Any new producers you like?
There’s one producer that I’ve been working with out of Memphis named C-Money. I like a lot of his work. I like a group called J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League. They really make some great music. I love their style. There’s another producer that we just brought on-board with Drum Squad named Degree Beats.
You work with independent artists as well as mainstream, what keeps you driven to do that instead of getting the big head and just working with who’s hot?
It’s always a pleasure bringing something new to the table, and that’s what you get out of the new stream of artists. That’s what you get out of the underground artists. Nobody really cares when you do stuff for people that’s already been done. It’s like, ‘Aw okay.’ If I did something with Jay-Z, it would be a good placement, but the world would be more shocked if I brought the next star to the table. They’re like, ‘Wow, who is that? Aw, that’s Drumma Boy’s artist.’ And I’m going across the world touring with the artist. It’s a complete difference. And now I’m credible for bringing something to the table. It’s almost like Dr. Dre and Eminem. That’s the point that we’re at now. I’ve produced so many hits for other people and other labels that now we’re starting to focus on our own label, Drum Squad Records, and our own manufacturing company.
Is it difficult balancing producing for other artists with having your own roster of talent?
It’s really just dedication. If you want to get it done, you can get it done. You’re either gonna sleep or you're gonna work. Are you gonna lavishly eat—as big as you get, as much money as you get, you can sit up and eat Houston’s every day or you can go to Ruth’s Chris everyday, or you can say, ‘You know what, I ain’t really got time. Let me stop at Zaxby’s and get something quick and keep it pushing.’ And you really wanted that dinner at Houston’s but you’ve got things to do. At the end of the day, it’s all about accomplishing a mission.
You’re highly supportive of Memphis and promote it wherever you go. Where does that strong desire come from to always represent your city?
It’s just wanting to see the city blow, and the only way you’re going to see the city blow is by putting the air into it. I consider myself the air for the city, and I'm giving these kids something to breath for. There are a lot of kids whose dreams are deferred just because there's nobody there to mentor them or give them that one conversation and give them that one piece of hope. When I come to the city, I’m hope for the kids. I’m hope for the city. There are so many producers that have come into the game now, because they want to be like me. And there is so much talent here that how could you turn your back on it?
It’s just a pleasure to be able to help people succeed. My grandfather was a principal. He helped desegregate Maryland. He wrote the desegregation plan for the state of Maryland—Gen. James Gholson, Sr. He’s got a middle school named after him in Washington, D.C., which is on the same property of the FedEx stadium where the [Washington] Redskins play. That’s just my history of where we come from. It’s in my blood. All my family has done is change lives, and I’m changing lives through music.
You rapped before you made beats. Are you deciding to take that more seriously from this point on? Or are you going to balance producing with rapping?
We’re still balancing. It’s almost kinda like Puffy [Sean "Diddy" Combs] a little bit. How he would give you a verse here and there or sprinkle his flavor on different things as a producer. It’s all about being visual and getting my face out there. Once the demand got to the point, where they were demanding for a Puffy album, he put it out. And once [my] demand gets to that point, I’m gonna put it out.
Anybody you would like to work with in the future?
I would say Beyoncé. She’s an incredible performer and artist. That’s one person I’ve always wanted to work with. I’m rooting for that. I would say Kendrick Lamar, one of the dopest artists I’ve heard come out of this generation. And last but not least, one of the only artists that I haven’t worked with out of the area of Memphis is my boy Justin Timberlake. I have to get with him on some kind of work.
For all the artists that’s going to read this, how difficult is it to get a Drumma Boy beat?
It’s simple as having the budget and having something that I feel like is worthy of my production. Not trying to sound cocky, but it’s really something that I can vibe to and have the energy. If you believe in yourself as much as I believe in what I do, I think it will be a matching chemistry. It’s really all about the vibe, and the timing is another important key. Some people aren’t patient and willing to wait, and they miss their slot. It’s about being patient and waiting for that right opportunity. At the same time, even if you’re patient and waiting for that right opportunity, if you’re not prepared for that opportunity, you’re not going to have success.
Imagine nearing the finish line of a marathon after running 26.2 miles. Your heart is pumping. Your adrenaline is rushing. You're flooded with euphoria and determined to make it to the end no matter what.
Just as you’re about to complete your journey, the impact from a sporadic explosion knocks you off your feet. Another one follows seconds after, knocking limbs from your body and leaving you covered in massive amounts of blood. The pain that you're experiencing is indescribable.
By placing your feet in these shoes, you're becoming one of many who participated in the world-renowned Boston Marathon on April 15th.
More than 260 people were injured from the explosions that took place in Boston's Copley Square just before 3 p.m. The bombings, which occurred within 12 seconds of each other, also left three people dead: 8-year-old Martin Richard, 23-year-old Boston University graduate student Lingzi Lu, and 29-year-old Krystle Campbell.
I was at the Memphis Flyer headquarters working on some assignments when a co-worker asked me if I had heard about the explosion. I was dumbfounded. I didn’t know what he was talking about. However, I didn’t anticipate it to be as horrid as it was once I looked it up online.
An avid “jogger,” I run more than 20 miles a week (not day). It’s a hobby that I picked up in 2007, and I’ve stuck with it ever since.
Over the last year, I’ve began to participate in 5k runs for recreation but nothing remotely close to a marathon—not even a half-marathon. But I do know that I enjoy running. It’s an outlet for me to clear my mind and release any frustrations. Plus it’s good cardiovascular exercise.
Out of all things, it's not something that I associate with life-threatening injury or death. But since the bombings on April 15th, it's safe to presume that those will be things that come up when running competitions are mentioned moving forward.
The two men responsible for the bombings, bloodshed, and heartache during the 117th annual Boston Marathon are 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and his brother, 26-year-old Tamerlan Tsarnaev (who was identified as the brains behind the attacks and also a supporter of radical Islam). The two brothers are Muslim and ethnic Chechens from Russia. They had been living in the U.S. for a decade at the time of the bombings.
Surveillance cameras revealed that each brother wore a dark backpack, which held bombs composed of kitchen pressure cookers packed with shrapnel, on the day of the bombings. The backacks were placed on the ground near the marathon's finish line. They used a remote control device to detonate the two bombs inside of them.
But the bloodshed didn't stop there.
The brothers shot 26-year-old Sean Collier, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus officer, multiple times to possibly rob him for his gun in hope of expanding their arsenal. Shortly after that, they car-jacked a man for his Mercedes Benz SUV.
While steering the stolen SUV through Watertown, Massachusetts, about 20 minutes away from Boston, the two began to notice that they were being followed by city police and engaged in a gunfight with the officers.
Tamerlan was killed during the shootout, which took place early Friday, April 19th, while Dzhokhar managed to escape with multiple gunshot wounds. He was later found bleeding inside of a boat in the backyard of Watertown resident, David Henneberry.
When police apprehended Dzhokhar, he was in critical condition with gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs, and hand, and he had suffered massive blood loss, according to an F.B.I. affidavit.
Despite the injuries documented in the affidavit, reports show he’s also suffering from a gunshot wound to the throat, which may be self-inflicted. As of today, he's said to be in fair condition at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Dzhokhar’s been charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction resulting in death and one count of malicious destruction of property by means of an explosive device resulting in death. He could receive the death penalty if convicted for his role in the bombings.
Witnessing the coverage on the event over the last week—the memorials, the articles, the blogs, the news coverage, and even from doing my own research to write this post—it's really sunk in how unfortunate the entire occurrence is. Those people in attendance at the Boston Marathon that day weren’t expecting to lose limbs, hearing, or even their life. They were there to run for a good cause.
On the contrary, because of the occurrence, a husband and father (Tamerlan) is now dead, leaving behind his widow to raise their daughter alone. And a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth college student (Dzhokar) will possibly never live life again as a free man. In no means am I justifying what they did or sympathetic for them. I just feel that this situation is unfortunate for EVERYONE involved.
The Boston Marathon bombings are yet another occurrence that conveys how extremely significant it is for us to cherish every day we’re alive and be appreciative for everything within our lives. Any one of us could take our last breaths in a matter of seconds.
Only God knows if a life-changing tragedy will occur, and more so, when it’s our time to leave earth. My prayers and condolences go out to all those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. I understand there’s no restart button for us to push, to go back in time, and do things differently. I just hope that all of the survivors can push forward as strong and positively as possible. I could never place myself in your shoes. However, I do want you to know that you’re not the only ones hurting from this catastrophic event. People across the globe—family, friends and concerned citizens—are feeling the effects of this devastating mishap as well.
Stating that, I hope everyone takes something from this unfortunate occurrence, which will inevitably become another piece of history. If nothing else, it reminds us that we can’t take life for granted. It may sound cliché, but it’s true. Just ask those who were in attendance during the Boston Marathon.
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Menino, launched One Fund Boston, a way to support those affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. The fund has currently raised more than $23 million.
If there was a table designed exclusively for the forefathers of Memphis rap, Alphonzo “Al Kapone” Bailey would be among the artists seated at the head. With the release of several albums and compilations, he’s managed to sell thousands of units independently, and is viewed as one of the most respected artists within the underground rap movement.
Penning rhymes since the sixth grade, Al Kapone began to obtain musical notoriety as a teenager with his song, “Lyrical Drive-by.” This led to his debut album, Street Knowledge: Chapters 1-12, which secured a spot on Jet Magazine's Top 20 Albums chart and solidified his presence within the Memphis rap movement. Underground albums such as Pure Ghetto Anger, Sinista Funk, the compilation Memphis to tha Bombed Out Bay, and Goin’ All Out, followed soon after his debut, and expanded his fanbase from the South to the West Coast.
Aside from creating underground classics, Al Kapone is a talented songwriter and producer. He co-wrote E-40's "U and Dat," Lil Jon's "Snap Yo Fingers," (which both charted on Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop section), and "Hustle & Flow (It Ain't Over)", the theme song to the 2005 Memphis-based film, Hustle & Flow, and more.
I got a chance to speak with Al Kapone about his music career, what attendees can expect from his performance at this year’s Beale Street Music Festival, songwriting for E-40 and Lil’ Jon, what led him to create a song that supported past Congressional candidate Republican George Flinn, rock music, and more.
How did you get into making music?
I was into storytelling. It went from that to writing stories to actually writing songs from the stories. When the hip-hop craft stage kinda took off, I fell in love with it. Even though I love all forms of music, I just fell in love with hip-hop to the point that that’s what I wanted to do.
I got into just the whole hip-hop scene and the whole culture. It was more than just the rap part of it, it was the DJ-ing, the breakdancing, the graffiti, the fashion. It was really the whole culture of hip-hop, but I ended up sticking with the rap side more than anything.
What made you choose the name Ska-Face Al Kapone as your rap moniker? And why did you eventually drop the "Ska-face" part?
I was living in the Lamar Terrace projects at the time, and I was looking at this old black-and-white movie called Scarface Al (Scarface, 1932), it was basically the old version of the Al Pacino Scarface.
I remember seeing that and Scarface Al just grabbed me. It was at the time when NWA was poppin', so the gangsta rap scene was real hot. And I knew I wanted a name that was gonna be edgy, so when I saw Scarface Al go across that screen, I was like, ‘That’s it. That’s the name.’
And actually, this was before Scarface from the Geto Boys had kinda ran with his name, because I think at the time, he was going by the name Akshun. So it was before him, but that leads to the reason I ended up dropping Ska-Face because when “Lyrical Driveby” popped off for me on a solo tip, I was still going by the name of Ska-face Al Kapone. I added the Kapone part because I began noticing that the Houston rapper Scarface was starting to get popular, and when I did out of town shows, people were starting to get me confused. They were asking me where Bushwick [Bill] was. So I thought, ‘Okay, I’m gonna go ahead and drop the Ska-face part because it’s starting to create confusion.’
At what point did you know music was something that you could fully rely on as a way to provide for you and your family?
When “Lyrical Drive-by” popped off. I was working at Red Lobster at the time. When I was going back and forth to work, I started to notice cars going by blasting that song. It was like several cars, and that’s when I realized, ‘Oh shit, people recognize me now.’ That’s when I started getting calls to do more shows. At that point, I was able to leave Red Lobster and actually start doing shows full-time, and that’s when I was able to start providing for me and my family.
In 2003, you released the album Goin’ All Out on E-40’s label, Sic Wid It Records. How did you link up with E-40?
My main connection to the Bay Area was initially with this magazine called Murder Dog. They featured me in a lot of their publications, and from that, as an independent artists, I started networking with a lot of the independent artists out there. And from that, E-40 took notice, and then, he reached out to me. From the independent artists to E-40, I really established a strong Bay Area connection.
My connection with 40 came in the late '90s. Like I said, he's originally from Murder Dog. He just started noticing my name a lot through Murder Dog and the independent scene. He reached out to me to be apart of a compilation that he was working on at the time called Southwest Riders. It was a lot of independent artists from the West and independent artists from the South.
How did you end up signing with Sic Wid It?
After I ended up doing that compilation with [E-40], just through my connections with independent Bay Area artists, I did my own compilation called Memphis to tha Bombed Out Bay. What I did was, I took a Greyhound to the Bay. I had a cousin who was staying in Sacramento, and I still had my Murder Dog connection. So I took a Greyhound out there with all my product. I just went out there promoting blindly, didn’t know, all I had was straight ambition. I rented a car and was getting directions from people and literally driving from Vallejo to Oakland to Frisco to Sac Town [Sacramento] to even smaller towns in between, from Richmond…it was crazy. It was before GPS. I was strictly going off people’s directions from the highway, and I was actually getting there.
I ended up running into E-40 in Vallejo. It was a picnic that he was having, and again, I was out there promoting Memphis to tha Bombed Out Bay, and he just noticed, ‘Damn, dude just came all the way from Memphis and he actually has a line of people he’s signing autographs for at my picnic.’ He sent his brother over to let me know that they were going to pick me up and bring me to his house. I was staying at the Murder Dog house at the time.
His brother came and picked me up. I went to 40’s house. He was working on some music, and he said, ‘You feel like you can jump on this song?’ I was like, ‘Holy shit, he wants me to jump on a song!’ I immediately wrote a verse like in 10 minutes and jumped on the song and at that point, he was like ‘I’m gonna be reaching out to you. How you feel about signing to Sic Wid It?’ And after I came back to Memphis, he reached out to me and we made it official. He sent me a contract and we sealed the deal.
You did some writing on E-40's album, My Ghetto Report Card. How did that come about?
That was one of those amazing times. Not burning bridges allowed me to. I wasn’t signed to him at the time. This was like some years after the contract had ended, but we kept a good enough relationship that he reached out to me when he was working with Lil’ Jon and wanted me to come to Atlanta and [work] with them on some music. It was kind of a blessing to be in that particular space and time to offer some of my writing skills, which out of that spawned the “Snap Yo Fingers” song that Lil’ Jon had.
When you’re songwriting, are you actually writing verses for artists, or are you contributing ideas?
It’s more of contributing ideas. Coming up with ideas and concepts and writing hooks to give the song the direction that it needs to go into.
What are some other albums you’ve had a hand in that people may not know about?
Off the top of my head, I know I did something on the Stomp the Yard soundtrack. I did something on the Cadillac Records soundtrack. That’s a couple I can think of off the top of my head.
You also wrote a couple songs on the Hustle & Flow soundtrack.
Most definitely. That was another one of those space and time blessings that you don’t see coming. It was all again, not burning bridges, because I knew Craig [Brewer] way before. He was doing independent films and having them distributed through Select-o-Hits whereas we were doing the independent CDs, so we knew each other from that time. And I always kept in touch with him.
I just so happened to randomly call like I normally do, and it doesn’t have to be about no business, just to reach out to people on a personal level. So I was just reaching out to him one day and seeing how he was doing, and that’s when he informed me about what was going on, that John Singleton was going to get behind the project and John was going to be in town the next day. They were looking for a particular song. John really had his mind set that he was going to let Three 6 [Mafia] do everything, but they were going to give me a chance to present something. It was almost like, ‘He’ll just check it out’ but his mind was pretty set.
I went straight to the house and wrote the Hustle & Flow theme song. When John came in town, he came to the Cotton Row studios. Me and Niko [Lyras] had just finished producing the music and I dropped all the lyrics and everything. When he came, he heard it, he said it was on point…the whole subject was on point with what they were looking for, and I was in.
From that, he wanted to hear some other songs that I had been working on personally. That’s how he ended up hearing “Whoop that Trick” and “Get Crunk, Get Buck.” He was like, ‘damn, we need to work with those songs too.”
Over the last few years, you’ve incorporated more of a guitar-infused style into your music, especially with your album Guitar Bump. You’ve also branched out and collaborated with different bands and musicians. What influenced you to take a different lane with your music after creating that more gangsta, buck sound for so many years?
My initial reason [for] going into the live zone of music rather than staying in the crunk zone was because the rest of the country made up in their mind that Atlanta was known for crunk. Even though we had the proof, nobody was going to dig into the truth enough to give us credit for it. The rest of the country saw it as we would be the followers, even though we weren’t. We were the originators. So instead of fighting against it, I wanted to do something that was uniquely a Memphis thing. I started thinking about the live sound of Memphis as far as Al Green, the rock side and everything. I started thinking, let me go more into that direction and see if I can incorporate live music with the Memphis sound and see how that would be received.
My main thing was to show the hip-hop culture of Memphis. Even though y’all don’t want to give us our credit for the sound, give us credit for at least our musical roots, and that’s really why I started going in that direction. But in the process of recording that type of music, I ended up having to perform it live, and I actually fell in love with having that band on stage. It was an amazing feeling to have all that live music. It was like another level of performing, so I kinda ran with it. There's nothing like performing with that live instrumentation on stage.
Have you always been interested in guitars and the rock genre?
Even though I was into hip-hop earlier on, I was always into soul and rock. From Ozzy Osborne to the Black Sabbath, I was always into it. When Nirvana hit at the time, I was heavy into that. I was heavy into Metallica. If anybody really followed my music career and they listened to some of those old songs, you would actually hear songs that had the rock element or the soul element to them. It was always there but when I went with the band, it kinda stood out more.
You’re performing at this year’s Beale Street Music Festival. What can attendees expect from your performance? I read you’re working with some live guitarists for the show.
If you’ve never seen a live performance from a Memphis rap act, my goal is to always give you a concert. Not just go up there and rap the songs, I want to truly entertain you with the whole spectrum of the music—from my performance to the musicians adding the instrumentation. My goal is to give you an experience where you can walk away and say, ‘You know, I don’t really listen to rap but I enjoyed that show. That was a good show.’
An eye opener for a lot of people was when you created the song "George Flinn" that encouraged Memphians to vote for Republican George Flinn as Congressman for the state’s 9th district last year. What persuaded you to endorse Flinn?
I did it because I felt like he supported not just me, but through his station [George Flinn owns several radio stations that cater to such genres as hip-hop, classic rock, Christian, and country], he supported the Memphis rap scene.
When I go to different places, I notice that a lot of radio stations do not support their local music scene. For us to have a station here that really supports and plays local music at times when the rest of the country had kind of stopped supporting Memphis hip-hop, I just felt the need to show support to someone who was supporting the music scene that I came from.
Did you worry about receiving any backlash from endorsing Flinn?
I did think about [receiving backlash] before I did it. I didn’t feel like the black community would embrace that I was supporting a Republican. The way I saw it was, if I don’t do it, it’s not because I don’t wanna do it, it would be because of what other people think. And at that point, I realized that I didn’t want to look back years later and say, ‘I shoulda did that and the only reason I didn’t was because I didn’t want to be worried about what somebody else thought.’ When it’s all said and done, I can’t live by what other people think. And at that point, I felt like I was supporting him regardless.
You’ve released all of your albums independently. What has caused you to avoid going mainstream for so many years?
The thing about being independent, you’re pretty much in control of what you want to do [and] release. That’s the biggest thing. You have total control. As long as you know how to budget and try to keep some consistent releases out there. You can kinda maintain some pretty decent cash flow to come in. But your main thing is your freedom to record what you want and release when you want to. You’re able to design your own artwork. But it does require work. Being independent is not just the freedom. It’s a serious work ethic that goes along with it. And I always had that drive to grind. I actually love the hustle of promoting and working on that level. I also love to write and produce, so it works out for me because I enjoy that whole hustle.
I had situations where I could’ve signed some major deals here and there but it was never in my favor. The thing is, you can lose a lot signing the wrong type of contract. You can sign away your rights. Right now, I own pretty much all of my catalog, so I can release it whenever I want to. I have a whole catalog of music that I haven’t even released digitally yet that I’m in the process of releasing. If I would have signed to a particular major [label], I wouldn’t have had any rights to release none of my previous music.
What’s next for Al Kapone?
I’m finishing up this album. It’s back to the roots of that straight underground Memphis rap. I did a song called "Memphis Pride" that pretty much represented the whole Memphis rap scene. So basically re-representing the original Memphis rap sound. That early Memphis sound. I got a project representing that sound but it’s today, but it’s still that sound at the same time. That’s the next project I’m [about] to drop. I’m thinking I’m going to drop that some time in May, so look out for that.
You can’t mention pioneers within the Memphis and Southern rap scene without name-dropping Three 6 Mafia. One of the most legendary Southern rap groups in history, the collective has sold millions of records throughout the years by delivering hit after hit. The group even made history as the first rap group to win an Oscar for penning the song "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" for the Memphis-based film Hustle & Flow.
Originally a six-member collective consisting of DJ Paul, Juicy J, Gangsta Boo, Koopsta Knicca, Lord Infamous and Crunchy Black, the group went through some lineup changes throughout the years due to members withdrawing to pursue their own careers. The group is currently composed of original members DJ Paul and Juicy J, who also co-own the record label Hypnotize Minds and have been successfully making music for more than two decades.
DJ Paul, one half of the Oscar-winning and Platinum-selling group, took time out to speak with me about his latest album/DVD A Person of Interest, working on a new mixtape with fellow Memphis artist and producer Drumma Boy, stepping back into the DJ-ing realm, creating his own barbecue rub and sauce, the potential for a new Three 6 Mafia album, and much more.
There’s been a lot of coverage on fellow Three 6 Mafia member Juicy J and his new endeavors with Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang imprint, but can you give readers out there an update on what you’ve been up to lately?
Just DJ-ing man. Still doing my live performances obviously, but I’ve been doing a lot of DJ performances as well. I’ve got the new album out. It came out the end of last year. I’m still promoting that. I’m shooting videos from that. And we’re finalizing a new mixtape called Clash of Da Titans. It’s me and Drumma Boy. We’re making a mixtape together.
You released your solo album, A Person of Interest late last year. What are your thoughts on the album?
It’s my favorite solo album that I’ve done. I loved the Scale-a-Ton album. A lot of people loved that. I actually like this album more than I did the Scale-a-Ton album, because I think it was a lot more raw than the Scale-a-Ton album. I like the piano solos that we put in the album, because I’m a fan of piano solos. Like at the end of “Witha Shit” and all of the orchestrated intros. I love the hell outta this album.
You’re back DJ-ing now as apart of the group S.I.M. (Sex is Mandatory) DJs. Isn’t DJ-ing how you got your start with music?
Yeah, I used to DJ in [Club] 380 Beale, and I had a couple clubs myself. That was how it all started. That was originally how I learned how to use my studio equipment. I just wanted to be a producer. I didn’t want to be a rapper. So I would make beats for Lord Infamous, and [he] would rap. But as a way to get extra money, I would take the equipment I bought, which was a keyboard, a turntable, and a four-track recorder, and I would make mixtapes and sell them in high school. But then I got slick with it. I would start mixing my artists’ songs in between it. You know like sneak it in and kinda introduce the song. So I might be playing like some LL Cool J, then I throw in some Skinny Pimp in the middle of it, and then come out of it into some N.W.A., Geto Boyz, or whatever the case was. And I eventually started making mixtapes with more of our songs on them until the mixtapes turned into just our songs, like mixtapes are now today.
Memphis can take the credit of being the creator of the format of the mixtapes that are out these days, because that’s what we did. Mixtapes, back in the day, was just a mix of people’s favorite songs. Like if your uncle or whatever would take his favorite O’Jays songs, his favorite Staples Singers songs, and put them all on one tape, so when they have a party, they could play all of their favorite songs instead of sitting up there, putting a needle on a record and going back and forth to [a particular] song.
That’s what traditional mixtapes were. DJs back in the day would just mix different songs off different albums, but then Memphis took it a step further. Like with DJ Spanish Fly. I would say he’s the first person I heard put his own songs on his mixtapes. So that’s what me, DJ Squeeky, and Juicy J would do. We would put our own songs on our mixtapes. That’s what people do today, but we were doing that back in ’88.
What made you return to DJ-ing?
The reason why I’m back in it today is because, well, I look at it two ways. One way is, obviously, I’m getting older around here. I’m trying to think, I can’t predict the future, but I can’t imagine that somebody is gonna want to see me bounce around a stage at 65 years old talking about ‘Tear Da Club Up,’ ‘Sippin’ on Sizzurp,’ and I got a glock in my drawers and shit like that. So I’m just prepared for the future. It’s easy to sell and play somebody else’s hits than to be sitting up here, 55 years old, trying to write your own, because ain’t nobody gonna believe that you’re still sippin’ on sizzurp and you still sittin' on the block selling rocks.
And it’s fun to get up there and DJ. You got all your boys in the DJ booth with you and your girls. You travel state-to-state and country-to-country, just playing records, rocking the crowd, and still get on the mic and do your own songs.
And then it’s something that I always liked. When I’m at the house and I throw parties, I have a DJ booth set up in my living room with the speakers that go out all over the house — to the theater room upstairs, to the swimming pool outside. In my living room, I got disco balls lights and all that. You’ll think you’re in the club when you’re in my house. I be up in there just DJ-ing. It’s something that I do at the house anyway, so I was like shit, I might as well start back doing it in the club and get paid for it.
It's been several years since Three 6 Mafia released their last album, Last 2 Walk. Is there anything in the works to be dropped for the future?
Naw, there ain’t nothing in the works right now. You know, both of us are doing our solo thing. He’s doing his thing with [Taylor Gang] right now, and I’m doing my thing with Drumma Boy and the DJ-ing and all that, so we really haven’t had time to do anything together. We still talk about the next project and this and that, but we haven’t physically recorded anything. But in the future, we’re definitely going to do something.
You’re in the process of creating the Clash of Da Titans mixtape with Drumma Boy. What can listeners expect from that?
Us being two of the hardest producers to come out of the South, we thought that it would be cool if we come together and make one. Both of us are producing and rapping on it. We’ve got features on it. We’re gonna drop it on 7-11 (July 11th).
Who are some artists that DJ Paul is listening to right now?
I like Waka Flocka. I like A$AP Rocky. I like Kendrick Lamar. I don’t listen to a lot of rap to be honest. I listen to more shit like David Guetta and Diplo. I like a lot of the EDM [Electronic Dance Music] cats like Skrillex. I listen to a lot of 80s and 70s music.
I’m getting into listening to a lot of music from the '70s and early '80s era, which is referred to as 'Pimpin’ in Memphis. Who are some good artists from that era that you recommend for me to check out?
Aw yeah, the pimpin’ man. You gotta go with some Al Green, some David Ruffin, Willie Hutch. He’s my number one favorite. I actually worked with him in Memphis before he passed away. And you gotta go with some [Bobby] Womack. The Isley Brothers are good. Rick James. Man, I could go on for days, but your core dudes is going to be your David Ruffin and your Willie Hutch. That’s the underground cats. They’ve got songs that weren’t on the radio all the time.
Over the years, you’ve had the opportunity to work with a large catalog of people. But who are a couple people you would like to collaborate with in the future?
I want to do a song with A$AP Rocky. I like him. And I worked with Waka [Flocka], but I want to do another one with him. There are a lot of other guys out there I would like to work with. I would just have to think, but I could go for days. Dr. Dre. We’re trying to keep it realistic around here.
Outside of music, you’re heavy into the barbecuing culture and recently developed your own barbecue rub and sauce. How’d that come about?
What happened was, in 2006, [Three 6 Mafia] moved to Cali. We still kept our places in Memphis but we got the houses in [Los Angeles]. Living in L.A., obviously I was missing my Memphis barbecue. So what I would do every time I went to Memphis, I would take two suitcases — one for clothes I was going to be traveling with and one bag to bring back the seasonings, [from places like] Rendevous, Corky’s and all of that. I got sick of doing that, plus it got expensive, so I was like, ‘Man, I can just create my own rub because I know how to do this.’ I knew I liked the taste. So I sat down and created my own rub and let my neighbors taste it. And my neighbors loved it. They were like, ‘You oughta sell this stuff. You oughta bottle it up and sell it.’ I was like, ‘You’re right. I oughta bottle it up and sell it to your ass. Instead of giving it to you for free.’ And then I bottled it up and started selling it, and it started doing good for us. I made the rub first. About nine months later, I made the sauce. It took a long time to get the sauce together because it was liquid, so it’s harder to match what I made in my house. And now I’ve got two more seasonings coming out. I’ve got a buffalo wing seasoning, a garlic butter seasoning, and I’ve got a hot sauce coming out.
And you’re creating a cookbook as well?
We’re working on a cookbook now. It’s going to be more than just a regular cookbook. It’s gonna have stories in it. It’s gonna tell how I got into all of this and how I came up with each recipe and why and a little info about me. It’s going to be a fun little cookbook.
Is the cookbook going to be strictly for barbecuing?
Naw, it’s everything. You’re gonna have Italian in there. Asian, which is my favorite. Some of everything is gonna be up in there.
What are some of your favorite barbecue spots in Memphis?
I have a bunch, man. Rendevous. Corky’s. A&R. Tops. Those are my favorite ones.
I read that you’re also involved with the relaunch of the liquor, Sizzurp. Can you briefly explain your role in that endeavor?
It came out in 2000. Even though it was ours, Sizzurp, the company, from what they said, well I don’t know how it originally went down, but Jim Jones and Cam’ron [bought the brand]. They were my boys, so I wasn’t trippin’ if they had it. It was cool. Jim Jones actually brought us in and broke some bread with us to help promote it and we shot the “Sippin’ Sizzurp” video with them.
That deal went away that they had and new people came in to run Sizzurp. Once the new owners came in, they called me and they were like, ‘We remember that you were the original guy to create the Sizzurp and this and that and we want you to be a part-owner of [its] relaunch’ and I was like, ‘okay, cool.’ So we relaunched it. It’s out in stores right now. I think it launches in Memphis next month and in Las Vegas. It’s already in Florida. It’s already in Massachusetts, New York, Texas, a lot of places. We’re slowly getting the distribution through. We’ve got a big event in Orlando, Florida on the 28th-30th [The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America 70th Annual Convention & Exposition]. It’s a liquor convention down there. All the brands go down there and set up down there in the [Grande Lakes] hotel. You go from suite to suite tasting new brands. We’re gonna have a suite down there.
I noticed on your website that you emphasized Sizzurp is a lot safer than trying the actual purple drank concoction that consists of promethazine/codeine mixed with soda.
Aw yeah, of course. This is overseen by the government. This is real liquor. That’s drugs that they be drinking. This is real liquor. It’s safe as hell. As long as you don’t drink and drive ... you drink responsibly and make sure you don’t get so drunk that you don’t use a condom. Other than that, it’s pretty safe.
What’s next for you? Are you working with any new artists?
The only artist I’m pushing right now is my nephew Locodunit, who’s from Memphis. And I’ve got a Mexican artist from L.A. named Kokoe, and that’s all I’m messing with right now. You can’t do too much at the same time, because you want to be able to focus on the ones you got. You don’t wanna have your hands full with a bunch of artists and you can’t do nothing for all of them at the same time. The only things you can do at the same time is women.
It’s not every day that you see a rap group coming out of South Memphis that’s influenced by rock artists such as The Killers, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix. But when you do, you see The Sidewayz.
Composed of Havier “Havi” Green and Salazar “Sal” Diego, the childhood friends have been crafting tunes together since 2009. Thrived with the struggles that the average kid residing within a single parent, low-income household experiences, they’re life stories play a nice balance to the eclectic style they possess on the beat.
“Music has always been the best escape from our upbringing, which wasn’t that fuckin’ good,” says Havi. “It’s pretty bleak growing up in South Memphis. I’ve probably lived in every project in South and North Memphis; I’ve been homeless for a time. You kind of get used to it.…you’ve got to adjust to being where you’re at, but in the inside you know it’s something bigger out there.”
The Sidewayz has released two musical installments independently thus far: 2011’s Endless Summer, a 22-track mixtape in which the group spits clever verses over other artists’ instrumentals, and 2012’s Social Pop Art, a 12-track release that displays the duo’s growth over all original production.
Both mixtapes were well received in Memphis and enabled the duo to perform in front of crowds at such venues as the Hi-Tone, Brinson's, Daily Planet, and the Buccaneer Lounge.
“The response, since we’ve followed our own artistic vision, it’s been pretty well. When people hear it, they automatically recognize it’s something different than what they’re used to,” says Havi. “We’re trying to bring change into something that’s been the same for a long time. We’re trying to grow and do something that’s actually going to break down a lot of barriers and let people know that you can still grow.”
Growth is what the group promises to continue to display with their upcoming mixtape, Art Appreciation. The Sidewayz assures it will be their best offering to date. Shortly after the mixtape release, the group plans to drop their debut album, Goodbye Gods, June 30th exclusively at the Memphis Rehearsal Complex on 296 Monroe Ave.
“Art Appreciation is a continuation of our growth,” says Havi. “Social Pop Art really was our step to try and escape from the rawness of Endless Summer, and this one, we’re trying to blend both of them together.”
Dedicated to their craft, both members dropped out of college to pursue music full-time but their tales are a little different. While Sal attended Southwest Tennessee Community College in the city for a little while, Havi actually received a full scholarship to attend the prestigious and world-renown Vanderbilt University.
Taking a different lane than the average rap artists coming from South Memphis, or the city as a whole for that matter, isn't something The Sidewayz is worried about. The group embraces their uniqueness with open arms and encourages others to try things outside of the norm.
“We never thought about doing what we do and people take it in a negative way,” says Sal. “Like, ‘damn, it sounds different. It’s not cool.’ It’s cool to be different. But you’re taking a chance with anything. The creativity of being an artist is taking chances, because you’re expressing yourself through your art. We know, yeah, we’re from South Memphis and when you listen to most of the music from the area that we come from, you know what to expect. With us, it’s totally different and we take a lot of pride in being an outcast.”
With the recent success of his protégé and fellow-Meridian, Mississippi native, Big K.R.I.T., Big Sant was viewed by those unfamiliar with his musical efforts as nothing more than a hype man for the Def Jam Records-signed artist.
However, Big Sant is far from that. The son of legendary Mississippi Blues singer Patrice Moncell, music runs through his bloodline. He's personally been trying his hand at music for nearly two decades, but decided to pursue it professionally around 2005.
In late 2012, he dropped MFxOG, a 13-track mixtape fit to be released as an album. He’s currently headlining his own tour, "MFxOG," which also features Kamikaze a.k.a. Mr. Franklin, who was once part of the group Crooked Lettaz, along with successful artist and producer David Banner.
First introduced to Big Sant on the song "Return of 4eva" off of Big K.R.I.T.'s mixtape, K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, I quickly took a liking to his aggressive, but lyrical and pimpish flow. I had the opportunity to speak with Big Sant about his unique style, growing up in a state known for its racist past, balancing fatherhood with his rap career, a future release from The Alumni (a group consisting of him and Big K.R.I.T.), and he even shared something with me that many people don't know about him.
What inspired you to pursue music as a full-time profession rather than a hobby?
Everything is a hobby until you start making money off of it. My whole life is surrounded by music. My mother is a singer. I grew up in the church. Music is my life. It was only natural for me to look for a way to convey my feelings to my peers.
I’ve been rapping for 15 years. I transitioned into doing it professionally in around 2005-2006. That’s when I started doing a lot of shows and things like that.
I became familiar with you initially through your collaborations with Big K.R.I.T. How did you develop a relationship with him?
I’ve known K.R.I.T. since he was 13. When you come from a small city like Meridian, it’s not hard for brothers and sisters to get together. He already knew I rapped. I found out he was rapping and then we started rapping with each other. That was 14 years ago.
I understand you guys have a group together called The Alumni. Are you two working on any music together currently? Possibly planning a mixtape release?
We know better now, so we’re trying to get the money. The Big K.R.I.T. ticket is really high right now. As far as all the work he’s done, it speaks for itself as far as the value, so we’re trying to raise my value. So when it’s time for us to do a mixtape, album, or whatever we decide to release, we’ll be worth a lot more. Somebody will have to pay us for real. That’s all we’re trying to do is build the demand up, because when we do it, it’s going to be epic.
I’ve heard some of you guys’ music from 2010 to 2011. It reminds me of vintage 8ball & MJG or something of that nature.
That’s what we’re on. We’re still living the glory days. That’s why it’s called the "Return of 4eva." We didn’t do anything but bring back the stuff that was already here. We just shined the spotlight on the South. That’s all what we want to do is put it down for the South.
I’ve never been to a Big K.R.I.T. show in person but I’ve seen several online. I've often noticed you on stage with him as his hype man. However, I also knew you rapped as well. But this has caused many people unfamiliar with your music to get the assumption that all you were was K.R.I.T.'s hype man. But on your mixtape, you show you're much more than that. Do you think it’s important for you to show people you can hold your own musically aside from collaborating with Big K.R.I.T.?
Definitely and that’s what MFxOG is all about. It’s my own soapbox. Me and K.R.I.T., we never approached it in that fashion. It was just that he had just got a deal. He was going on the road and he was like, ‘There’s a job for you to do and then you know all the songs, so come with me and let’s get out there and get this experience.’ Thank God, I was able to get out there and get the experience myself. You know, a lot of hype men get caught up with the stigma of not being an artist themselves. And that’s what it was all about. That was really kinda his idea. Even while I was out there being a hype man, I was doing my own features and working on my own music. I wasn’t boxed into being a hype man.
Is MFxOG your first mixtape release ever?
Some music that I recorded in 2005 and 2006, I released it in 2007. It was called Top of the Food Chain. I wasn’t in position to push it appropriately, so all I did was drop it online and that was it. I did my shows, but it fizzled out. Now that I know better. That’s why I’m out here doing the MFxOG tour, getting better features, and building relationships with people, so when it’s time for me to record my next project or start talking about getting a deal for an album, I’m more well-versed in the politics of the game now.
On the song, “Cadillac Music” off your mixtape, you reveal that you’re a father. How challenging is it to balance the role of being a father with your rap career?
Well, I’m a single father. I raise my sons by myself. And I have a daughter now too. Like I said on “Live,” it’s just having to explain to them that I have to leave and all that stuff. I still have to go to work. It’s just that I’m not going to work everyday like a regular parent would. The 40 hours that a person [works] all week long, I do it like on the weekend. I do it from Friday to Sunday and then I’m back. It’s all good. Everybody's with it. My son, he’s a little older now. He’s six, so he can dig it…when I gotta go to work it ain’t no big deal.
After listening to “Cadillac Music,” I became curious if you’re a big Cadillac fan. Is that your favorite automobile?
A Cadillac is like the first luxury vehicle that somebody from the ghetto would’ve saw, somebody from the country would’ve saw, because there ain’t no benzes and BMWs and shit like that in the hood. But you know, the Cadillac is like a black man’s BMW. It’s easy to obtain. All my uncles had Cadillacs. Pimps had Cadillacs.
Are you a big car fan or car collector?
I recently got into the car culture a few years ago after hanging out with Curren$y and it was like, ‘aww aite, I understand now.’ I used to not bother with things I couldn’t get but now, we’re out here, we’re working, we can go buy things now, you know, I’m real interested in the car culture.
Do you have a dream car?
I want a ‘66 Lincoln Continental. It’s just clean man. It’s the one that homeboy drove on Entourage. It’s before suicide doors and the doors still open up that way. That bitch is just clean. It’s long. It’s a man’s car.
Listening to your mixtape and some of your collaborations with the likes of Big K.R.I.T., Fiend, Smoke Dza, and Corner Boy P., to me, you give off a vibe similar to the late Pimp C but in a somewhat more lyrical fashion. How did you develop the style that you have, because it doesn’t sound like any other rap artist out right now?
I just hear the beat and I try to out-perform the people around me. Whether they’re my friends or whether I just met them, I want to earn my keep. I don’t want to just come in your house and sit on your couch and let that be it. Ima come in, I’m fixin' to vacuum, I’m fixin' to wash dishes around this bitch. I’m fixin' to go to work. That’s just the way I roll. I’m aggressive. When I walk into the room, I make noise. I want my personality to have a presence in my music.
What inspires you when you're creating music?
It could just be the day’s events. I usually go with my first or second thought when I hear a beat. Whatever sticks to me first and whatever feels right, I write about that. Life experiences. My friends’ life experiences. Things like that. I like to keep it natural. I’m not gonna get on there and do a whole lot of lying about nothing.
Who are some of your musical influences and inspirations—past and present?
Scarface. I listen to a lot of 'Face man. UGK of course. 8Ball and MJG, Ludacris, T.I., [Big] K.R.I.T. A lot of my peers like Smoke Dza. Fiend is a real mentor. Killer Mike. These are the people that I look to for inspiration when it’s time to get out here and write ghetto rap songs.
I saw in an interview that among the people you would like to work with are Three 6 Mafia and 8 ball & MJG, which are both groups from Memphis. Are you a big fan of the Memphis music scene?
Absolutely, because all that is right around Mississippi. Mississippi, we don’t have a real sound. If you’re from Mississippi, you gravitate toward north, south, east or west. Either you’re listening to a whole lot of Texas music, or a whole lot of Louisiana music, or you done went East and you’re listening to a whole lot of Atlanta music, or what’s right above you in Tennessee. So all those people were right around what I had going on.
Matter of fact on the song “Everythangs Workin',” Project Pat was supposed to be on it but we could never get it together. I wrote the song with him in mind. I called and tried to get the verse first, and he said yeah, and then I wrote the song. That’s why it's got the Playa Fly mention in it. That’s why the hook is real Project Pat-ish. But we just couldn’t get it all together. But he gave me the blessings to use his style on the hook, so it’s all good. I ain’t just out here perpetrating.
I understand you’re from Meridian, Mississippi. How was it growing up as an African-American in a state with such a racist past?
When you live in it, it’s home. It takes other people on the outside to tell you, ‘Yo, where you live is crazy.’ But I’ve never seen shit. When I was going to school, I had white friends and everything like that. Coming from me personally, the perception is what’s all messed up. It’s the history of everything that’s all messed up. It’s not as bad as people make it out to be [and] that’s why we’re always repping Mississippi so hard. You know, the same shit goes on in Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Florida. You know racism is everywhere, especially in the South. But I haven’t had anybody run up on me sideways and act crazy as far as no racism is concerned in Mississippi.
What’s something that the average person or fan doesn’t know about Big Sant that you think would be cool to share with readers?
Me and my crew, we’re some hardcore gamers man. We be on X-box Live getting it on. Right now, we’re on that Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. I’m trying to set up a match between us and all my Taylor Gang homeboys. Sledgren and Cardo, because they’re always talking shit, but I’m trying to set up something real and get some sponsors involved and donate the money to charity or something. I just wanna whoop they ass.
No NBA 2k for Big Sant?
I ain’t got the patience for it. I rather get in there and commit my random acts of violence and get off. I ain’t here for 82 games.
How has the experience been thus far with the MFxOG tour?
It’s great man. I’m going back to cities that I’ve already been through with K.R.I.T. Like with the "Live From The Underground" tour, I was the opening act. We haven’t done the whole hype man thing in over a year. Going back and seeing the same people that’s down to come to just a Big Sant show, it’s all love. I can’t describe it in words.
What’s next for you? Any new mixtapes or other endeavors in the works that you would like readers to know about?
I’m working on something that I’m gonna drop for the summer. Me and K.R.I.T. are talking about doing the Drinker’s Club tour. Ain’t nothing in stone yet, but that’s what we’re debating on right now. We all out here working.
Are you entertaining any major labels right now?
If the money's right and it’s an obligation that I can really fulfill, I ain’t got no problem with it. You hit a ceiling with being independent. Whatever I can do to advance and make more money and do more business, I’m always open for it.
Any thing else you want to add?
Everything is good. Life is good. Thank God.
Yesterday evening, I attended the University of Memphis’ 31st Annual Freedom of Information Congress that featured controversial journalist Michael Koretzky.
Titled “An Evening with Michael Koretzky,” the event was presented by the U of M's student chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (Koretzky is a board member of the national chapter).
Currently a freelance writer as well as an editor for several city magazines in South Florida, Koretzky shared his thoughts on the future of journalism and journalism education, discussed his style of reporting, opened up about being expelled from the University of Florida and getting fired from the Sun Sentinel and Florida Atlantic University's award-winning student newspaper, The University Press during the lecture.
Prior to the event, I wasn’t too familiar with Koretzky, so I didn’t know what to expect besides the possibility of him presenting some disputable information. But he turned out to be quite entertaining and informative, especially when he disclosed some of the biggest problems he has with journalism. Among the issues with the profession, he highlighted the necessity for journalists to have thicker skin and to be a little braver or just as brave as the sources they interview.
“I’m sure that any student reporter in this room has faced a situation where you’re interviewing somebody, and they’re reluctant to talk to you on record, and you’re trying to convince them that it’s okay. That everything will be fine, but we don’t do that ourselves,” Koretzky said to attendees in the U of M's University Center Theater.
"I think sometimes we spend too much time taking students with good grades who don't have the personality to do this job," he said. "This is not accounting. This is not computer programming. You have to be able to speak to people. You have to be able to stand up for yourself. You have to be able to inspire your sources."
Koretzky also touched on the lack of respect that journalists receive from citizens. He attributed this to many of us being "hypocrites."
“You know how they do those surveys every year on the most admired professions," he said. "It’s always like firefighters, Supreme Court justice, doctors, and then right down at the bottom, between used car salesman and a pimp, is the journalist. Journalists get no respect. We always say that journalists get no respect because we’re doing tough work or speaking truth to power. I don’t think that’s it. I think people hate journalists because in this country, we only hate one thing and that’s hypocrites.”
I pondered his comments. Who loves hypocrites? I can attest that not too many people do, but we all can be hypocritical at times. Stating that, I didn't understand why Koretzky would single out journalists as hypocrites. I'm not saying we're superior, but I believe there are hypocrites in every profession. I don't think one profession boasts a larger amount of hypocrites than another. As I mentioned earlier in this post, I expected that Koretzky would make some statements that were debatable, and this indeed was one of them.
Koretzky also touched on the frustrations of censorship within publications, and revealed that he was an associate editor at the world's largest jazz magazine, Jazziz, but didn't know anything about jazz. He even compared jazz to journalism.
"Jazz got its start in the whorehouses of New Orleans. Only later, these days now that you can go and get a degree in jazz from Berkley, University of Miami," he said. "Now jazz is really richy. And if you don't have a degree in jazz, you're not considered a serious recording artist. Well, I think journalism is the same way. Before there were journalism schools, there was journalism. Now that there are journalism schools, I think it helps, but I also think it can hurt."
Koretzky's popular blog, Journoterrorist, which he admitted to receiving a lot of negative feedback on due to some of the content he posts, was also something he opened up about to the audience.
“I call it 'journoterrorist' as a joke. It’s a media critique website,” he said. “I’ve only posted 31 times in years but for some reason, I have 198,000 viewers and over 500 comments. What’s really weird about that is the comments are mostly from journalism students and professors and professionals who don’t like what I wrote. And I don’t think I wrote anything incredibly evil. I just wrote my opinion of journalism in the same way that I was trained to be a journalist and cover other people.”
After completing his hour-long presentation, Koretzky took questions from the audience. With the recent increase of newspapers and magazines folding over the last few years, and me being a reporter for a print publication, I asked him his thoughts on the status of print publications in the next five to 10 years. He told me that he went from working at a national website to joining a print publication, alluding that there’s still hope for print.
“What I find is that print is alive and well when it’s niche,” Koretzky said. “The mainstream print media may not have much of a future, but there are things that you can do with print that you still can’t do online. So high quality print still works. Like magazines and smaller niche publications are doing great. Advertising is up, partly because it’s different and advertisers want something different. We still read magazines.”
Overall, Koretzky kept me entertained and my mind racing about the various topics he discussed. He caused me to truly think about journalism as a profession, what the true purpose of a journalist is, and where we stand in the future. Stating that, I'm not worried that there won't be a market for my profession, but I'm not getting too comfortable with just being a reporter. In a career like this, it's evident that you have to bring something new to the table if you desire to go a long way, because the same ole, same ole doesn't get you far. I'm thankful that I attended the SPJ's event yesterday, because I definitely left feeling more enlightened on my profession.
Brief Info on Koretzky:
He has worked at several publications including Florida’s Sun-Sentinel and freelanced for The New York Times, USA Today, and Travel & Leisure. He’s also owned several publications that include Ice Magazine and Free Press.
He also was the managing editor of the world's largest jazz magazine, Jazziz, and the adviser for FAU's student-run newspaper, the University Press. He was accused of ethical violations in 2004 by FAU's Student Government and almost fired and fined $6,000. He was let go from the publication in 2010 due to reorganization of FAU's student media. He's currently a volunteer adviser for the University Press.
At the tender age of nine, Lola “Gangsta Boo” Mitchell spit her first raps on a karaoke machine that she got as a birthday present. Years later, this childhood hobby blossomed into her delivering standout verses on gold and platinum albums, worldwide exposure, and being labeled a legend within the Southern rap movement.
Largely known for her role as the only female emcee in the male-dominated hardcore rap group Three 6 Mafia, her professional career began at the age of 16 when she signed a record deal with Prophet Entertainment (then owned by D.J. Paul and Juicy J) as a member of the group.
Three 6 Mafia’s debut album, Mystic Stylez, sold more than 100,000 records independently. This would eventually lead to the group securing a major record deal and releasing several gold and platinum albums such as Chapter 2: World Domination and When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1.
Gangsta Boo's unorthodox style on songs such as “Tear Da Club Up” and “Late Night Tip” built demand for her to release a solo album. In 1998, she did just that with her debut installment, Enquiring Minds. The album featured the successful single “Where Dem Dollas At” and reached number 15 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and number 46 on the Billboard 200. In 2001, she dropped her sophomore effort, Both Worlds *69, which reached number eight on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart and number 29 on the Billboard 200.
After parting ways with Three 6 Mafia due to monetary disputes and other issues, she released Enquiring Minds II: The Soap Opera on her independent label, Crazy Lady Entertainment in 2003. The album served as an introduction to her musical collaboration with platinum producer and fellow Memphian Drumma Boy.
Since then, Gangsta Boo’s released a series of mixtapes and has officially joined forces with Drumma Boy as part of his Drum Squad collective.
Prepping the release of her latest musical installment, It’s Game Involved, Gangsta Boo took time out to speak with me about her music career, her short tenure as curseword-free “Lady Boo," how E-40 inspired the title of her new mixtape, the difference between working with DJ Paul and Juicy J versus Drumma Boy, and a lot more.
What sparked your interest in music?
I started off writing poems. I used to write my dad all kinds of poems. [I grew] up in a musical home. My dad and mom used to sing all the time. My dad used to have a bunch of albums. He had a record player. So I used to watch him sing, and being in Memphis, Al Green lived in the neighborhood that we lived in — Coro Lake. Just growing up in the musical town of Memphis inspired me to do music.
Did your music career begin with Three 6 Mafia, or were you making a name in the city before you joined the group?
I used to be on [the late] DJ Fila’s mixtapes. He and DJ Pinky, I used to be on a lot of their mixtapes. How I ended up meeting [DJ] Paul was, I used to hang out with this girl named Kim, and she used to rap with Paul under the name of K9. She, for whatever reason, wasn’t making her studio appointments on time, and Paul heard about me through Hillcrest [High School]. I used to go to the same school he went to. I used to rap in talent shows, and I had my own little name within the Memphis rap community. There wasn’t a big a community of rappers at the time, and I was a girl. I was just in the pursuit of my music career, so I stuck with it. [DJ] Paul put me down on his mixtape, Vol. 16 [For Da Summa of ‘94] and the rest was history.
Since launching your career, you've gone from being recognized locally to nationally, and have been involved with many Gold and Platinum albums. How does it feel?
It feels great. I get to work with some of the best artists in the world. I get to be around some of the best people. I get to meet and do business with some of the greats. It’s pretty much like I’m living a movie. I’m living my dream. It’s great to do a song with Eminem. It’s great to do a song with Outkast, [and be featured on] Stankonia, one of their best albums. It’s just an honor to work with those types of geniuses, and they want to work with me as well. It’s motivational.
Shortly after the release of Three 6 Mafia's album, When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1, in 2000, you left the group, changed your name to Lady Boo, and decided to refrain from cursing in your music. What exactly caused you to leave the group and deliver a different message in your music?
I was young as hell. I was like 21 years old [when I left]. I was doing my thing. I [had been] traveling since I was like 16. So from 16 to 21 years old, seeing money and seeing stuff and going through stuff, I was extra-stressed and under pressure, and I wanted to try something different. I thought it was religion. I dipped and dabbled into it and found out it really wasn’t for me, so I decided to be more spiritual than anything and just become a better person. Have a more positive attitude, because I pretty much used to walk around with the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude like I was Tupac or something. I really wanted to kinda leave all that in the past. I started reading more books and hanging out with Pastor Del and different people who uplifted my spirit at the time. You know, during my departure from Three 6 Mafia, I was at a down place in my life, but God brought me out of the darkness.
What made you return to "Gangsta Boo" and everything that the alias embodies?
Well, I never was gospel. That’s one thing. What I said at the time was I don’t want to curse in my music anymore. That’s what I thought. I thought, ‘Aw man, I’m about to be clean.’ I guess I was going through so much that I just wanted to get away from anything negative, anything dark. And what converted me back to Gangsta Boo wasn’t necessarily because I’m gangsta hardcore street, but [to me, gangsta] means "Getting a necessary greatness stimulating the abnormal." I get a kick out of it, which is the greatness part of it, when I stimulate the abnormal, which is people like Outkast, Yelawolf, Eminem, and Lil’ Jon. All those people are abnormal. They’re not normal people, so when I stimulate them, I think it’s a greatness and that’s gangsta. So I just decided that that fits me better then the whole Lady Boo thing, which is still in me. It’s Crazy Lady Gangsta Boo. It’s Miss Lola. It’s Miss Yea Hoe. I got a whole bunch of different code names. As you grow, you make decisions, [and] when you’re young, you make decisions.
You’ve had the opportunity to be on both a major and independent label. Which do you prefer?
It’s just the right situation. Of course when you’re major, you’ve got more of a major push, but sometimes you can be sat on the shelf. I know a lot of people with major deals whose albums flopped. They’re doing better off their mixtapes. I think whatever situation fits you the best is the best situation for you. For me, it’s the same thing. Whatever situation fits me the best, I think is a good situation. Right now, I’m affiliated with Drumma Boy, Drum Squad. That’s like my brother from another mother. We’re so close. And I have my own movement with my DJ, Speakerfoxxx. She’s a dope DJ out of Atlanta, and we’re working on an indie-EP together.
How did you develop a relationship with Drumma Boy?
Well, he was one of the first producers I got with when I left Three 6 Mafia. He was about 17 at the time, maybe 18. I went to his mom’s house in Cordova. He was so excited to meet me. I autographed his stuff.
He never judged me when I was considering going 100 percent clean in my music. He was still giving me beats. He was loyal throughout the whole, ‘Oh, you messing with Gangsta Boo? She washed up. Oh, Boo ain’t shit.’ He stayed through all of that, so I just feel like me and him have some sort of loyal connection, and that’s why I’m down with him. I respect his movement. Dude is a young brother, and he’s doing a lot of positive things for his city. I acknowledge that and I love having his energy around me. He’s a creative genius and he’s going to end up being one of the greats.
You've had the opportunity to work extensively with both DJ Paul and Juicy J, as well as Drumma Boy in the studio. Is there a correlation between working with the two?
I honestly miss working with [DJ] Paul and Juicy [J] in the studio. As producers, they’re some of the greats, just to be real. And does Drumma remind me of them? Uh, yeah but Drumma Boy reminds me of Drumma Boy. When I’m in the studio with him, I don’t think about Paul and Juicy, maybe because it’s been so long. I’ve been with Drumma pretty much since 2001. But in comparison to Paul and Juicy, I would pretty much consider them on the same level.
As far as production, I’m pretty content with Drumma Boy. I’m about to do some business with SpaceGhostPurrp. I’m working with Lex Luger, so I’m really not missing any type of beats as far as from Paul and Juicy. I’m working with some of the greats.
Did you ever think you would be the first female rapper from Memphis to gain national exposure and reach the plateau that you have?
I actually thought I would be bigger by now. I see way more things to come. This is like the beginning, and I feel like I’m finally about to get my just due this year. I don’t know where the feeling is coming from, but I’m loving it. I feel like it’s going to be a good year when I drop this mixtape. I didn’t drop any mixtapes last year. I was just doing a lot of features. This time around, I want to drop my own mixtape, It’s Game Involved. It’s dropping on livemixtapes.com. It’s going to be featuring up-and-coming producers. It’s going to be featuring Crunchy Black, Future, Drum Squad, Young Buck. I’m looking forward to what I got going on.
We’re going to do the whole tour thing. Like I said, working with Speakerfoxxx is giving me a dope advantage because she’s a fly white girl and she definitely taps into the hippie market and the indie market very well. And I gained a lot of new fans working with Yelawolf and Eminem [on the song "Throw It Up"]. That’s why I say I still feel so new, because a lot of folks still don’t know who I am. I’m still gaining new fans, and it’s a real good feeling. I have so much more room to grow. So, yeah I saw it and I see it being even bigger.
What inspired you to title the mixtape, It’s Game Involved?
I couldn’t come up with the perfect title, and I didn’t want to force a title. I just wanted it to come to me. So you know, I did a song with E-40, and he was doing an interview. They were like, ‘You got a song with Gangsta Boo. Yo, the Boo is back.’ He was bigging me up. Telling me how I’m smashing on a lot of the current females right now. And after he finished bigging me up, he said, ‘and when she do it, it’s game involved.’ I was like, 'bam that’s my title right there.'
What exactly can fans expect from you with this new mixtape?
That Gangsta Boo they want. Ms. Yea Hoe. A lot of the ‘Yea Hoe’ ad-lib chants. A lotta classic songs. I brought Crunchy Black on there. You’re gonna have a lot of classic, great music. And it’s going to be totally different from my indie-EP. That’s going to be for when I tour and do festivals like Coachella, but the mixtape is going to be for when I perform in the 'hood. It’s for my brothers in jail. My brothers and sisters in the struggle. It’s going to be the typical classic Gangsta Boo people have been fiending for, because my sound that I’ve had for so long is obviously still current, so it’s like I’m not missing a beat. I’m still current. It’s like I’m superior. And the mixtape is going to be some real superior queen shit.
When will the mixtape be released?
It’s scheduled to drop in May. It’ll be right in time for Memphis in May, and I’m having a really dope exclusive mixtape release party in Memphis. I’m doing it in conjunction with the Memphis Jookers. It’s going to be a dope gangsta-walking ass mixtape.
Who is Gangsta Boo a fan of within the Memphis music scene right now, and what did you grow up listening to?
I’m an extreme fan of Young Dolph. I like P-London. I also have some young cats I’m working with out of Memphis. They gangsta walk. But as far as who I see doing their thing next out of Memphis outside of Drumma Boy, since he’s pretty much established, is Young Dolph.
As far as what I grew up listening to: 8ball & M.J.G., Tela, Skinny Pimp, Ska-Face Al Kapone, Al Green, Isaac Hayes. All that Memphis shit.
Outside of music, I understand you’re active in the Memphis community.
Yeah, I wish I could be more active. This past Thanksgiving, I hung out with Stephen Brown at Logic Church. I helped them feed the homeless.
I’m also in the process of organizing some things where I can speak to women just to encourage them. The domestic violence situation is getting out of hand, and I just want to encourage women to get out of that situation. You don’t really need to be with a guy if he’s putting his hands on you. I want to be more involved in that.
And I want to be more involved in just saving Memphis. So anyway I can help, I’m putting it out there. I’m easy to reach. I follow Memphis Gun Down [an initiative launched by Mayor A C Wharton to help lower youth gun violence]. I’m just active in anything that has to do with bringing more peace to my city. More things to come. You know, free shows. Just whatever I can do to help, I’m down.
You participated in this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) event in Austin, Texas. How was the experience?
SXSW was so fun. This was my second year performing. I just love the love, because there are so many different genres of music. There are so many different [races] of people. And it’s all of your fellow artists. All of the bands. All of the free showcases. It’s just dope. I saw Trinidad James perform a couple times. It was so fun, because me and him are actually friends. I knew him before he blew up. It was dope watching him do his thing in front of the masses of people. I got a chance to catch up with Yo Gotti and his shows.
I saw you tweet that you got a chance to meet Ghostface Killah at SXSW, which is one of my favorite rappers. I know that was a cool experience.
Meeting Ghostface Killah was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I’ve been a long time Wu-Tang fan, so meeting him and getting the love that he gave me back and just still seeing him do his thing was great. It’s always an honor to see your fellow musicians, especially from the generation that I came up in still out looking well and doing their thing but also still getting the respect that they deserve. Shout-out to all of the new cats, but at the same time, if it wasn’t for people like me or the Wu-Tang Clans, the Three 6 Mafias, the 8ball & MJGs, there probably wouldn’t even be the who’s who of now, so it’s always good to be around veterans of the game.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
All of the nonprofit organizations, if you ever need me to speak at a high school, college, or church about my testimony, my life story feel free to contact me at (901) 492-1240.
Also, I consult new and old talent in entertainment. My connects will save them time and money. Contact me for consulting monthly fees.
Lastly, I want to say rest in peace to my grandma. She used to love the Memphis Flyer. Grandma Mitchell, rest in peace. I wish you were still alive to see all of the success I’m about to get, but I know you’ll be with me in spirit. I also want to say rest in peace to Natina Reed of the group Blaque. Wish she was still here to witness the stuff that’s about to go on with me.
A native of Millington, Christopher is the front man for the band, which is composed of Caucasian members excluding himself. The group is presently signed to Speak-rRr-Freak Entertainment (pronounced Speaker Freak), of which Christopher is a co-CEO. They're currently receiving a positive response to their track, "Blown Away,” which focuses on the battle between lust and true love and the pain it can cause.
Although different from most of the music I listen to, “Blown Away” managed to grab my attention the first time I heard it. The song’s passionate and heartfelt chorus grips the emotion of the listener. "It must be the lust, the heat, the pleasure just makes me weak. I make love to you another day, you're so addictive I get blown away. Blown away, blown away, you're so seductive I get blown away. Blown away, blown away you're so addictive I get blown away," Christopher passionately roars on the chorus. The song's soulful but rock-infused melody adds to its depth. Its heavy guitar riffs and drums provide a smooth balance to the song's sincere lyrics.
Christopher said the song and its video are both inspired by an abusive relationship that his friend experienced and her unwillingness to leave because of the strong physical connection she felt with her partner. This unfortunately resulted in her death.
“[The song is] about being in any type of situation that’s not good for you,” he said. “I had a friend about 10 years ago who had a boyfriend. We worked at the same company. They were always arguing and fighting. I used to tell her, ‘I don’t like him. It’s something about him.’ I was trying to tell her, 'That dude is going to end up hurting you.’ And one day, we were at work and they called me in, told me to sit down, and let me know that she was killed by her boyfriend. That’s where that song and video came from. Now you see all of this domestic violence when you turn on the TV, and that’s what that song is about. That’s why I say, ‘The lust, the heat, the pleasure just makes me weak.’ It’s about being in a situation that you know you shouldn’t be in, but for some reason, something’s keeping you there.”
Aside from J. Chris, the band is composed of lead and rhythm guitarists Josh Barnett and Chris Payne, bass guitarist Josh Norman, and Brandon Parsons on drums.
"Blown Away," isn't the band's only track receiving a good response. Harvest Mill is also gaining popularity from their rap and rock mixed song “Make a Move,” featuring Pyu, another co-CEO of Speak-rRr-Freak Entertainment.
"It's calling for people to quit looking at a situation that they can help change. It's time to make a move," Christopher said.
Another track is the passionate “Shot to My Vein,” which compares life struggles to sickness with music being the antibiotic cure.
“Chase” is another heartfelt track, which centers on love and deceit.
"It's about being in love and finding out the other person is unfaithful," Christopher said. "That moment when you have proof, and you want to hurt them bad, but you talk yourself out of it. That psycho moment!"
“Harvest Mill falls into more of the contemporary rock genre, and we kind of coined the phrase 'urban alternative.' There’s an urban influence on a lot of the music,” Christopher said. “It’s rock now, but it still has the urban influence. Even though we’re rocking with guitars, we still give you that beat to bob your head to.”
Prior to experimenting with rock, Christopher sang gospel (he's the child of two pastors) and R&B and also engineered and produced for rap artists such as La Chat, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, Kinfolk Kia Shine, and others. However, he said none of those genres provided him with an outlet to express his darkest emotions like rock does.
“When my friend died, I had no other way to express myself but through [music],” he said. “We were very good friends. When stuff like that happened, R&B didn’t do it. Gospel would’ve helped, but rock was a way for me to get those hard feelings out. [The band's] music is about our struggles in life. Music is a way for me to express my darkest thoughts in a constructive way where I don’t hurt myself or hurt somebody else. Sometimes you need an outlet to get some things out, and that’s what Harvest Mill does for me. [We’re a] young, energetic band that likes to have fun on stage, but we’re talking about some things that some people may not want to talk about.”
Christopher said he’s not worried about taking a different musical path than some of his African-American peers. He also aims to help influence African-American youth to explore their diversity and experiment with genres, such as rock, that may be outside their comfort zone.
"Everybody’s jumping into rap, because they think it’s a means to make money and they don’t understand even rap takes work,” he said. “No matter what you do, you’re going to have to work at it. I want black kids to get more involved [in genres other] than just rap and R&B. I want them to start seeing that there’s more music out there...there are different things that we can do. We don’t all have to strive to be Lil’ Wayne. You can strive to be your own person.”
Harvest Mill is presently working on their latest single, which is currently untitled. The group plans to release an EP by the summer. Speak-rRr-Freak Entertainment is currently planning its "Speak-rRr-Fest" on June 29th at 1884 Lounge inside Minglewood Hall. The event will be a cross-genre show featuring the label's rap and rock artists.
Christopher isn’t new to music. In the early 90s, he was part of the group Adagio, who were commissioned by the public relations firm Walker and Associates to write a jingle for McDonald's. He also used to own the production company, LauRog/Guillotine, along with partner Brandon “Ghostchild" Hunt (who currently owns the label, Space Hood Music Group).
Check out the McDonald's commercial featuring Adagio below.
Free after spending nearly nine years in prison, Tab “Turk” Virgil doesn’t seem to have missed a step on Blame It On The System, his first post-incarceration musical release.
Hosted by mixtape heavyweight DJ Holiday, the 15-song installment is more of an audio-biography of Turk’s life. On the song “Reckless,” he gives listeners a walk through of his battle with heroin addiction. He provides thoughts on corruption in the judicial system with the title track “Blame It On the System” and reveals the love he has for his wife on “Anything.” On the mixtape, Turk also reconnects with his Hot Boys brethren Juvenile, B.G. and Lil' Wayne (which released three albums together and sold more than a million records during their stint with Cash Money Records) on the remix to his song, “Zip It,” a track that criticizes those who cooperate with the police to send someone to jail.
Turk shared his thoughts on the mixtape, his first release in almost a decade. In 2004, he was sentenced to 12 years for second-degree attempted murder after he allegedly shot a sheriff's deputy during a drug raid at Memphis' Hickory Pointe Apartment complex. He was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and an unlawful user addicted to a controlled substance in possession of a firearm.
During our conversation, Turk also classified what he considers to be snitching, revealed his thoughts on fellow Hot Boys member B.G.'s situation (who was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2012 after pleading guilty to two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice), marriage, possibly releasing a movie with superstar actor and director Tyler Perry, and upcoming releases he has in the works.
How do you feel about the response you’ve received from Blame It On the System, which is your first musical release in almost a decade?
Turk: You know it’s all love. We finally reached the 25,000 download mark on Datpiff.com. It’s steadily growing. A lot of people are starting to follow the movement. It’s a blessing to come back after all these years and get the love and support that I’ve been getting. I’m looking forward to dropping three more [mixtapes] before June and doing an album.
What were you trying to convey by titling the mixtape, "Blame It On the System?"
It could go a whole lotta ways. At the time, I just felt that it was only right by me being gone so long to let the people know that I’m going to blame it on the system for the reason I’ve been gone so long and I shouldn’t. I’m gonna blame it on the system for the reason I’m balling right now when they thought I shouldn’t. Everything that’s going on in my life, I’m just looking back at them and basically just [saying] that I appreciate y'all for giving me a second chance.
Some of my favorite songs on the mixtape are "Fast Life," "Reunited with the Block," "Reckless," and "Anything." What are some of yours?
I like “Reckless.” It’s about my life. That’s the truest song. It’s heartfelt. It comes straight from the heart. I’m about to shoot a video for that. And “Rack Attack.” Of course “Zip It” and the all the songs on there. I put my heart into it, so I like all of them.
On the title track, "Blame It On the System," you mention that “corruption within the judicial system will never stop.” You also rap such lines as, “A black man can kill a black man, black man kill a white man they’re losing” and “You’re guilty 'til proven innocent.” Can you elaborate on these statements and why you feel this way?
For people who say the system is fair, [they] don’t know and haven’t ever been in it. If they really knew how it was, some jurors wouldn’t even find the people guilty, because they’re the biggest liars, the cheaters, the criminals. They’re the ones. But at the end of the day, we have to take responsibility for our actions because they don’t make us do anything. It’s just that they control the world—the government. I just put it on front street and try to let the people know if we don’t watch what we’re doing, we’re going to get caught up in that system and this is what it’s gonna be. I had to learn the hard way doing my time—eight years, eight months, 16 days. I refuse to go back down that path, so it’s like therapy for me to let the people know how corrupted the system is and move forward at the same time.
What is a message you would like to convey to the youth that you think a lot of rappers are refraining to tell them?
A lot of youngsters out here, they’re popping mollies [Molly is a drug slang term used to describe the purest form of MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy]. They think that it’s cool. When I was coming up, I thought heroin and cocaine was cool. We were glorifying it in my city. I just want to let people know all drugs are bad for you. Anything that’s altering your mind. You can’t think for yourself. It ain’t good for you. You need to leave it alone and let it go. And as far as toting these guns out there, if you don’t have no permit and you get caught up in the system, you become a convicted felon, you catch you another charge, you get caught with even a bullet that’s five to 10 years mandatory. Just know the law. Know what you’re doing. If you choose to be hardheaded, you don’t wanna stop it, just be willing to accept the consequences and zip it. Don’t take everybody else down with you.
It's interesting that you mention that, because I was going to ask you about the song "Zip It" on your mixtape, which basically criticizes people who cooperate with law enforcement to incarcerate someone else in exchange for less jail time.
Yeah, people cooperating with the law, I don’t respect that. That’s why I had to come with a song like that, because like I say, it goes both ways with "Blame It On the System…even the people who are getting in the system and they want to help them. We’re gonna blame that on the system, because that’s how they got it set up. And a lot of people think that’s cool but it’s not, because if you get on their side and you help them that still puts your family at risk. Now you got people who wanna kill your family because of a selfish act that you did. You want to tell on somebody and you didn’t have to. You could’ve just took your lick.
In today’s society, different things can be classified as snitching. What do you personally consider to be snitching?
Collaborating with the police, period, to me is snitching. Any kind of assistance to the government is snitching. Snitching goes all kind of ways. Just hush your mouth and do you. Mind your business, and you won’t be a snitch.
Listening to the mixtape, something that stood out to me was your openness about your relationship status. Throughout the mixtape, you make several mentions about your wife (Memphis rapper Emani Da Made Woman), and the love you have for her, especially on the song “Everything.” And even on “Thank Me,” which is a song that caters to the ladies. What drives you to be so vocal about your relationship status in your music, which is different than the average entertainer who usually chooses to keep that portion of their life private?
When I went through my situation, she was the one that was there the whole time, so it’s only right for me to share my love and show my appreciation. I let the world know that there's nobody before her. It’s just real love. I don’t do the things that I used to do. I don’t cheat. I don’t go out and mess with all the girls. There's a lot of respect and loyalty in my relationship.
Transitioning from there, you mention B.G. several times throughout the mixtape, and he even appears on some songs. What are your thoughts on his situation? And have you been in communication with him, or had the chance to see him?
Me and B.G. communicate all the time on Corrlinks [an email system used by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to allow inmates to communicate with the outside world], so we talk, and he calls on the phone and we talk to each other. I send him pictures. You know, it is what it is. He took his lick. He could’ve took a lot of people down, but he chose to take his lick and the consequences to that was them trying to give him a lot of time. Sometimes that's the case, but he still has his dignity. He still has his pride. He’s not labeled as a snitch. So you know, some people just stand for that man, and they’ll do the time. It might seem crazy, but it’s just the principle that you live by when you are a certain type of person.
You have some big name features on the mixtape from Lil' Wayne to Juvenile to Maybach Music Group's Gunplay, Memphis' own Lil' Lody and Calico Jonez, and many more. But one feature that really caught my attention was legendary New Orleans rap group U.N.L.V. They're one of my favorite Southern rap groups. How did that collaboration come about?
Tec-9 gave me a call. Actually, ["Uptown"] was a song that they wanted me to get on, but I told them that I was about to drop my mixtape and I wanted to pay homage, because I looked up to U.N.L.V. when I was coming up in New Orleans. They were like the 2pacs in New Orleans, along with Soulja Slim. And just to have a song with them was an honor. [Tec-9] gave me the blessing to put it on my mixtape and I was able to release it. Shout out to [Lil'] Ya for that, Tec, and rest in peace Yella Boy. I always wanted to do a song with U.N.L.V. That was my first record with them ever.
[U.N.L.V. was one of the first groups on the Cash Money Records roster. They had hits such as "Mac Melph Calio," "6th and Baronne," and "Drag 'Em in the River," which was a diss song directed at fellow New Orleans rapper Mystikal. Turk came to the record label shortly before their exit.]
Looking forward from the release of the mixtape, what’s next on your plate?
I got the Louisianimals Vol. 1 mixtape. That’s everybody in Louisiana who has a movement and is doing something. That’s Louisiana Cash, Dee-1, Fox, Webbie, Lil' Boosie — he's about to touch down. Just everybody in Louisiana. We’re pushing on that. It’s about to come out in the next 60 days. And we got the Blame It On the System 1.5 and we got the Make Love, Make Money with me and my wife.
Are you still pushing your YNT Empire independently, or are you coming close to signing to a major label?
A few A&R’s have been talking about me. Giving me a few phone calls for some major companies. I’m not gonna mention their names, because ain’t nothing on paper right now, but everything is being talked about. They’re watching my movement. Their eyes are on me.
What about your book, The AutoThugography of Turk, and your movie RECKLESS, which is based on your life story. Are they both scheduled to be released in 2013?
Right now, I’m trying to get with Tyler Perry on my movie. He’s from New Orleans, so we’re trying to do big things together. So I’ma see how that go with RECKLESS. And the book will be out real soon. It'll be out this year.
I also read that you’re reaching back to those in prison with your magazine, YNT Incarcerated. Can you tell me a little about that?
It’s just like a magazine movement behind prison. A lot of my guys I left in prison. They had a lot of things they wanted to get out but couldn’t. By me being in a situation and understanding the struggle behind bars, I told them that I’ll get behind them and support it. So I got some guys who are writers in prison telling their story. We’re going to put their stories out and hopefully we can help the youth, so they won't go down the path that we already went down, and these stories can turn into movies. That’s the plan for the future. Just taking everything that was negative and turning it into something positive.
For a decade, the Southern Entertainment Awards (SEAs) has provided independent rap artists, producers, DJs, event promoters, and music fanatics with the chance to enjoy panel discussions, artist showcases, and a star-filled awards ceremony.
Everyone from the likes of Def Jam Records’ Big K.R.I.T., Grand Hustle’s B.O.B., Southern rap heavyweight Gucci Mane, Memphis' own Yo Gotti and platinum producer Drumma Boy, and even female rap superstar Nicki Minaj have graced the event with their presence over the years.
Although it's been held in Memphis for the last two years, the SEAs will celebrate its 10th annual conference and award show in Nashville (the city where it began) from March 21st-24th at the Embassy Suites and Marathon Music Works, among other venues.
“We’re embarking on 10 years. Not too many other events can say that,” said Janiro Hawkins, co-founder of the SEAs. “The Source Awards didn’t even last five years, so it’s been a blessing that after 10 years of hard work and labor and red tape, we’re still here, because it’s not easy for African-American males who are entrepreneurs to do what we’re doing in any city.”
Guest panelists and performers for the event will include Big K.R.I.T., Memphis native and Interscope Records signee Don Trip, Grammy Award-winning producer/songwriter Syience, and others.
“From the conference, [independent artists and DJs] can expect to get some guidance and direction on what their next step needs to be,” Hawkins said. “In addition to that, they can network with some key individuals and DJs throughout the market to build long-lasting relationships. The conference will have different topics up for discussion on a panel that individuals can sit in on. They can learn about marketing, how to get songs on radio, how to protect their music, and earn money from their music legally.”
Although the event's primary objective is to help launch the careers of aspiring entertainers in the Southern region, the SEAs is most notable for its award ceremony. Some of its past nominees, winners and performers include Yo Gotti, Drumma Boy, Big K.R.I.T., Gucci Mane, Kinfolk Kia Shine, La Chat, and Gangsta Boo.
During the ceremony, awards are provided in more than 30 categories that include “Mixtape DJ of the Year,” “Number One DJ in the South,” “Producer of the Year,” “Magazine of the Year,” and “Website of the Year.”
Hawkins expects to have more than 750 people attend the 10th annual conference and award show. The price to attend the awards is $50, and the conference price is $50 as well.
Hawkins said the idea to create the SEAs came about after he and partner DJ Infamous dealt with so many independent artists and DJs at their music store, Platinum Bound Records, and noticed the lack of appreciation they receive for their hard work.
“Month after month, year after year, we saw that they weren’t being acknowledged for their work and contributions to music, especially the DJs, anywhere in the south,” Hawkins said. “Like from a grassroots, independent function. So what we did was look at the DJ in all the different facets of music that they touch and have an influence in. And that’s kinda how we branched out our categories. … it was based on what the DJ was instrumental in doing. That’s what started the event 10 years ago. We wanted to create a way for people to show their appreciation for a lot of these indie artists and DJs and individuals that are out here creating the music who ultimately may go on to become the next A-list artist. “
Since launching, the SEAs estimate to have impacted the careers of more than 5,000 nominees within the southern region. The first ever SEA event took place in Nashville in 2004. Since then, the event has migrated from various casino resorts in Tunica, Mississippi to both the Cannon Center and Cook Convention Center in Memphis, before returning to its birthplace in Nashville.
Hawkins said the company decided to bring the SEAs back to Nashville due to lack of support and assistance from the Memphis Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, city government, and the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission. An increase in Memphis hotel rates was a contributing factor to the move as well.
On the last night of Black History Month, more than 100 students and city residents gathered in the Hardie Auditorium at Rhodes College to hear world-renowned artist, producer, and actor David Banner share his thoughts on the state of hip-hop.
As I stepped into the room, I noticed a variety of ages and races in attendance. We all waited patiently for Banner to arrive. I've seen several videos of him lecturing online, so I was excited to hear what he had to say.
Banner received a standing ovation when he walked into the room clad in dark slacks, a button-up shirt, scarf, and dress shoes — a contrast to the apparel he wore during the days he released such hits as “Like a Pimp” featuring Lil’ Flip, “Play,” and “Get like Me” featuring Chris Brown and Yung Joc.
“Don’t believe anything that I say. Just don’t dispute it,” Banner said after introducing himself to the audience. “Go research it first.”
For nearly an hour, Banner touched on hip-hop, its correlation to slavery, and how it has and continues to affect society — primarily the African-American community. He alluded to how blacks have gone "from whips and chains" during slavery to "chains and whips" (slang for necklaces and cars) being one of the primary messages that the race conveys in hip-hop music.
I thought about the statement for a second and concurred. Today's rap music is largely infested with materialism.
Banner said hip-hop in its current form could be compared to an American plantation. He broke it down to three sections: the house slave, yard slave, and field slave. In other words, the house slave is the artist who has obtained super-stardom. The yard slave is someone that has achieved some commercial success, but is pushing for the same prosperity as the house slave. And the field slave is more so the independent artist that’s working to maintain relevance and their own form of success.
“The plantation owner is the record label,” Banner explained. “When you get a record deal, [a lot of people] think that’s the biggest thing in the world. If you get $200,000, and you’re not used to making $100 a week, that’s the world. ... I had ‘Stuntin is a habit,' [the chorus for hit song 'Get Like Me']. I was number one in the world. I had millions. But I didn’t feel right. I couldn’t sleep right. My friends were saying, ‘You got a Bentley. All these movie star girls want to be with you. What’s wrong?’”
During the lecture, Banner also opened up about his recent absence from releasing music, which he attributed to him thinking he was part of the reason why so many African Americans fell victim to the street life, materialism, avoided receiving a decent education, among other issues.
“Hip-hop was supposed to be a reflection of the streets, [but] hip-hop [today] doesn’t touch on real situations… things that are really taking place in the streets,” he expressed passionately. “The one thing that I do like about hip-Hop is it brings every race of people together.”
Other things Banner touched during the lecture was how many Caucasians have become more comfortable with using the “N-word” in today’s society versus a decade ago, how youth know more than their parents suspect, the idolization of entertainers versus successful people in other professions, and how it’s become cool to encourage drug usage.
He also expressed his thoughts on how people such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Pimp C (who allegedly died from respiratory depression due to an overdose of promethazine and codeine, but is rumored to have possibly been poisoned), and Medgar Evers, lost their lives because they were trying to improve the conditions and knowledge of not just African-Americans, but the oppressed and underprivileged population as a whole (he mentioned famous electrical inventor Nikola Tesla as well).
Shortly before ending his lecture and taking questions from the audience, Banner asked everyone to close their eyes before inquiring, “How do you really feel about black people?”
“The way that we change the world is by changing ourselves,” he said. “If we change ourselves, we inherently change the world."
After hearing him speak, I felt so enlightened and encouraged. It's amazing how one person can have a positive impact on so many people. I hope to have the opportunity to hear him speak again in the near future. Maybe even have a personal chat with him and receive some helpful advice on life. Only time will tell.
For readers who aren't too familiar with David Banner, here's a little history:
Banner has released six solo albums, as well as a collaborative effort with producer 9th Wonder titled Death of a Pop Star. Outside of rap, he scored the lead dance sequence of the 2011 remake of Footloose. He wrote, produced and arranged the song for Gatorade's 2010 "Gatorade Has Evolved" TV ad campaign, the 2011 Mercedes tribute single, "Benz" which also featured U.K. singers Estelle and Daley, and much more.
He’s also starred in movies such as Black Snake Moan, Stomp the Yard 2, Days of Wrath, and The Experiment.
In November 2006, Banner was awarded a Visionary Award by the National Black Caucus of the State Legislature in recognition of his charity work following Hurricane Katrina. In September 2007, he testified before Congress at a hearing about racism and misogyny in hip-hop music titled "From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images." He defended his use of offensive language.
Banner recently received a key to his native city Jackson, Mississippi. He’s currently planning the release of his first film.
February is a special month for many reasons. Couples go out of their way to express their love for one another on Valentine’s Day. Everybody looks forward to the first Sunday of February to see the Super Bowl, even if only for the commercials and the halftime performances. And, of course, February is the shortest month of the year.
February is also a month designated to recognizing and celebrating the contributions of African Americans to the world.
In 1926, Carter G. Woodson launched "Negro History Week” in February, between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln, to acknowledge historical African-American figures. This later evolved into an entire month dedicated to black history in 1976.
Being an African American myself, I thought it was only right to share my own thoughts on Black History Month.
As a kid, I remember participating in events at my school for Black History Month. The most memorable was a speech I presented to my elementary school in Chattanooga about Frederick Douglass and how he escaped from slavery and later became a leader of the abolitionist movement.
As I got older, I learned more about historical black figures such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Harriet Tubman, Dr. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Huey P. Newton, and countless others who made courageous efforts to help African Americans enjoy the same rights as Caucasians.
In light of that, taking time out to learn about the contributions that my ancestors made to benefit my peers and I during Black History Month each year was somewhat of an obligation to me.
Unfortunately, this year I didn’t get a chance to do that. I didn’t attend any Black History Month events, nor did I increase my knowledge on local figures who played a role in sculpting black history. I could attribute this to a hectic work schedule, having to find a new residence, laziness, the list goes on; all are excuses.
However, I did speak with Arwin Smallwood, an associate professor of history at the University of Memphis. He’s also a distinguished lecturer on the efforts of Carter G. Woodson.
Smallwood took time out to provide me with a brief lesson on Black History Month and its significance among African Americans and society as a whole.
“When it started in the early 20th century, African Americans knew very little about their history,” Smallwood revealed to me. “During slavery, the vast majority of African Americans were slaves — as high as 95 percent. Most slave states didn’t allow for blacks to be educated. They couldn’t learn to read or write and certainly could not study their own history. So coming out of slavery, during Reconstruction and the early part of the Jim Crow-era, most African Americans were catching up. They were learning the basics — how to read, how to write...they were completely unaware of the contributions of African people and their connections to Africa, much less their contributions even during slavery to the American south and the country.
“You have to understand in a segregated south, most white children weren’t learning anything about African Americans beyond the fact that they were slaves and that they were ignorant and basically had not contributed anything to southern society, American society, much less world society,” Smallwood said. “Black History Month had a purpose. [It] was first to educate, enlighten, and inform African Americans who could then go out and inform others about the contributions of African Americans. And then as we come out of Jim Crow and segregation, it certainly had a great purpose, because the first time that many Americans in the south and really all over the country learned anything about any African-American history was during that month.”
Smallwood informed me that a dilemma among the African-American race is that a large portion of us have limited awareness to the contributions that many of our peers have made for us on a local level.
“I think that it’s important for local communities and local people to celebrate the contributions of those who are around them,” he said. “A lot of times, we tend to teach history from the top down —just the great figures: Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Ida B. Wells, etc., and we often forget about the foot soldier in the Civil War who made up the [more than] 2,000,000 soldiers who fought and died to free millions of African Americans or the foot soldiers who were fighting in the trenches of World War I, who came home and might’ve been lynched or burned alive just because [they] had an uniform on. But these people are history makers too, and had it not been for their collective efforts, we wouldn’t have had the Civil Rights movement, [or] the contributions of black soldiers in World War I, World War II, the Civil War, [and the] Revolutionary War. I think it’s important, during the month, in the African-American community that we acknowledge the contributions of our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and our sisters and brothers and people who are around us everyday who are helping to transform the city of Memphis and the country.”
Follow me on Twitter: @Lou4President
Facebook: Louis Goggans