Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy is the headliner at this weekend's annual K97 Summer Jam concert at the Mud Island Amphitheatre, but I'm more intrigued by a couple of Mid-South artists on this vast bill of hip-hop and R&B acts.
Memphis-bred singer K. Michelle is one of the most promising new R&B artists to emerge over the past year or so. Signed to Jive records in 2008, she emerged as an R. Kelly protegee, appearing on his 2010 album Love Letter, and has released a series of mixtapes and singles in advance of a debut album -- Pain Medicine -- slated for later this year. This big-voiced singer's 2011 single "How Many Times" is one of the year's R&B highlights so far.
But the surest shot here is probably Big K.R.I.T., a young rapper from Meridian, Mississippi, who has built a name via two terrific mixtape albums - last year's K.R.I.T. Wuz Here and this year's Return of 4Eva. A lone street poet-hustler type but pointedly not "gangsta" - "I ain't rap about dope nor did I sell it/I guess the story of a country boy just ain't compelling," he raps on "Dreamin'" - K.R.I.T. is a sure-footed, downnhome-flavored rapper in the tradition of Memphis' 8Ball & MJG, fellow Mississippian David Banner, and early Outkast. And if the terrific K.R.I.T set I caught at Austin's SXSW Music Festival earlier this year is a good indication, this up-and-comer is already among the top tier of modern rappers as a live performer.
Other artists slated to appear include Bobby Valentino, Yung Joc, Rocko, OG Boo Dirty, Pleasure P, and Romeo. The K97 Summer Jam is at the Mud Island Ampitheatre on Saturday, July 23rd. Tickets are $25 - Chris Herrington