8Ball Gets Personal 

Memphis rapper Don Trip broke through last year with "Letter to My Son," but this year hip-hop seems to be having something of a father-daughter moment.

First, Jay-Z paid musical tribute to new daughter Blue Ivy Carter. Then New York rap legend Nas released the great single "Daughters" a few months ago, riffing on the difficulty and complications of raising a daughter — the frequent absences in a travel-heavy profession, the urge to ward off boys that remind you too much of yourself, the potential incompatibility of the example you try to set in the home and the one you sometimes set in your music. "They say the coolest players, the foulest heartbreakers in the world/God gets us back/He makes us have precious little girls," he raps.

Last month, Atlanta rapper Killer Mike talked about raising his daughter in a funny, thoughtful interview with National Public Radio: "I have two daughters now that I'm trying to grow with. I have matured as a man to understand where my suspicion of women comes from and how that has everything to do with me and nothing to do with them. I have to deal with that. I'm blessed to have grown to this point ... because I have ... two daughters that challenge me constantly to rethink these things," he said.

And the most affecting moment on Life's Quest, the solo album from Memphis rap pioneer 8Ball, due to be released this week, concerns his one and only daughter, 12-year-old Layla.

Speaking by phone from Atlanta, where he spends a lot of time despite maintaining a primary residence locally, 8Ball relates that he has five kids, ages ranging from 8 to 17. They all factor into his new album's title track, but the highlight is when 8Ball addresses his daughter: "Layla, my only lady, please respect yourself/And know that having babies ain't the only way to share your love/And I know my music might confuse you but you gotta be strong/My life's a mirror and reflections come out in my song."

"I know that she listens to my music whether I want her to hear it or not, because we live in an age where it's hard to keep stuff like that away from kids," 8Ball says. "And then I travel so much. And the people she's around, not to mention she has three older brothers. So I know she hears the music. That lyric was inspired by her being a young lady and not wanting her to take what I say [in my music] the wrong way."

"Life's Quest" isn't the only song on the new album with a focus on the family. 8Ball credits an uncle for the wild true-crime story he tells on "Lucky's Theme," and "Good Days" reminisces on family memories from "summertime 1985" before flash-forwarding to a moment when a cousin he used to play with as a kid comes to a bad end.

"That particular verse is something I've done before, but I wanted to bring it back for that song," 8Ball says. "That particular incident touched my family and that whole song is about people in my life that have had these tragedies, but I'm still here to talk about it. It's hard to keep living after certain things happen to some people. You're a mom and your oldest son gets killed like that, and you have to see him go in the ground. That's something hard to live with."

8Ball will showcase this contemplative mood at Minglewood Hall this week when he plays the elder-statesman role in a local hip-hop showcase organized and headlined by Yo Gotti, with Don Trip, Zed Zilla, and Young Dolph also on the bill.

"A lot of my stuff that I'm doing now, there's a message in my music," 8Ball says. "I don't just want to be the Comin' Out Hard 8Ball or the Top of the World 8Ball or the Lost 8Ball. I'm a living, breathing thing, and I'm evolving."

One Mic Memphis
Featuring Yo Gotti, 8Ball, Don Trip, Young Dolph, and Zed Zilla
Minglewood Hall
Saturday, July 21st
10 p.m.; $30

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