Coming-Out Party 

Local rap strivers share the stage with hip-hop heroes at CrunkFest.

Nasty Nardo has Houston on his mind.

"As far as rap goes, Memphis complements Houston and vice versa," the South Memphis rapper says. "We're the only two cities where soul motivates our music. We both use real soulful instrumentation. We've both got that rich musical heritage, where a kid can go down the street and find someone who can pick up a guitar or a bass instead of always relying on beats. It's a real big thing."

S&S Entertainment publicist Go'diloX agrees.

"Houston is the hottest market right now; that's our backyard," she says.

H-Town rappers Paul Wall, Rick Ross, and E-40 are making the 575-mile trek to Memphis for CrunkFest '06.

The locally produced rap festival, now in its third year, is scheduled to go down at the Mid-South Coliseum Saturday, July 1st.

This year, the Saturday concert is just one component of the event, which includes a CrunkFest Men of Comedy show with Shawdy Shawdy, Damon Williams, and EarthQuake at the Orpheum Theatre, a celebrity basketball tournament held at LeMoyne-Owen College, and an underground talent contest slated for Tower Records.

S&S Entertainment, which is headed by Yo Gotti manager Peppa Williams, regularly promotes and produces concerts at the Plush Club and other area venues.

"We're the premier promotion team in Memphis," Go'diloX says. "We pitched CrunkFest to BET, and they were excited, even though they'd never heard of it," she says, explaining that Rap City host Mad Linx will emcee the concert, parts of which will be broadcast on the cable channel.

"We have a huge VIP list this year, people coming in from Miami, Houston, and New York," she continues, "people who have never been to Memphis, but they know we're the home of crunk."

Still reveling in their Oscar win, Three 6 Mafia are slated to headline CrunkFest, which will also feature Remy Ma, Al Kapone, and local underground heroes Mac E, Criminal Manne, and Yung Kee.

This will be the second CrunkFest appearance for Nardo, who sees the event as a "huge opportunity" for both local performers and fans of the genre.

"We don't get the chance to perform in a venue like the Coliseum very often," he notes. "Most of the time, we're on the chitlin circuit and shit like that. This gives us the chance to put a real show on."

Plus, as both Nardo and Go'diloX point out, CrunkFest affords teenagers a rare opportunity to party with their favorite rappers.

"Unless we go out to the high schools, they never see us," says Nardo, who will be performing his latest underground hits "Don't Watch Me, Watch TV" and "Take a Picture."

Despite media reports of it in past years, neither expects violence to come into play at the Coliseum, and, says Steve Fox, the facility's manager, "CrunkFest is a standard concert for us."

The first CrunkFest, held in June 2004, was marred by a feud between Three 6 Mafia and Yo Gotti.

"Both got ties to the streets, and when you had the two factions in there, the shit just jumped off," Nardo says. "Now, Three 6 have realized that they've alienated themselves from everybody else. There's a lot of resentment, and they're feeling it now. It's like, 'Ya'll got money, ya'll on top of your game, but guess what -- ya'll can't come kick it because of all the animosity.'"

This animosity has hurt the city's rap scene, Nardo says. "All the separation between North and South [Memphis], all the different factions and divisions, have hurt everybody."

"We'll be running CrunkFest cleaner and quicker than in past years," Go'diloX says. "We're not allowing large entourages backstage, and we'll be taking other precautions. But every event has some kind of altercation. We can't be everyplace at once.

"When we're not having a big show like this, we see these people every day on the streets. We're giving [local rappers] an outlet to perform in front of 10,000 people, and we want them to stick to their art or their craft. A lot of 'em can't wait for CrunkFest to come, and so they cooperate very well," she says, playing down problems like opposing local factions, whose loyalties run deep.

Go'diloX is already envisioning the 2007 CrunkFest as a weeklong event with seminars, parties, and more.

"This is our time to celebrate, and we want everything to be as smooth as possible," she says.

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