Homecoming Day at Grambling State University always begins early, with a parade through the town of Grambling that begins at 9 in the morning. People start lining up earlier than that, hoping to reserve a good spot to see the bands, majorettes, drummers and floats. By tradition, the Grambling State University Marching Band always comes first, followed by the Grambling High School band, and then there are always a number of bands from various parts of Louisiana and Texas, floats from various campus and town organizations, majorette squads and classic cars and vehicles. The largest and densest crowd is always in the center of campus between the McCall Dining Hall and the Favrot Student Union, and the parade route usually ends at Central Avenue and Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones Drive. This year, on a hill near that intersection, two bands from Shreveport, Fair Park and Booker T. Washington got into a band battle after the parade had ended. Although there seem to be fewer bands these days, the parade is still a lot of fun.
If you turn east on Renwick Street off of Highway 165 in Monroe, Louisiana, you will soon come to the intersection of Griffin Street, where you will notice a massive, two-story building that resembles a school gymnasium more than anything else. A sign outside announces that it is the Elite Lounge, and a closer look reveals that the complex of buildings is truly massive, including what appears to be a motel as well. Although it has been closed for many years now, the Elite Lounge at 1207 Griffin Street is a part of a forgotten part of Monroe history. Built as Cain’s Lounge and Motel,opened by Willie and Edna Cain, it was one of the city’s biggest night life spots, often serving as the site of performances by local singing star Toussaint McCall, and other singers and bands, and the adjacent motel met a need during the dark days of segregation when white-owned motels were closed to Black people, no matter how wealthy or famous. Later it became the Elite Lounge, serving as the center of a thriving blues and southern soul scene in Monroe. Unfortunately, Monroe became wild and violent in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and eventually the woman that owned the building chose to shut it down. However, the building doesn’t seem quite abandoned, as there are cars about, and it seems that a least of couple of people might be living in the old motel. The owner’s request for a city liquor license earlier this year led to speculation that the historic lounge might reopen. But so far, that remains merely a wish.
For a Memphian, perhaps the high point of the Pimp C Memorial Concert at A3C was the appearance of Eightball & MJG, one of Memphis’ original rap acts, and one that is still among the city’s best-known and admired. Appropriately, they performed their best-loved songs, including “Pimps”, “Mr. Big” and “Lay It Down.” As Memphians who had relocated to Houston, Ball & MJG had crossed paths with Pimp C and Bun B early in their careers, and expressed their admiration for Pimp C during their performance in Atlanta on Saturday night.
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While most of the artists chosen to perform on the Pimp C Memorial Concert were from Texas, a few were from other areas, including T-Mo Goodie of the Goodie Mob. T-Mo has been working on solo material, and it was mostly these songs that he performed at A3C.
Twista first came to prominence on the song “Po Pimp” by a Chicago duo called Do or Die, on the Houston-based Rap-A-Lot label, and the song had a decidedly Texas feel. Still, I had never thought of Twista as having been influenced by Pimp C, yet he said exactly that to the crowd at A3C during the Pimp C Memorial Concert. He also performed his verse from “Po Pimp” and another of his classic songs as the crowd cheered and chanted the lyrics with him.
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Trae tha Truth remains one of Houston’s most beloved rappers, even after the local hip-hop station imposed a ban on his music. He is a perennial favorite at South By Southwest, and was warmly received by the A3C crowd as well.
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Houston artist Killa Kyleon got his start as a member of Slim Thugg’s Boss Hogg Outlaws, but for the last several years has been making a name for himself as a solo artist, garnering a lot of attention with performances at South By Southwest in Austin. He is yet another younger Houston artist that shows the heavy influence of the classic Texas style instead of imitating music coming out of Atlanta or other cities. His inclusion on the Pimp C Memorial Concert line-up was very appropriate.
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Doughbeezy is a relative newcomer to the Houston rap scene, and only came to my attention a few years ago at South By Southwest in Austin. Yet, unlike a lot of young Houston artists these days, Doughbeezy exhibits a style heavily indebted to the classic Texas rap sound, and was a most appropriate artist to open the final main stage concert at A3C, a concert that was being held to honor the late Pimp C of UGK. Of course, he led the crowd in a rousing version of his anthem “I’m From Texas”.
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After dinner, I headed back over to the A3C main stage on the festival grounds for what was being billed as the Pimp C Memorial Concert, but I was amazed that before it started, the DJ pulled out a classic Memphis song by Playa Fly, “Getting’ It On”, and nearly everyone in the crowd around me knew the words. Fly really should have been on at least one of the showcases at A3C, as he is a legend.
The Duck Down Bar-B-Que at A3C was sponsored by Duck Down Music, and therefore the main act was Smif-N-Wessun, along with other members of the Boot Camp Click (the Brooklyn one, not the Louisiana one). The surprise for me though was when they broke out with songs off the classic Black Moon album Enter The Stage, which I hadn’t at all been expecting, and which sent me hustling back to the festival area.
Keep up with Smif-N-Wessun: