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.
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.
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.
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”.
After the Memphis concert was over at Butler Park, I walked down to South Congress Avenue and ended up encountering a band called The City from Houston who was performing on the outdoor stage at Mrs. P’s Electric Cock. They played an exciting blend of neo-soul and jazz, and were fun to listen to, but my phone was running out of charge and there was no place to charge it there, so I began walking back toward the convention center.
While walking near the Convention Center on my way back to Rainey Street, I ran into a rap group from Houston called the Kream Clicc who had just arrived in Austin and were on their way to perform at a showcase.
The band that was going on after Kashmere ThunderSoul at the Palm Door was more rock oriented, so I left out and decided to walk back to the Welcome to the South showcase at the Scoot Inn in East Austin, getting there as Houston artist Doughbeezy went on stage. His performance was followed by Killa Kyleon, another Houston rapper that started out as part of the Boss Hogg Outlaws. After his performance, thoroughly tired, I decided to call it a night, and made the long walk up the hill back to my car, hearing a whole bunch of sirens from the other side of I-35.
I really can’t even first recall when or how I first heard about the Kashmere Stage Band from Kashmere High School in the Kashmere Gardens neighborhood of Houston, Texas, but I expect it grew out of my interest in Skipper Lee Frazier’s Ovide Records label, and the superb Texas Funk compilation that Jazzman Records released. Soon enough, I learned the story- that these young African-American kids from a rough neighborhood in Houston’s Fifth Ward were molded by Conrad Johnson into the best high-school jazz band in America, not once, but over and over again from the late 1960’s through the mid-1970’s. They released 45-RPM singles, and a handful of albums which are now all priceless collector’s items, and I once got to meet the man himself, who welcomed me into his home and answered my questions about the band while I was on a trip to Houston. Mr. Johnson passed not long after I met him, but further honors and new recognition for the Kashmere Stage Band and its accomplishments were everywhere following the release of the Texas Thunder Soul compact disc on Now Again Records, and the Thunder Soul documentary, which had been unveiled at South By Southwest a few years back. One of the outcomes of all the recent recognition was a reunion of former members, which in turn led to a reunion band called the Kashmere ThunderSoul Orchestra, and when I saw that this band was scheduled to play at 10 PM Wednesday night at the Palm Door, I decided I had to be there, no matter how far the walk.
The band had already begun their performance before I got there, but they were only in their first song. The years have diminished none of the funk or soulfulness from these great musicians, and their talent, showmanship and good spirits were available for everyone to see. I was especially impressed with the youngest member, the drummer, who was incredibly funky, and although the band played some medleys of Earth Wind & Fire and other cover tunes, their originals such as “Kash Register” were the most exciting by far. At the end of their long set, the crowd cheered for nearly a full five minutes, a tribute to the lasting legacy of a man named Conrad Johnson who believed in the potential of inner-city youth rather than the obstacles they faced.
Yes, the young Houston rap artist The Aspiring Me is the son of legendary Houston rapper Big Mello, but as his chosen stage name suggests, he’s far more interested in being who he is than in resting on the legacy of his father. His performance at the All Fam Everything event in Austin suggests a hip-hop artist who is already gifted with a unique artistic direction and self-assured poise.