In the American mind, the South often brings up images of military struggle or racial struggle, but rarely that of class struggle. Yet, in his debut album The Long Way Home, Mobile, Alabama rapper Sonny Bama has become the voice for the South’s dispossessed working class, continuing the legacy of left-leaning Southern populists like Big Jim Folsom and Huey Long and invoking the culture of Alabama’s Gulf Coast. While the country/rap fusion has been around long enough to develop certain cliches of its own, Bama skillfully avoids most of them, and even on the most typical “country rap” track “The Bottom”, you can tell that he knows his folks and that he means every word. Other songs venture into soul and funk territory like the sad and mellow “Anyway” featuring Gregg Fells on vocals or the more-up-tempo “Ain’t No Use”. “On My Own”, which describes a battle with alcohol and features singer and guitarist Wes Bayliss is more of a country ballad, as is the pleading “Jonna Lee” featuring Memphis rap icon Lil Wyte, while the single “Let Go” featuring Nashville rapper Jelly Roll is rock, but the one thing that unifies most of the record is its stark and somber mood and its emphasis on change, whether political and economic, or a man’s promise of better days to his woman. Even the album’s main anthem of defiance “UnPhased” contains the lines “I’ve seen trouble all my days.” Aside from the descriptive “The Bottom”, the only other ray of sunshine occurs in the determined closer “Today”, which contains a self-affirming message. With The Long Way Home, Sonny Bama has reminded the world of the South’s other struggle, calling for change while at once expressing his pride at who he is and where he’s from, reclaiming what it means to be Southern from the usual assumptions and prejudices.
Mobile, Alabama rap artist Sonny Bama shot the video for his most recent single “The Bottom” at Orange Beach on the first weekend in June. The song is taken from his debut album The Long Way Home which comes out nationally on June 25, distributed by Select-O-Hits Music Distribution. The full album is available for download on iTunes here.
Quietly and methodically over the last several years, Mobile artist Sonny Bama has been building a following and creating a body of unique rap songs that incorporate country and rock influences, and now he’s ready to release his new album The Long Way Home this spring. In the meanwhile, he has dropped a video with Nashville rapper Jelly Roll for the song “Let’s Go”, featuring some great videographic work and some absolutely beautiful scenes of Mobile Bay.
Woke up to rain and thunderstorms that never seemed to let up. Ate breakfast at the Spot of Tea on Dauphin, and then made the rounds of Mobile record stores putting up Alex King posters and asking everyone about the Prichard song I had heard last night on WBLX. Nobody seemed to know who it was.
Driving down Michigan Avenue, I had hoped to inquire about the old Uptight Records building to see if there were still any vinyl records in it, but the building seemed boarded up and abandoned.
By the time I got out to the Prichard area, the sun had come out, and it was hot. In the late afternoon, I drove over to Fairhope to check out the Down By The Bay Cafe, but it had already closed for the day, and the Yardarm out on the pier wasn’t open either, so I headed back west on the old causeway to the Original Oyster House, which my mother and stepfather had enjoyed when they were in the area a year or so ago. From my table, I could see dark ominous stormclouds rising in the west behind the Mobile skyline, but it was still sunny here. I tried the grilled shrimp, which were very good indeed, and ended my dinner with a peanut butter chocolate chip pie, which was also very good.
Then, running late for the start of the conference, I began driving back west into Mobile, but as I headed up I-65 from I-10, I could see a funnel cloud begin to descend from the black line of clouds above the horizon. It apparently never touched down, but as I arrived at the Roxy, where the event was being held, the storm sirens began to go off. The conference was a couple of panel discussions, and a lot of performances, and I felt it went fairly well. DJ Sammy Sam played the Alex King single “What If I” just before the first panel, and although people weren’t familiar with it, I saw some heads bobbing to it. There were a lot of notable Mobile personalities present, including C-Nile, Kalinski, Hittman and Choppa T, who turned out to be the artist responsible for the song “Raised Off 45”, which was the Prichard anthem that had caught my attention the night before. The rain ended about the same time as the conference, but afterwards, the challenge was to find a coffee bar open. Serda’s had closed at 11 PM, but I found one in West Mobile called Biggby’s that was open until midnight. I recognized the place as a coffee house that had been called Beaner’s the last time I was in Mobile, but the girl behind the counter explained to me that the company changed the name when they began expanding into the southwest, as they had learned that “beaner” was an offensive term for Mexicans. Even after a cappuccino, I had no trouble sleeping.
Drove down to Mobile for the C & M Record Pool’s Mobile Music Conference. DJ Bull got me checked into my hotel room, and then I drove over to the new Eastern Shore Center in Malbis to meet up with the Pensacola rapper Big Bone at California Dreaming restaurant. I went by two different Starbucks on the eastern shore and found both closed, but I finally found a coffee bar called Serda’s that stayed open until 11 PM. It had been raining in Mobile, and the streets still seemed wet as I rode back out west toward the hotel, listening to WBLX as they played some rap song about being from Prichard.