Wednesday night is not usually a big entertainment night in Memphis, but on October 29, many of Memphis’ best industry figures came together at Purple Haze downtown to celebrate the release of veteran rapper Frayser Boy’s new album Not No Moe on the Phixieous label. Frayser’s own DJ Bay was on the ones and twos, and Tune C, DJ Zirk, Miscellaneous,Carlos Sargent, DJ Care Bear, Lil Wyte, Snootie Wild, Jason Da Hater,Suavo J, Louis Goggins of the Memphis Flyer and Lawrence “Boo” Mitchell of the Recording Academy and Royal Studios were among the attendees. Frayser Boy, Lil Wyte and Miscellaneous performed a few songs from the album toward the end of the night, and the event was all love, fun and food.
On Saturday night February 8, an all-star contingent of Memphis rappers and fans took over the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street to celebrate the release of Lil Wyte & Frayser Boy’s new duo album B.A.R. on Phixieous Entertainment. Wes Phillips, Jeff Phillips and Terrance “DJ Bay” Long of Select-O-Hits were in the building, as well as La Chat, Miscellaneous, Criminal Manne, Al Kapone and Thug Therapy. Unlike a lot of album release parties, people actually performed, and coming as it did after a big University of Memphis Tigers win at the Fed Ex Forum, it was a fun night indeed.
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.