Twice a year, The Core DJ Coalition meets somewhere in America, at events called retreats. The Core is the largest urban DJ coalition in America, and these conventions are usually held in the capitals of America’s entertainment industry- Atlanta, Miami Beach, Las Vegas, etc. So it was something of a shock when it was announced that this fall’s Core DJ Retreat would be held in Jackson, Mississippi. Although Jackson has always had a wealth of rap talent and a unique and different rap vibe, the city has not usually been associated with the music business in any regular sense. But this year’s Core retreat coincided with a recent flowering of the arts in Jackson, exemplified by the growth of the Fondren neighborhood and the Midtown Arts District, and the retreat, held at the Marriott Hotel downtown, cast a spotlight on Mississippi artists and DJ’s in particular. The evening showcase after registration was hosted by my homeboy Sess 4-5 from New Orleans, the rapper, record store owner and activist, and I was quite impressed with a group of his homeboys from the 9th Ward, the Cain Gang who were among the performers on stage Friday night. After the showcase, everyone headed a few blocks over to Freelon’s for a party.
After lunch, the Cutting Edge NOLA Music Business Conference held a rap and hip-hop summit at Cafe Istanbul in the St. Roch neighborhood sponsored by Shive Magazine. There were several preliminary presentations, including speeches by the owner of Shive Magazine, and by local rap CEO and activist Sess 4-5 of Nuthin But Fire Records, followed by a number of rap performances, including one by St. Louis-based hip-hop group the A-Team.
The new album from veteran New Orleans rapper, entrepreneur and activist Sess 4-5 is called “See What Dat Do”. It came out yesterday, June 4, and is in stores, at least around New Orleans. Of course it is available at Sess’ own Nuthin But Fire Records on North Claiborne, and it can also be gotten at Conrad’s Music in Kenner. Look for it soon at a store near you. Now see what dat do!
Industry Influence is a monthly event sponsored by @SESS45 of Nuthin But Fire Records and @wildwayne of Q93 in New Orleans. This month the event was held at the Howlin Wolf in the CBD, and I was invited to be on the panel discussion. Those in attendance were mostly new artists, but Baton Rouge-area rapper Lil Cali was there, as well as the people from Fly Definition clothing.
New Orleans rapper-activist @SESS45 opened Nuthin But Fire Records prior to Katrina, and probably had no idea it would become the city’s last hip-hop record store. The message on the building’s wall addresses one of the city’s continuing problems, the high rate of violence and killing among young African-American men in New Orleans. Sess has continued to represent those whose houses were destroyed in New Orleans and those who are struggling to return or remain. Each year, he organizes a second-line on or near the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina to commemorate its victims. Like him on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/SESS-4-5/235515353129793 or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SESS45. You can visit the store and label at http://nuthinbutfirerecords.com/ or at 1840 N Claiborne Ave when you’re in New Orleans.
Sess 4-5’s legendary record shop in the Seventh Ward (at Nuthin But Fire)
Mondays aren’t as bad if you’re fortunate enough to wake up in New Orleans, but it was still raining on and off, but “off” enough that I felt safe in catching the St. Charles Streetcar to head Uptown for breakfast, since my hotel was heating up their breakfast in a microwave. The atmosphere on this particular morning was like a sauna, and grey, foreboding clouds lay to the west. Once I got off at Maple Street, I decided that I didn’t want Camellia Grill, so I walked back to the west and came to a little park with beautiful royal palms, and a couple of restaurants that weren’t open for breakfast. But I finally came to a place called Refuel that was a coffee bar, but also a whole lot more. They served full breakfasts, so I ducked inside to eat, and just in time, because the rains came with a furor, and several of us were more or less trapped inside, waiting for the rain to subside. It never really did, and eventually I gave up waiting, and, since I had finished breakfast, I made a run for it and headed back down to Carrollton Avenue to catch the return streetcar. But the rain was continuing, so I had to hang out under an awning until the streetcar came, and I made the ride back down to my hotel.
Strangely, once I got back to the hotel, the rain tapered off and eventually the sun came out, so I had no trouble walking into the Quarter. At Louisiana Music Factory I bought the famous book on New Orleans R & B I Hear You Knocking by Jeff Hanusch, as well as a CD of tracks from the old Sounds of Memphis recording studio entitled “Play The Game” which for some strange reason is not available in Memphis.
I spent the rest of the day browsing in old bookshops, not buying very much because I had very little money, although I did come upon a used copy of John Broven’s Rhythm & Blues In New Orleans. which I purchased. As I saw the day was getting late, I stopped at the little gelato bar near Faulkner House Books, and then walked back to the hotel.
Once I got there, Sess called and asked me to come by his record shop, so I got my car from the valet and drove out there. I spent a little time hanging out with him and some of his friends, but it was time for dinner, so I drove from there onto I-10 and out into Metairie to Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro for dinner.
When I left there, it was time for the workshop at the Hangar, a nightclub not far from Xavier University in what was called Central City, so I headed over there, finding the location with some difficulty. In this area, there were still signs of much devastation from Hurricane Katrina, but the event was very well attended. Not only did I speak on one of the panels, but I was also asked to judge the performers. Unfortunately, there was a ballgame on the television during our event, and some people were more interested in the game than our workshop, but for the most part things went well. I had intended to go to a beignet place when I left the Hangar, but I was so tired that I just drove back to the hotel and went to bed.
Restaurants in the Quarter are expensive, so I drove out to a place called the River Cafe in Harahan that had received good reviews on one of my iPhone apps, but when I turned down the street into an industrial park I thought I might have gotten lost. However, the restaurant was indeed in an industrial park, and the breakfast was good. Riding the River Road back into New Orleans, I came to a flea market that I stopped to browse through, and then came into the Uptown area, which seemed to have some intriguing clubs, restaurants and shops. Oak Street was closed for some sort of reconstruction, and St. Charles was also torn up from Carrollton Avenue back toward the Quarter, so past Tulane I turned northward toward Claiborne Avenue, partially to escape the construction, and partially to locate the Ted’s Frostop and Bud’s Broiler where I hoped to eat at some point during my trip to New Orleans. I found them on the corner of Calhoun and Claiborne, and then began heading back downtown on Claiborne, passing through beautiful neighborhoods and devastated areas back and forth. Down one street, I noticed a large wall mural of a man in fatigues withe legend “SLACK” painted above it, and I wondered if it was a picture of the Slack I had once known who was the CEO of one of the old New Orleans record labels.
I had called Miss Tee, and she had agreed to meet me at Nuthin But Fire Records on North Claiborne beyond the quarter, so I continued through Treme, an area that had been devastated long before Katrina by the high-rise lanes of Interstate 10, although there were still neighborhood landmarks like the late Ernie K-Do’s Mother-In-Law Lounge, which someone seemed to be maintaining. At the record store, I met the owner Sess, who I had talked with on the phone but never met, and an employee who turned out to be Miss Tee’s brother. She soon arrived as well, and then the rapper Kilo came through as he was promoting his artist Euricka. The heat was unbearable, and Miss Tee offered to walk me down the street for a snowball, but on the way we were joined by a junkie named Melvin who kept hitting us up for money. After he walked away, Miss Tee explained that Melvin was addicted to heroin, and that Governor Jindal had cut funding to the clinics and drug treatment programs. When we got to Elysian Fields, we learned that the snowball stand, which was mobile, had not appeared, although it was one of the hottest days of the year, so we walked back to the studio, and she decided to drive me in her car over to one of the best snowball stands in the city near A. P. Tureaud Avenue. It was indeed one of the best snowball stands in the city, and I soon learned that a snowball in New Orleans is not a snowcone. There’s something different about the way the ice is shaved, so that it soaks up the syrup, and I was still enjoying mine 15 minutes later when Miss Tee had driven me over to UTP Studios, where she hoped we would meet Partners-N-Crime. They had gone on a food run, but they soon came back, and I did get a chance to meet them and remind them about the Cutting Edge conference. After that, we rode back to my car, which I had left in front of the record store, and then I drove back into the Quarter and parked near the Faubourg Marigny, because I wanted to see where the evening showcases would be held.
Frenchmen Street had the gingerbread architecture and brilliant colors of a Caribbean street, and was primarily clubs and/or restaurants, with an occasional bookstore or residential building. Beyond Snug Harbor, my favorite jazz club in the city where I used to go to see Lumark Gulley play, there was a coffee bar called the Rose Nicaud Cafe, and I ducked in there to get a cappuccino, and then I drove back to the other side of the Quarter near my hotel. While browsing in the upstairs of Louisiana Music Factory on Decatur Street, I was startled by Memphis musician Scott Bomar, who came up behind me while I was browsing. He had been on the conference with Jody Stephens, the former drummer of Big Star, who was also involved with Cutting Edge, but sadly, their conference responsibilities were over, and they were driving back to Memphis the next morning. Walking further down into the Jackson Square area, I had hoped to come upon a brass band or some street musicians, but I didn’t. I did hear the boom of bass drums coming from somewhere behind the Cabildo, however, so I attempted to follow the sound, but was soon disappointed, as it was coming from some rehearsal from inside the Cabildo itself, but I noted the location of Preservation Hall, where the New Birth Brass Band would be playing later, and then walked back to the hotel. The American Federation of Musicians was sponsoring a reception for us on the third floor of the hotel, and I ate so much roast beef that I didn’t need to go out to dinner. Instead, I walked down to Peaches Records and Tapes, and had intended to go to the Cafe du Monde, but I was out of time, so I made my way to Preservation Hall, and got inside, but all the seats had been taken. The New Birth Brass Band was a curious mix of old-timers and youngsters, with a good steady beat and a great repertoire, mostly of standard New Orleans material. On one song, the singer from the better-known Treme Brass Band joined them. The hall looked as if it hadn’t changed in 30 years, which it probably hadn’t. When not playing, the musicians hung out in a beautiful courtyard, from which occasionally emerged a curious cat, who would nuzzle our feet before growing bored and reentering the courtyard. Afterwards, I did walk over to the Cafe du Monde, and enjoyed the usual coffee and beignets before walking back to the hotel.