Every once in awhile, a corporation does something worthwhile, and certainly Red Bull’s Sound Select tour with Run The Jewels fits the bill. Run the Jewels is a collaboration between Killer Mike and El-P, and when my homeboy Matt Sonzala told me to come out to Minglewood Hall in Memphis to check them out, I invited my homeboy Tune C and we headed down there. To my amazement, the place was absolutely packed, and many of the people there were like a who’s who of the Memphis recording industry, including rappers Ify, Tori WhoDat and Jason Da Hater, singer Tonya Dyson, and legendary engineer and producer Boo Mitchell. The opening act was a thoroughly gangsta crew from Dallas known as the Outfit, and for a gangsta-style group, they were decent. But it was the Run The Jewels performance that everyone came for, and it was very impressive indeed. Tune and I had hung out with Mike in Atlanta last year, and we got a brief chance to catch back up with him after the show. It was truly a momentous night for Memphis hip-hop.
On Friday July 18 at the new Hi-Tone in Memphis, a group of Memphis rap artists came together to celebrate the city and its rap legacy in a concert entitled “Memphis As F@#k”, based on the popular local T-shirts of the same name. Like the “Grit and Grind” slogan of the Memphis Grizzlies organization, this saying is a defiant expression of pride in a rough, predominantly-Black, working-class city. DJ Witnesse got things off to a good start with plenty of classic soul and rap on the ones and twos, and then a local artist named Trackman started things off, followed by the female artist Tori Whodat, who has been getting some attention here this year. Knowledge Nick, who came on after her, is arguably Memphis’ best exponent of classic hip-hop, as opposed to street rap, and performed a number of anthemic songs over smooth, mellowed-out backing. But the headliner of the evening was Memphis legend Al Kapone, who was inspired enough by the Memphis As F@#k shirts to compose a song of the same name, and who was joined on stage by his homeboy Tune C, and then by a cast of Memphis legends, including Mr. Sche, DJ Zirk, Frayser Boy and Skinny Pimp. Like a pep rally for those of us who love Memphis, the night ended in nothing but good vibes and good fun.
The Mid-South Chapter of the Red Cross sponsors an annual Red Boa Ball as a fundraiser for their activities, featuring live music, food and drink. This year’s event was held at the Memphis Botanic Gardens and featured a DJ set from Paula and Raiford of Raiford’s Disco downtown, followed by a live performance from Memphis rap legend Al Kapone. Following the performance, Kapone was mobbed by fans wanting their picture taken with him. The food, which was excellent, was catered by Local Gastropub. Altogether, it was a lot of fun for a really good cause.
The Blues Ball is an annual event in Memphis sponsored by the Memphis Charitable Foundation to raise money for worthwhile causes, and is the largest annual ball in the United States. This year, the event was held outdoors on Lt. George W Lee Avenue between the Westin Hotel and the Gibson Guitar Factory, and featured a large stage at each end of the street, as well as a third stage on the outdoor rooftop of the Gibson factory, and food from about 20 or so of Memphis’ best restaurants. In addition to great Memphis food, attendees were also treated to great Memphis music from Ruby Wilson, Will Tucker, Preston Shannon, Sam Moore of Sam & Dave fame, and Memphis rap icon Al Kapone with his band. At one point in the evening’s events, fireworks were set off from the roof of the adjacent Rock and Soul Museum, and the heat from them could be felt down on the street in front of the stage. Seen in the crowd were Memphis rappers Tune C and Young AJ, Select-O-Hits’ music buyer Wes Phillips, James Alexander of the Bar-Kays, Memphis soul legend Don Bryant and his wife Ann Peebles and Knox Phillips of Knox Music.