Friday night, the Memphis gospel music community came out to support local Memphis drummers, and to see Calvin “C-Rod” Rodgers, arguably one of the best gospel drummers of today. It was amazing and fortunate to get to see him play, as last year, after a brutal robbery and beating, it was for a time doubtful that he would ever be able to play again. The event, called Thankful 4 The Drummers, was sponsored by Marcus Malone at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale Street in downtown Memphis, and was opened up by local drummers such as Tevin Curtis, Bart Orr and Chris Pat. Altogether it was an amazing night of great drumming that didn’t break up until nearly 1 AM.
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Fans of Yo Gotti‘s previous work might be in for a surprise when they listen to his recently-released album I Am, but the surprise should be a pleasant one. Not that there’s any lack of the street stories and trap lyrics that Gotti is known for, but this time everything happens over sheets of beautiful and soulful sounds that evoke Memphis’ musical legacy of Stax and Hi Records. Gotti’s lyrical content is also deeper and more mature, as on the album’s masterpiece “Cold Blood” featuring J. Cole and Canei Finch, where a sample from obscure Stax band 24 Carat Black becomes the luscious backing for a gritty tale of ghetto struggle, or “Respect That You Earn” with Ne-Yo and Wale, urging women to conduct themselves with respect so that they will be respected. “Don’t Come Around” has more of a pop and electronic sound that might very well cross over to the mainstream pop world, and of course the more familiar Gotti sound comes through on songs like “I Know” and “Die A Real Nigga”. Nor is Gotti above a clever humor on this record, as at the end of “Sorry”, where an irate female suggests that Gotti should go back to one of those “sorry females” he’s been with. Gotti replies “I am”, both answering her statement and invoking the album’s title. So well-conceived and varied are I Am‘s offerings that by the time one reaches the end, the single “Act Right” almost seems an after-thought. But this album is Yo Gotti’s first real masterpiece, an achievement which should turn some heads, change some opinions and win over a lot of fans beyond Memphis and the South.
I had heard last week that there was a live band playing at Mr. P’s Hot Wings on Hacks Cross Road every Wednesday night, so I rolled out there last night to see for myself. The band was keyboardist Josh McClain’s Soul Seven Band, featuring a soulful singer named Jay Bailey, and they play every Wednesday from 7-10 PM, although last night’s set ended early because of the Grizzlies’ game coming on TV. The band was superbly funky, trading off between two different drummers on alternating tunes, and Bailey is a talented vocalist, with a repertoire that includes most Memphians’ favorite tunes, from Maze songs to Bobby Womack covers. I should add that the food at Mr. P’s is really good, much better than I would have expected. I tried the lemon-pepper boneless wings and was amazed.
Mr. P’s Hot Wings
3285 Hacks Cross Rd
Memphis, TN 38125-8918
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 long-awaited new collaboration between Nashville rap veterans Haystak and Jelly Roll drops tomorrow. Entitled Business As Usual, it is coming out on Haystak Entertainment and being distributed by Memphis-based Select-O-Hits Music Distribution. To get you ready for it, in addition to the authorized single leak above, here are some videos of Jelly Roll discussing the new album and of behind the scenes footage.
Memphis music author Robert Gordon has completed his latest book Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion, which is the third book to deal with the history of Stax Records, after Peter Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music and Rob Bowman’s Soulsville, USA, and Gordon was at the Stax Museum in South Memphis on Saturday afternoon to sign copies of the new book. Memphis’ legendary bluesman (and former Mar-Key) Don Nix was also present, as were around a hundred or so people who came to get their books signed, enjoy food and drink, and hear Gordon read excerpts. An all-Stax concert featuring Don Nix, Eddie Floyd and Sir Mack Rice was being held later down in Clarksdale at Ground Zero.
My last panels of this year’s Midatlantic Music Conference were at 5 PM back at The Chop Shop in Charlotte’s NoDa district, and then the final night of showcases began immediately afterwards, with a showcase featuring artists from the student-run Split Rail Records label, which is a part of Appalachian State University in Boone. I particularly noticed a singer-songwriter from Charlotte on the label named Alexis Worthington, who was performing on the back indoor stage. Not long afterward, Raleigh-based indie artist Frank Hurd was performing his rootsy, tuneful style with his band on the front stage, and caught my attention.
During the brief period between the end of the afternoon panel and the start of the evening panel, I rode over to the Plaza-Midwood neighborhood of Charlotte and walked around. Plaza-Midwood is home to several of Charlotte’s oldest restaurants, including The Diamond and The Penguin, and is also home to the Fresh Exclusive Sneaker Boutique and the Social Status hip-hop shop.
The early Midatlantic Music Conference panels on Saturday that I was on were scheduled at a place called With These Hands Mix Academy, a unique and innovative DJ school which I located with some difficulty. It turned out to be in a larger complex of buildings called Area 15, a unique micro-business incubator that houses a bicycle recyclery for inner-city kids, office space for some environmental organizations, a free store (no kidding) where people can take what they need and pay what they can, and several youth organizations, many of which seem geared to giving inner city kids experience with entrepreneurship. The place literally buzzes with kids, and their joyful laughter and running feet could be heard upstairs the entire time of our two afternoon music panels. Hip-hop legend Parrish of the group EPMD was one of the panelists, and after the second panel, many of the neighborhood kids ran downstairs and out in front of the building to have their picture taken with him.
The first night of showcases for the Midatlantic Music Conference took place on three stages, with rock and folk acts on the two indoor stages at the Chop Shop, and the urban and hip-hop acts a block away at the Roux Bar behind Boudreaux’s at 36th and North Davidson. Both were well-attended, although Roux is a small venue, and it was hard to walk around in due to the crowd.