6/24/09: Cornhole in Cincinnati/Ocho Cinco Boxing/Elementz Showcase

Breakfast at the Half Day Cafe in the little village of Wyoming, Ohio, just north of Cincinnati. Then I started the day of going around to record stores, starting with the FYE stores in malls. At one mall, I entered a shop and found a Cincinnati Bengals Chad Ocho Cinco shirt, which I had to get for the upcoming NFL season. At the CD Warehouse on the westside, I couldn’t help but notice a lot of brightly painted wooden boxes with holes, decorated with Bengals, Steelers or Reds logos. Inside, I asked the store employes about them, and they said “You’re not from Cincinnati, are you?” They explained to me that they were “corn bag hole boards”, and that the game, somewhat like horseshoes, involved tossing bags filled with corn at the board. Hitting the board is worth so many points, and getting it in the hole is worth more.
Meanwhile, as I drove across the riverfront from west to east, nasty black clouds were developing over the hills to the south on the Kentucky side. Soon showers were developing everywhere, and when I got out by Eastgate Mall, the rains came. There was a Cheeseburger in Paradise location there, and I ate dinner there before going across the street to the mall to drop off posters at the last FYE store for the day.
Chad Ocho-Cinco had tweeted that he was sparring at a boxing gym at an elementary school near my hotel and was wanting people to come out and watch him box, but I was late for the showcase at Elementz, so I drove straight over to the center, in the Over The Rhine neighborhood. Elementz board members had been asked to be present, and therefore the crowd was standing room only and extremely hot in the basement auditorium where the event was being held. Many talented young people rapped and sang for the crowd for about two hours, and then the event was over. Abdullah met me briefly at Baba Budan’s Coffee House in the University of Cincinnati area, and we talked over cups of coffee, and then he had to leave, and I drove back to the hotel, watching the employes lock up the Hard Ta Knock hip-hop clothing shop across the street from the coffee bar as I drove past.

6/23/09: RIP Joe Lee Records/City View Tavern/A Fatburger in Cincinnati

Breakfast at Sunrise Cafe on East 86th in the Castleton neighborhood. Another extremely hot day, mostly spent going around to record stores with posters and promos, listening to my Naptown Soul compilations. I was saddened to see that Joe Lee Records on Clifton Street was gone. Record stores close all the time nowdays, but Joe Lee was an old institution in Indianapolis.
Including the mall FYE stores, working Indianapolis took all day, so it was around 6 PM by the time I got to Greenfield. I stopped at a Culver’s there to get a chocolate-peanut butter concrete, and after dropping off posters at the local Karma Records, I drove the state highway south to Shelbyville, where there was another Karma location. I just barely made it to the Greensburg Karma store before they closed for the evening, and then, with the sun still bright, I headed on I-74 toward Cincinnati.
I headed straight for Mount Adams, my favorite part of town, where I had read about a place called the City View Tavern, that was said to have the best hamburger in town. I found it with some difficulty, and discovered that it was a typical dive bar with a couple of differences. One, it had an outdoor deck, and two, it had one of the best views of downtown Cincinnati. Being what it was, however, the place had no frills-no bacon, no french fries, but I will say that the burger was big, good and juicy, and, of course the Cincinnati Reds game was on the TV screen. I watched the sun go down over the city skyline, and then later, I called my friend Abdullah from the Elementz Hip-Hop Youth Center, and he told me that the young people would be doing a showcase Thursday night, so I made plans to be there.
Still hungry, I drove out Montgomery Road to a Fatburger location, which was still open, and ordered a burger and fries. The food was good, but the air conditioner had broken down, and it was unbearably hot. After that, with little to do, I drove to my hotel the Marriott Kingsgate Conference Center, which turned out to be on the campus of the University of Cincinnati, and checked into my room.

6/22/09: From Evansville to Bloomington to Indianapolis

With Jojo’s gone, I had few breakfast choices, so I headed to the First Avenue Diner. a former Steak N Egg Kitchen that had decent breakfast, and then I rode around to the FYE at the mall, where the manager let me put up posters. From there, I headed out of town along I-64, having trouble finding any gas stations along the way. I ended up having to pay $2.90 for regular at a general store in Sulphur, and then I headed north along Highway 137.
At English, Indiana, I was intrigued by the blocks of city streets with sidewalks that were completely bare and devoid of any buildings at all, and I wondered what kind of disaster had struck the little town. The downtown was old and largely abandoned, and the only buildings and signs of life I had seen were on the high hills at the southern edge of town.
In Bedford, I stopped at a Karma Music store there, and soon I came into Bloomington, where I rushed over to the Ars Nova antiquarian sheet music store. I bought a few pieces of sheet music there, and then I stopped by Tracks Music to drop off posters and promos. After a latte at Soma Coffeehouse down the block, I drove over to Landlocked Music, and then continued on toward Indianapolis.
When I got into Marion County, I drove over on Southport Road to a shopping area where there was a restaurant called Cheeseburger in Paradise, owned by Jimmy Buffett. Although the weather was hot, the restaurant was having a bikers rally, and everybody was sitting outside on the patio. I thought there would be quite a wait, but I managed to get right in, and had a delicious hamburger for dinner before heading around I-465 to Rick’s Boat Yard to catch the jazz trio there. There, in the lakefront setting, people were sitting out on the deck, watching the sun go down over the reservoir, but the recession had taken its toll there as well, with the trio reduced to a guitar and bass duo, and my drummer friend Lawrence gone. From there, I drove to my hotel, the University Place hotel on the campus of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, known as IUPUI. Although I had to pay for parking, the setting was close to downtown, yet quieter, and the room was quite luxurious.

6/21/09: Promoting Alex King in the Midwest

First day of a Select-O-Hits Music Distribution promotional run to promote the new Alex King album “Reincarnated”, as well as new albums from Juicy J, DJ Paul and B Hamp, whose single “Do The Ricky Bobby” has been heating up across the southeast. It was extremely hot as I drove up to Brownsville, and then along Highway 79 into Paris, Tennessee. At Murray, Kentucky, I stopped at Terrapin Station and Sunset Boulevard record stores, putting up posters, and then grabbed a latte from Fidalgo Bay Coffee before heading on to Madisonville. The Sam Goody there would not allow me to put up posters, so I headed on northward toward Owensboro, but I called the FYE music store there and found that they already had a large poster display, so I drove on into Evansville instead, checking into my room at the Fairfield Inn on the east side of town. I first drove around to the record stores, dealing with some violent storms that were popping up (and storm sirens going off), and then after leaving Joe’s Westside Records, I drove back out to the Tin Fish in Newburgh for dinner. They closed at 8 PM, and I just barely got in before they quit serving food, but I made it, and the seafood was good, although the atmosphere was more like a fast food place than I had expected. The rain was over, and I drove back downtown, looking for something to get into, but Main Street was largely quiet, and after stopping at a Starbucks near Eastland Mall, I drove back to the hotel.

6/20/09: Reewine Radio Summit Day 2/Back to Memphis

I went to breakfast at Scenic 90 Cafe, but was somewhat disappointed, as they have quit serving hashbrowns and only have potatoes simmered with onions. Afterwards, I drove out to the Cordova Mall with promotional materials, but there were no urban clothing stores there, and the FYE music store could only accept the CD promos and not the posters. I was able to put up some posters at Tom’s Records on Navy Boulevard, and that seems to be the city’s main rap store. The music conference’s beach party was to start at noon at Pensacola Beach, so I drove across the toll bridge onto the island, but while there were large crowds everywhere, I didn’t see anybody from our conference out there. I had wanted to attend, because there was to be barbecue, and live performances, but Trinigal, the conference organizer called me and told me that the start time had to be pushed back two hours because nobody woke up until the afternoon. Unfortunately, I had to drive back to Memphis in the afternoon, so I couldn’t wait for the beach party to start. I decided to eat lunch at Surf Burger and then head out for Memphis, but I literally could not find any place to park, so I drove back up 9th Avenue in Pensacola to L & N Record Store near the projects, but they were still closed. Out on I-10 in Alabama, I saw a billboard for a California Dreaming restaurant at the Eastern Shore Center in Spanish Fort, so I got off the road there to eat lunch. I had a filet mignon sandwich there, and then headed out Highway 45 through Eight Mile and into Mississippi. At Tupelo, I stopped for dinner at a Santa Fe Cattle Company, which was really good, but I could not find any coffee bars open at that time of night, so I headed on to Memphis.

6/19/09: Reewine Radio Summit, Pensacola

I had to drive to Pensacola, Florida for the Reewine Radio Music Summit, so I stopped at T-Bone’s Records in Hattiesburg to leave them with posters for our new releases, and I noticed that they have now added a full coffee bar to their record store. I got myself a latte there before heading on to Mobile. I decided against stopping to eat in Alabama, and went on into Pensacola. The conference had booked our rooms at the Travelodge, so I checked in and then drove down to the Atlas Oyster House for dinner. The setting on the bay was attractive, and the restaurant was crowded, but the food was disappointing. Prices were steep, and the portions were tiny. At least it was close to the conference location, however, and I was running late, so I drove over to the Knights of Columbus hall on Palafox Street. The Reewine Radio summit did not draw as large a crowd as I had hoped, but Ms. Beach Bunny was there, as well as Willo from Choke ‘Em Out Entertainament, DJ Colock, DJ Sammy Sam, Michael London, DJ Bull, Al Weeden, an artist named JP from Pensacola who calls himself “King of the Whiteboyz”, and Big Bone, a Pensacola rapper who was handing out a new underground CD called “Coaching Season.” The most fun I had was in critiquing the demos that people brought and played for us. Most of the artists sounded too much like Plies or Rick Ross, but there were a couple that really impressed me. Afterwards, I would have liked to have gotten coffee or dessert, but nothing was open, so I headed back to the hotel and went to bed.

6/12/09: Urban Network Music Summit, and a Tornado

I got up early and ate breakfast downtown at the Marriott because the panel I was to speak on at the Urban Music Summit was supposed to begin at 10: 30 AM. Things were actually running a bit behind schedule, and I ran into Janie Jennings as well as Carlos Broady, the super-producer from Memphis. I grabbed a lunch out at Harbor Town at the Movie and Pizza Company, and then made my way back to the convention for a listening panel that was to take place in the afternoon. During our critiques of artists, the sky turned black in the west and warning sirens started going off downtown. Later, after the panel was over, I drove down to Hernando to Windy City Grill for dinner, discovering that large areas of Hernando were without power and that there was a considerable amount of damage. To my dismay, I found that there was absolutely no power at all in Bartlett or Raleigh. Worse, in front of the movie theatre on Stage Road, trees had been uprooted and strewn across the parking lot. The nearby Starbucks was one of the few places with power and open for business, so I sat in there awhile, drinking coffee, and listening to people talk about the storm, which some were calling a tornado. When I got back to my house, the power was still off, but it was clear that we had suffered major damage. The tree in our front yard had broken apart, and parts of it had struck the corner of our house, and two large trees in the back yard had fallen and demolished our neighbors’ fence to the back of our house. I lay in the dark, trying to call the insurance company on my cellphone, but I couldn’t get through.

6/10/09: The Urban Network Music Summit in Memphis

Rode downtown after work to register for the Urban Network Music Summit at the Cook Convention Center. There were a few rappers in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel across the street, but not a lot of people in the convention center. I did run into James Alexander briefly, and then ended up eating dinner at the TGI Friday’s down on Union. Not a lot going on.

06/06/09: Huntsville, Alabama’s Five Points Neighborhood

I decided to spend the day down in Huntsville shopping for books and records, so I headed out after breakfast, stopping in Corinth, Mississippi for a latte. At a rather cool bookstore in Huntsville’s Five Points neighborhood, I found books about Bob Marley, Rastafarianism and Prince, as well as the London trilogy of Colin MacInnes, which includes Absolute Beginners, one of my favorite novels. I bought quite a few classical records at James Records and Tapes, and then made a final browse through the Booklegger at Holmes Avenue and Jordan Lane before calling it a day and heading out to dinner. I decided to check out a place called Connor’s Steak and Seafood, and it turned out to be in a new shopping development called The Bridge out at the border between Huntsville and Madison. The shopping village is dominated by a huge Westin hotel, and surrounded by a pretty lake, with paddle boats for rent. With an hour-long wait in effect, I decided to eat in the bar at Connor’s, and the steak there was quite good. After a latte at a nearby chocolate shop, I began the long drive back to Memphis.

The Frontline June 2009

NOTES ON THE STATE OF THIRD-COAST HIP-HOP- More and more people are jumping into the rap game strictly to make money, and their albums sound like it. How many more albums are we going to have to endure that brag about the sales and distribution of drugs, that promote violence against others, or disrespect of women, or that introduce some silly, mindless dance, usually sexually explicit? Time is running out for this artform that we love. We call recording musicians “artists” because we assume that what they create is “art”. Increasingly, that assumption is naive on our part, because there’s nothing artistic about hanging out in the “trap house.” Wake up, people!!! THE WAR REPORT- Memphis, Tennessee has been front and center, thanks to MTV’s Five Dollar Cover,¬†which follows the careers of a lot of local bands and artists, including Memphis veteran AL KAPONE and his son YOUNG AJ, and the rap/rock/comedy artist MUCK STICKY. KAPONE and AJ, along with their live band, were one of the main sensations at Austin’s South By Southwest Music Festival in March, where they were featured on the Memphis Music Foundation stage. Memphis rappers LORD T & ELOISE and FREE SOL were also highly visible at the festival. Memphis has also seen the release of solo albums from DJ PAUL and JUICY J from the THREE-6 MAFIA and YO GOTTI. Albums are on the way from GANGSTA BLAC and MC MACK. Memphis will also for the first time be hosting the Urban Network Summit on June 10-13 at the Memphis Cook Convention Center. Be there!Nashville native ALEX KING has completed his debut album Reincarnated and will release it nationally in June. In Mobile, Alabama, CD and DVD Warehouse has opened a second location in the suburb of Semmes, and the C & M Record Pool is sponsoring a music conference on July 7. Florida’s internet radio station Reewine Radio is sponsoring a music conference on June 19-20, with panels and listening sessions on Friday, and a beach party on Saturday. In Georgia, the Southwest Georgia Radio and Music Conference was held in Albany in March, and was a huge success. People came from as far away as New Orleans and Rochester, New York, and there were notable artists there, including the New Orleans veteran KILO. Coinciding with the conference was the announcement of the formation of World South Entertainment, a new Albany label that is preparing to release an album by the artist KNO GOOD. Other albums are out or on the way from GUCCI MANNE, YUNG RALPH, T-ROCK and V-TEC. In Louisiana, Baton Rouge legend C-LOC, who helped launch the careers of BOOSIE, WEBBIE, YOUNG BLEED and MAXMINELLI, has released his latest solo album entitled Scrape The Plate. There is also a new record store in Baton Rouge called Da Sewa Underground Music and More. On August 26-30, 2009, the 13th annual Cutting Edge Music Business Conference will be held at the Westin Canal Place Hotel in New Orleans. Make your plans now to be there, as this will be one of the most important conferences of the year. Greenwood, Mississippi was the scene of a music conference in early May, which was attended by a number of artists from Mississippi and Louisiana, including KILO from New Orleans and Jackson artist RAZEN KANE. Albums are on the way from DONNIE CROSS and SMACKABATCH. In September, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina will again be the location for the Southeast Music and Entertainment Summit (SMES). Call them at (866) 554-2405 to register or get more information, and make your plans now to be there. From Texas, new albums are on the way from JUAN GOTTI, MONEY WATERS and MURDER ONE. Continue to support your local record stores. They are important!