Memphis, Tennessee. A city rich in musical history and (at least in part) responsible for the careers of such respected artists as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, B. B. King, Aretha Franklin, Muddy Waters, Al Green, Tina Turner, Isaac Hayes, John Lee Hooker and various other iconic artists that blessed the world with their music. In more modern times the city has been striving when it comes to hip hop. Memphis spawned a unique gangsta sound that even managed to land arguably the city's most reknowned hip hop artists, Three Six Mafia, an Oscar for their work on 'Hustle & Flow', a 2005 film about a Memphis pimp coming up in the rap game. With both the likes of 8 Ball & MJG and the aforementioned Three 6 Mafia putting the city on the map for even the casual hip hop listener, and with artists such as Gangsta Pat, Tommy Wright III, Ska Face Al Kapone, Tela and Gangsta Blac reppin the city on a more underground level, it is clear that Memphis' rich musical history continues.
In 1995, the Three Six Mafia (formerly Triple Six Mafia), dropped 'Mystic Stylez' on Prophet Entertainment, an album that soon became an underground classic and paved the way for the outfit to become figureheads of the Memphis rap scene. Since the group's creation, the line-up has continued to change, artists that have flown the flag are as follows: DJ Paul, Juicy J, Lord Infamous, Crunchy Black, Gangsta Boo, Koopsta Knicca and now Project Pat. The 'Mystic Stylez' release, along with other early Three Six material, has a uniquely sinister sound that unfortunately has been lost over the years with the group choosing to shift to a more commercially viable sound, although I still like their newer stuff it is nothing on their earlier efforts. The track I've uploaded for this post is their notorious 'Tear Da Club Up', a track the group later reworked and released on their 'Chapter 2: World Domination' album that achieved Gold status.
Gangsta Pat has been a mainstay in the Memphis scene from the very early stages, however unfortunately he often gets overlooked for whatever reason. In 1991 Pat dropped the classic "#1 Suspect" release on Atlantic Records however the album didn't achieve as much success as it deserved. Pat then dropped a couple of albums of a lesser quality on Wrap/Ichiban before moving to Power records to drop what many regard as his best album, "Deadly Verses", in 1995. Although, personally I believe nothing can touch his debut album, this album has its fair share of dope tracks including 'O.J. Murder Story' where Pat raps about what really happened. After this album Pat dropped a host of other albums including 'Tear Yo Club Down', an album where on the title track Gangsta Pat directs a brutal diss to the Three Six Mafia after Three Six labeled Pat "a fake ass rapper with no skills" in an interview with The Source magazine.
Ska Face Al Kapone is another pioneer of the Memphis scene, and unfortunately I have to admit that I slept on his music until I picked up a copy of the 'SouthWest Riders' compilation that came out on Sic Wid It Records in 1997. After I heard his work on that, I soon ordered myself a copy of his 'Memphis To Tha Bombed Out Bay' album that he dropped on his own imprint 'Alkatraz Dope Muzik' in 1998 and its safe to say that I wasn't disappointed. I've bid on a couple of Kapone's earlier releases on ebay but as with alot of underground gangsta rap the prices they go for are ridiculous.Recently Al Kapone worked on the soundtrack for Hustle & Flow, most notably on the 'Whoop That Trick' track that he wrote and that DJay raps in the movie, Al Kapone later remixed the track and you can check out the video on youtube. I've ripped 'I Ain't A Killa', which typical of Memphis rap, has a repetitive but sick hook and an eery beat that suits the rhyme style perfectly.
Eightball and MJG are legends of Memphis hip hop in their own right and pioneers of the southern sound, they are two rappers who really need no introduction. The duo who were once the jewel of the Suave House Records family have released a host of albums, both together as well as solo side projects. One of the things that I've always loved about their music is the fact that they often sample other quality underground gangsta rap artists. For example, on the track up for download with this post, 'Got's To Be Real', Gangsta Pat's "Who's that knockin on my door- narcotics, break out artillery hide the mothafuckin product" line from his classic debut album is sampled throughout the track. As with many hip hop artists their best works were their earlier releases, although that's not to diss their newer stuff. In 2004, Eightball and MJG signed with Bad Boy Records and dropped 'Living Legends' which achieved Platinum status.
Courtney Harris, better known as Gangsta Blac, hails from South Parkway, and was once hooked up with Three Six Mafia and even had his 1996 album 'Can It Be?' produced by DJ Paul and Juicy J. After moving on from his Three Six stint and releasing a string of albums on different labels, Blac decided to create his own in 2002 which he called 'Taylor Made Records'. My introduction to Gangsta Blac's music came by chance when I ordered one of his albums off of Ebay on an impulse bid just to cheapen overall postage costs. Although the cover is laughable, his music, thankfully, is far better. The album I have, '74 Minutes of Bump', is not a timeless classic but it is still pretty sick, for example his dedication to his hood 'S.O.U.T.H. Parkway' is one of those tracks, that if I was from the area, would be my anthem. The track you can download here, 'Weed N White', features Lil Gain and is another album highlight.
Three Six Mafia - Tear Da Club Up
Gangsta Pat - O.J. Murder Story
Ska Face Al Kapone Ft Big Vince - I Ain't A Killa
Eightball and MJG - Got's To Be Real
Gangsta Blac Ft Lil Gain - Weed N White
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