Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Walking in Memphis: An Evening with Al Kapone (off Hiphopdx.com)

Off of Hiphopdx.com. Check out one of Memphis' own legend's....



I don’t give praise where praise isn’t due. I have never had anything handed to me, nor have I ever been garnished with any extra praise or respect due to any outlying factors. My work speaks for itself, hopefully, and if not, well I swear my Zach Efron complexion does not give me some sort of disadvantage in my knowledge of all things hip-hop. It’s all music baby, and all that matters is black and white: my words on the page, the keys on your piano, and the contrast of the microphone, dark and brooding and the well-lit stage that it is paraded around upon.

All praises that are thrown upon Al Kapone are due. A southern rap pioneer, providing for his family while running his own independent label for over twenty years. Shit, it’s obvious praise is due. It was my entrance to his world, the low-lit studio in downtown Memphis, that has provided countless inspiration for other artists, movie directors, and even adoring audiences, that like numerous people before me was my inspiration. Forget the plaques on the wall for the hits he’s penned in recent years including “Snap Yo Fingers” and “U and Dat” of E-40 fame, and forget the Craig Brewer film that he inspired. Focus on what’s coming out of the speakers. That’s real. That’s hip-hop. That’s Kapone. And what follows these are just snippets from the thorough one-two I performed while picking Kapone’s brain. I promise it’s not the smoke-filled room that has me ten feet off of Beale. This is Alphonzo Bailey. These are his words.

50 YTS: Kapone, do you approach writing for other artists differently than you do writing for yourself?

AK: Naw, not really. You know, the only difference is writing for myself is more personal and based off my experiences. Writing for other people is still just as passionate and I live with it the same way I live with my stuff. My music is just personalized to my life. When I write for someone else, like the stuff I’m writing for a movie right now it must fit with what they need, the subject matter, whatever. Yet, it’s still the same passion and love.

50 YTS: With the explosion of other Southern Music scenes like Atlanta and Florida (Miami, Tallahassee) why hasn’t Memphis blown up like the previously mentioned places? I mean Memphis has everything from Drumma Boy and Jazze Pha producing to Yo Gotti, Three 6, 8Ball & MJG, and yourself as emcees. What’s the problem?

AK: One thing is Memphis, we never present it ourselves in a united front. Atlanta has presented itself in a united front. Even New Orleans with Cash Money and P, there were a number of different artists that were getting the national spotlight at one time, where they all were repping where they from, and then the whole world had to recognize it. Memphis’ fame has been scattered. Three 6, I mean, even though they represent Memphis, there hasn’t been enough artists to be on a certain level at the same time and to scream Memphis at the same time, it is that more than anything. We haven’t been able to present the city at the same time. Of course, people that really know hip hop, when you break it down, that’s when you realize there are a lot of motherfuckers that did shit. If there are that many artists from different genres did so many things, than why? We just have never been able to present the city in a united front. That’s it.

50 YTS: What’s next for Al Kapone? What can we expect in the near future?

AK: Right now, I just finished music on a movie called Cadillac Records, I just finished the last song in the movie, a collaboration with Q Tip. There’s “$5 Cover” the new MTV show with Craig Brewer (Hustle and Flow). Also, I’m working on music for a lot of other film projects that are coming up, I’m at the 95% percent mark on my own album, the Young AJ album will drop soon, and he’s getting a lot of buzz, a young 14-year-old teen phenomenon. Sir Vince, he’s more of a street artist, currently working on his project through Alkatraz Records. SXSW in Austin, Texas, that’s going to be big. It’s cool, I was actually acting in “$5 Cover”, I was in several episodes got a lot of face time, that’s my first acting debut. I don’t know what’s going to happen with acting in the future, let’s hope the ball keeps rolling. The new album is a live-band album, actually, so that’s something to be excited for. The documentary that I just finished is called “Soul Of A Hustler”, and that’s coming out sometime in ’09, and I’m still serving my term as Memphis chapter President of the Grammy’s. Been busy, man.

50 YTS: Al, I have to ask, what do you think of the auto-tune phenomenon?

AK: I don’t mind speaking on it at all man. Honestly, in the beginning it was unique, I’m damn tired of it now to be flat out honest. Just like anything that’s unique in the beginning, when everyone tries to do it its not unique anymore, that’s it and that’s all. Like damn it, if I hear another fucking auto-tune [laughs], it used to be cool, its been burnt out, I think it will definitely be another phase that falls out. I hate it for the artists who it was their thing like T-Pain and Akon, because it’s gotten so oversaturated. I mean, they probably can last because they originated it, but we’ll see. That’s my take on it, started out cool than they burnt it up, however, there’s one song that I like right now, that “Heartless” [Kanye West] joint, I dig that mother fucking song, man, there's just something about it.

50 YTS: Your use of a live band and a DJ is something that was always a huge part of hip-hop, yet has been left out of a lot of live performances recently. However, live hip-hop always seems lacking if there is no DJ or band. Your thoughts?

AK: I think one thing about hip hop, one of the reasons why it first distanced itself from the live band, was that the production in the beginning was straight based on drum beats. There’s no music… just kick, snare, hi hat, and claps. “Radio” the LL song for example, I mean that’s what phased out the live band side of it, but as it started to evolve more and more the music started to get more into it, it just never picked up the band thing. Of course, you’ve got to pay more people when you’ve got a band, and it’s more of a management problem. But, personally, I love the live band element, there are so many things you can play off and feed off of them jamming, just so much inspiration. I love it personally, I mean sometimes I even hate to perform without the band. The bottom line, is that it was just a natural progression away from live instrumentation and then it got lost in the shuffle. Its actually coming back but everybody can’t do it, there has been an over saturation of the market with mediocre artists but the band thing, that kind of weeds emcees out, you’ve got to be on your game on a certain level to even have a band. You got more to the pure creativity and art and good feel. It might take a minute for it to catch back on but the ones that doing it are doing it well.

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