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Rap From Memphis: The Outtakes

The Pyramid Sports Arena in Memphis in 1998.
Visions of America/UIG via Getty Images
The Pyramid Sports Arena in Memphis in 1998.

During the reporting of our story about the legacy of Comin' Out Hard in Memphis rap, we spent time in the city with MJG, Young Dolph and Drumma Boy. We met Yo Gotti in New York and got Eightball in a studio in Atlanta. We didn't have enough time to talk to everybody who's made Memphis rap what it is, like Gangsta Boo, or DJ Paul, Juicy J, Project Pat, or even Gangsta Pat. And we couldn't fit everything the folks we did speak to had to say in the 7-minute radio piece, or the longer web version. So here's the best of what was left on the cutting room floor.

MJG's Favorite Lyric Off Comin' Out Hard

I can sit here all day long and name you 30 favorites but there's one that sticks in my head. That's the one where I say "1, 2, 3 points I gotta get across / 1. don't 2. make me 3. go off." It rings in my head for a couple of different reasons.

It's been a few artists that have used that line for a hook, and back in the day before Eazy-E passed away he told Tony Draper on the phone when he heard that line — because of that he said, "That cat dere cold." He said, "He good right there. You need to keep him."

Eightball On The Reaction To Comin' Out Hard

It was a stupid buzz in Memphis. Draper being who he was, and people, the word of mouth, you know what I mean, that street buzz. But other places like Houston and — I want to say Dallas was one of those places where it instantly was good due to a lot from Greg Street. He played us on the radio a whole lot down there, the singles from Comin' Out Hard.

Eightball On Touring

In a rental car with me, MJG and Draper and a trunk full of product. That was our tour. We was young and thuggin'. Draper be driving, we be on the highway, he doing 100, me and MJ rolling up, smoking, you know what I'm saying. That's what it was. We'd go coast to coast like that, getting speeding tickets and hiding the weed. That was a good year.

Eightball On His Generation Of Musicians

We come from a different era where we had a different blend of music that, that I guess was the seed of our music. Kids now, what you hear from them is a blend of — to me — you hear a lot of soul but you hear more of what we done. And when I say "we," I mean that time in hip-hop. Not just me and MJG, but the early Master Ps and Cash Moneys. The Snoops and stuff like that, that the kids of now that's doing music, they parents came up on. Because we was the music that they parents was cleaning up the house to.

Yo Gotti On The Civil Rights Movement In Memphis Music

It's part of the struggle, knowing that those types of civil rights things took place down there. They got the hotel down there that a lot of people come visit. I actually shot part of my album cover at that hotel for this album, it was part of the whole theme of the I Am album. But I most definitely think that the Civil Rights Movement have a lot to do with the pain down there because a lot of our grandparents — things like that is very familiar. They was there during the marches and things like that so we grow up — typical you grow up at your grandmama's house so you hear about it, you see the pictures and you be very familiar with their whole struggle.

Yo Gotti On Mentorship In Memphis Rap

When Three 6 and Eightball and MJG was doing they thing, Eightball and MJG was in Houston, Three 6 was, I think, in L.A. or something, so an artist like me that was on the come up, they ain't like — I really never seen them, either one of them. But the first time I got to the point where my music was getting hotter, when I reached out to Eightball to do a record, he reached right back out to me and it kind of like surprised me because I'm like, "Oh, he hit me right back!" I reached out to several other artists before then who weren't as big as Eightball and didn't get a response back. Trying to reach out to Eightball was a long shot and then he's the one that hit me right back: "What you need? Whatever you need is cool." That threw me for a whole loop. I sent him a record, which was "Gangsta Party," he put a verse on it, sent it right back to me. I still remember the night I got the verse back. I was like, geeked, I couldn't believe he had done it. And it wasn't about no money or nothing like he just done it for me.

I tell Don Trip and all them the same thing. I feel like what I already experienced and know — what he ain't experienced yet, it don't really hurt me, or I don't lose nothing by telling him that game. I can prevent him from going a route that I've already made a mistake doing.

I think the negative image [of Memphis musicians] is the education of the music business. I think Three 6 Mafia is probably very smart on the business — if you do your research on they business structure of finances and how they made money, they made a lot of money. You've got me who come along, who's very business-oriented. So how you handle the business with it, we know that but it ain't really public.

If you go to Atlanta, what I noticed is the up-and-coming artists, they know the business, they know the steps, they know — even if the record ain't super great, they know how to get it mixed right, mastered right. Like, that's public information, everybody know who the best mixer is, who the best master is or how deals supposed to go, who's the best lawyers. Everybody know that in Atlanta because there's so many artists there. I don't know how it's getting out but everybody know it. Memphis, don't nobody know nothing.

Drumma Boy On Memphis' Reputation

I think Memphis is underrated. People was saying Memphis was gone blow up before Atlanta and then Atlanta just took off. Memphis is definitely overdue. There's just enormous amounts of talent and history in the city of Memphis and I think it's just a matter of time.

Drumma Boy On Musicians From Memphis Leaving The City

I physically left but my presence is always in Memphis, I've always had residencies and I still have residencies. It's more like growing up with Yo Gotti, coming up with 8ball, MJG, Three 6 Mafia — I worked with everybody I could in the city. So the next step was to elevate to another city where there are way more people to work with.

Once you done worked with everybody in the city, it's like, "OK I'm bored as f---, nobody else to get money from, let me go to Atlanta." And Pastor Troy called me out the blue, so really I left to go get some money. Went and got $8,000, did two tracks for Pastor Troy and one of the songs blew up in the strip club. You still sitting in one city that means you ain't blown up yet. If you still sitting in one city you're not the celebrity you think you are

Young Dolph On The Influence Of Memphis And The South

Atlanta got the rap game on lock, but if you go to all the artists that's top artists from Atlanta they gone tell you how much Memphis music influenced them. From my partner 2 Chainz, to T.I., to Young Jeezy, a lot of them Atlanta artists they gone tell you "I grew up on that Memphis music." Memphis got a big part to play in the hip-hop scene just because the hip-hop scene really is — like, Atlanta is taking over. It's going crazy in the south, that's where the music at right now.

Like '97, '98, '99 it was a East Coast thing. You had the Ruff Ryders, you had Roc-A-Fella, you had all the East Coast and they was doing they thing. So once it shifted and came down south you got them cats that's still in New York, the ones that's doing they thing, they grinding, the major artists, they couldn't just let it go. And they respected the game and they like, "Hey I'm fin get ready to come down south." They started coming down south to Miami, Atlanta. Getting beats from southern producers and all that. It's just really adapting to the game. They adapted to it.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Frannie Kelley is co-host of the Microphone Check podcast with Ali Shaheed Muhammad.