Alabama hip-hop artist Yelawolf stopped by Memphis hip-hop boutique Sneak Peek for a brief instore Saturday afternoon, before heading to the Cozy Corner for a Memphis-style rib dinner and then his performance at the Hi-Tone.
Africa in April has become a spring tradition in Memphis, and while it might not be exactly Freaknik, it’s as close as we’ve ever gotten in Memphis, since it usually involves bright, sunny weather, street vendors, good food, live music and huge crowds of people. This year, Nigeria was the African country being honored, and the pretty weather brought out the people (and unfortunately, the politicians as well).
Africa in April is also the kind of event where you seem to run into people you know. I certainly did, running into my friends Corey Blocker (the rapper Tune C) and Ronald Grayson (the rapper Tha Boss King) amongst the huge crowds in Church Park. With the weather so pleasant, Beale Street was crowded as well.
In the evening, Tune C headed down to the South Main Arts District with me to a place called MPACT Memphis, where there was a launch party for a clothing venture called Strange Fruit Vintage. It did not draw a huge crowd, and there were no performances, but we did get to meet the young woman who is starting the firm.
Binghampton’s Caritas Village is an amazing coffee bar, art space, community center, housing co-op and a lot more, and on Friday, they sponsored an art exhibit of works by students in some of Memphis’ public schools. The noted Memphis artist Frank D had invited me, and I was really impressed with the quality of the works displayed.
I drove down to Clarksdale last Thursday to meet up with Justin Showah, the owner of Hill Country Records, who was playing the opening night of Juke Joint Festival with Jimbo Mathus’ Mosquitoville touring show at the Delta Cinema. Once in Clarksdale, I met up with Robert Kimbrough, one of blues legend Junior Kimbrough’s sons, and got caught up in the street performances and general festivities. I bought some vinyl records, saw some performances outdoors and at Ground Zero Blues Club, and ate dinner at the famous Abe’s Bar-B-Q. I had always thought of Juke Joint Festival as a local festival, like most small Southern towns have, but it’s really more of a South by Southwest of the blues. A lot of fun, and it really wouldn’t get going good until Friday and Saturday!
As it got later, I stopped at a Starbucks in a new shopping mall in Destin for a cappuccino, and then headed on to Fort Walton Beach where I met my homeboy Florida J at a hip-hop club downtown called Barley’s. The club was fairly crowded when I arrived, and eventually some local groups were performing on stage. But faced with a long drive back to Memphis the next day, I headed back to the room in Sandestin.
The trip from Gainesville back to Memphis is a long one, so I planned to break it up somewhere between, and discovered that I could get a reasonable rate on a room at Sandestin as long as I didn’t mind staying on the bay side of the resort, which I didn’t. My hotel room had a view of Choctawhatchee Bay, and was actually a three-room suite. Just a short drive away was an area of shops and restaurants known as the Village of Baytowne Wharf, where I ate dinner and did a fair amount of walking around. At one of the bars and grills near the pier, a band was playing, and I was surprised at the extent of the crowds. The weather was delightful, but after dinner I decided to head back to the room, and then to Fort Walton Beach to meet my homeboy Florida J at a rap club called Barley’s.
Seaside, Florida is a unique and charming “new town” along Florida’s Highway 30A corridor which is so popular with people from Memphis. Built according to a plan which is at once new and traditional, the town is centered around a large public square, where most of the restaurants and shops are located. Of special interested is Sundog Books and Central Square Records, a pair of cool shops that share a building. Central Square Records carries a surprisingly varied selection of jazz, world music and indie rock, with plenty of vinyl, and is definitely worth a detour off the main highway.
This really cool coffee bar, which I came upon by accident while driving from Gainesville to Sandestin, is basically non-profit. Signs inside explain that all profits after expenses are given to several named charities, including one in Tallahassee that helps the poor, and one working with struggling villagers in Guatemala. Really good coffee, and you can feel good about yourself after buying it, too!