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VOL. 125 | NO. 171 | Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hip Hop Expo Puts Focus on City’s Emerging Scene

LESLEY YOUNG | Special to The Daily News

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Known the world over for its rich music history, Memphis waves high the banner the “Home of the Blues” and “Birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll.”

Hosea “M Town” Mays, director of social networking site Memphisrap.com, wants to create a similar recognition of the city’s current music scene, particularly its viable hip-hop industry.

“I hope we can get to where we’re not so focused on the past and our history of music, but also what’s modern and going on today in this city,” Mays said.

Mays has answered his own call by creating the first annual Memphis Hip Hop Weekend and Expo, a conference, expo and showcase that will be held Thursday through Sunday at the Memphis Cook Convention Center and Southwest Community College.

“Typically these artists pick up and leave because they don’t think there’s anything here for them,” Mays said. “I want to inform them of how they can utilize the resources and companies we have here.”

The expo, to be held Friday and Saturday at the convention center, will host close to 100 exhibitors, mostly from Memphis, such as the Memphis Music Foundation, the Memphis and Shelby County Music Commission, producers, managers, graphic designers and record labels.

To cover the education side of a career in entertainment, the conference, which will be held Thursday at Southwest, will feature panels on entertainment law, songwriting workshops and guest speakers, including Memphis producer Drumma Boy, who’s worked with such illustrious names as T.I., Yo Gotti and Kanye West.

“I see it as a great way to bring everyone together at one venue to find out about the organizations in Memphis that support the music community so well that a lot of people are not aware of,” Mays said.

The projected 4,000-plus attendees from across the nation will have the opportunity to see some of the talent in Memphis with performances by Gangsta Boo, Kia Shine, Hillkrunk and 40 or so others.

“We’re not bringing in (performers) from outside. We’re keeping it strictly local,” said event lead, DeAnna Brown, who also writes for Memphisrap.com and Ozone magazine. “It’s a family-oriented event, with child performers and dancers, but also educational for those interested in furthering their career.”

Other entertainment will include mixers, a fashion show, a BMX bike riders show, the South In Yo’ Mouth Food Taster, celebrity basketball and baseball games and an after-party.

Network officials with BET have promised to air footage from the event on their show “The Deal,” an exciting prospect for Mays, who hopes to use the showcase to connect the Memphis market to the rest of the world.

“It can serve as an outlet for people from outside the area to network with our industry here, to find out about club venues, to make connections and contacts, to find out how to put on an event here or to bring what we have to their city,” Mays said.

Cameron Mann, director of the Memphis Music Foundation’s Music Resource Center, said the event is good for business.

“Every artist is a business in the making,” Mann said. “If you live in Memphis, you know that hip-hop is one of the most vital musical forms in the city. We serve approximately 2,000 members through the resource center, and hip-hop artists are a huge part of our constituency, more than 50 percent.”

Creating more business is all part of the plan, said Mays, particularly within the 13 to 34 age bracket.

“That’s where the spending power comes from, and they’re willing to spend it, but they need to know about the organizations we have in the area, to see these organizations exist and open doors to the music industry and events in our city,” Mays said. “If they find out about these resources, it benefits our city. And this generation can be our next leaders and decision makers.”

Gauging by the two million members Memphisrap.com serves annually, Brown said the interest in the Memphis scene already exists.

“A lot of that is local, but there’s a lot of interest outside the city. Ozone magazine is always wanting to know what’s going on in Memphis,” she said. “We’ve had similar events in the past, and there’s always a great turnout, even without advertising.”

Mann sees an active future for the event.

“This is an opportunity to create like a South by Southwest (music conference) meets the Dub (car) show,” Mann said. “We hope the first annual turns into a multi-year event that grows over time.”

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