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Title: Walker Ave
Authors: Walker, Grayson
Keywords: Rap;Hip Hop;Memphis;Memphis Music;Lightskin Legend;Student Research;Institute for Regional Studies
Issue Date: 3-Aug-2021
Abstract: This project, Walker Ave, is my love letter to Memphis, Memphis music, and Memphis musicians. As an outsider originally from Colorado, I have teamed up with local musicians and producers to help capture the “Memphis Sound”—samples from Memphis musicians like Three Six Mafia, “scary” synthesized strings, quick hi-hat patterns on the Roland TR-808 drum machine (or synthesized version of the “808”), Blues themes and chord progressions, and the dialectic slang and accent unique to the region can all be responsible for a Memphis musical identity. Despite Memphis often being described in the news as a dangerous cesspit of an inner city buoyed only by the prevalent positive advertisement of the histories of Elvis Presley and the blues, the city of Memphis creates music that influences and inspires musicians across place and time. In hip hop specifically, Three Six Mafia created a unique form of southern trap characterized by sampling, “scary” synth strings, dark, brooding keyboard lines, trap hi-hats, triplet rhythms, and 808 drum lines that is constantly innovated and embellished upon by Memphis’ new generation of rappers and producers. New-age artists like Moneybagg Yo, Young Dolph, Key Glock, Duke Deuce, and Pooh Shiesty team up with producers like Tay Keith, HitKidd, RealRed, and TP808s to continually evolve the “classic” 808 drum sounds and beats and utilize the typical synth sounds, but in new ways—infusing their own individual styles and voices into the current version of the “Memphis Sound.” As a result of the stereotypical view of Memphis as crime-ridden and unremarkable (a perspective motivated by its demographics as one of the few majority-Black cities in the country), evidenced by its label as “the most dangerous city in America” according to U.S. News and its low quality of life rankings on travel sites, very little credit is given to individuals, organizations, and creatives in the city. Music is a large part of both the illness (in that the benevolent focus on Presley discredits other music from the city) and the remedy in this sense, and by exposing and promoting the unique and remarkable musical characteristics of Memphis, I believe this image can be shifted. The negative connotations typically associated with the city can be racist and harmful in many ways, but with music as a vehicle this project serves to push back again those narratives and educate outsiders on the groundbreaking and trendsetting nature of Memphis music of all genres.
Appears in Collections:Rhodes Institute for Regional Studies

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