New “Lo-Fi in Hi-Fi” Series Celebrates Memphis’ Underground Rap Classics

By now, it’s a widely accepted fact that Memphis’ underground rap scene of the ’90s helped to lay the groundwork for much of what proceeded it, including crunk, trap, and the South’s ascendence to the center of the hip-hop universe. Considering that many of these influential artists began with home recordings and without the backing of major labels, this was quite an astounding feat. The new “Lo-Fi in Hi-Fi” series hopes to give these early seminal artists their due by holding listening events for some of the most important albums of that era. Hosted by Shangri-La Records at the Memphis Listening Lab every fourth Thursday from May until October, these listening parties are free and open to the public. Before the series officially kicks off on May 23rd, we thought we’d give you a quick overview of the 6 featured albums in this year’s inaugural line-up                                              

May 23: Playa Fly- “Movin On’”

Like nearly all of the artists featured in the “Lo-Fi in Hi-Fi” series, Playa Fly never managed to fully break out of the underground, yet his influence continues to permeate the culture. An early affiliate of Three 6 Mafia before a notoriously hostile falling out, Playa Fly established himself as one of the city’s breakout stars in the 1990s. Movin’ On, his 1998 sophomore album, remains a Memphis rap classic and features the beloved regional singles “Nobody Needs Nobody” and “I-B-N.”

June 27: Tommy Wright III- “On the Run”

While Tommy Wright III will likely never receive his proper accolades for being a progenitor of Memphis rap–and therefore a godfather of crunk, trap, and all of its many other offshoots–it has been heartening to see the OG finally receive at least some of his flowers in recent years, including a production credit on Beyonce’s massive Renaissance album. Nowhere is Tommy’s influence more clear than on his 1996 magnum opus On the Run, a lo-fi masterpiece that still sounds ahead of its time.

July 25: Gangsta Pat- “Deadly Verses”

An early master of the triplet flow and one of the pioneers of horrorcore, Gangsta Pat is amongst Memphis’ most important artists of the 1990s. His 1995 album Deadly Verses found the rapper exhibiting a newfound maturity–both stylistically and in terms of subject matter–over some of the best beats of the era. Clocking in at a succinct 45 minutes, Deadly Verses is the definition of “all killer, no filler.”

August 22: La Chat- “Murder She Spoke”

Alongside the late, great Gangsta Boo, La Chat helped to smash through Memphis rap’s glass ceiling and pave the way for other women such as Trina, GloRilla, and Megan Thee Stallion. Best known for her association with the Hypnotize Minds, La Chat first broke into the public consciousness with her star-making guest feature on Project Pat’s classic “Chickenheads.” The following year, she released her debut album Murder She Spoke, which proved that she could be just as ruthless and nasty as any of the men in her camp.

September 26: Gangsta Blac- “74 Minutes of Bump”

If you were lucky enough to be in Memphis during the summer of 1999, you can probably remember the absolute chokehold that his regional hit “S.O.U.T.H. Parkway” had on the radio waves. The breakout hit from his classic 74 Minutes of Bump led many new fans to discover the Memphis rap O.G., who has already been in the game for years. As the title promises, Blac does indeed deliver over an hour of “bump” in this essential project.

October 24: Kingpin Skinny Pimp- “King of Da Playaz Ball”

First making waves as a frequent guest throughout Three 6 Mafia’s debut album Mystic Stylez, Kingpin Skinny Pimp was one of the city’s biggest underground stars throughout the 1990s. His 1996 debut King of Da Playaz Ball, which features some of DJ Paul’s finest production work, proved that he could shine as a solo artist and remains one of the defining projects of its era.

 

To learn more about the series and for a list of special guest speakers, visit https://www.memphislofiinhifi.com/.

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