You gotta love the new mayor of Jackson. No, not that one. Skipp Coon, born Joecephus Martin, calls himself "the mayor of Jackson," and even raps about the current mayor of Jackson from time to time. Skipp Coon—a name he created to talk back to the stereotypes of the Jim Crow era—is an honors graduate of Jackson State with a degree in education, now working on his master's. Calling himself "more of a rapper than a hustler," Skipp says he is not solidly in the Dirty South rap-music camp with a lot of other area rappers. The Forest Hill High graduate likes Project Pat, 8 ball and MJG—and even Maroon 5. He said in a recent blog interview that he admires David Banner "because he reps Mississippi" and Kanye West "cause he made it big without killing anyone or selling dope." Last summer, Skipp toured Europe with his friend DJ Phingaprint, and played the biggest hip-hop festival on the continent—in the Czech Republic, where he was a sensation. Skipp is working on his new album with about a dozen tracks ready to go; you can hear "I'm Just Skipp" on the jacksonfreepress.com Podcast #1 right now. So come listen to the mayor.
by Lynette Hanson
Twenty-two-year-old Scott Johnson plays a Cannon Ball Adderly saxophone, two of them in fact. Most recently Scott "Goose" Johnson played along with three Jackson jazz veterans at Jazz, Art and Friends.
Standing tall in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows, Johnson took what he's been learning for years from Jackson's jazz men and gave his listeners an evening of songs like "Misty" and "Superstition," colored by the sounds he brought forth from his saxophones, themselves the color of burnished mercury.
Johnson and I had talked earlier in the evening, as Knight Bruce set up his keyboard, Ameen Rashied his drums, and Raphael Semmes his electric bass. My first question wasn't musical—I had to find out how he got his nickname. "You'll have to ask Mr. Charles Hooker that one. He called me 'Goose, goose,' at a gig one time back at Musiquarium." Johnson was 16 or 17 then. Hooker later told me that he'd heard someone else use it, and the nickname stuck in his mind; now it's handy for differentiating between "Goose" and Jackson's other talented musician of the same name.
Once you hear the 6'4" young gentleman play, you won't have any trouble remembering the sounds he coaxes from his instrument of choice. Johnson took up the saxophone his first year at APAC and has been playing the sax ever since.
Johnson, now a junior at the University of Southern Mississippi, has a couple of musical goals in mind. First he wants to play often with as many experienced people as possible. "Look at these guys; I can learn so much from them," he said. Which leads naturally to Johnson's second goal, to teach someday. He wants to take what he'll have learned from his dual majors of music education and jazz studies, combine it with every bit of knowledge he picks up from musicians like Knight, Rashied and Semmes, and use it as he teaches others. "What I've gained from these guys—music reminds me of the oral tradition that passes what's been learned from experience, not from books. I want to pass it on."
by Lea Thomas
It's a lazy Jackson afternoon. The clouds are stuck on the verge of pouring and the thermometer is still waiting for spring. Cathy Williams, 20, is inside and dry amidst a sea of little ones who are about to lie down for an afternoon nap. After all, this afternoon is perfect for napping.
Williams spends her days working at her mother's childcare center, Little Angels, from 9-to-5. After 5, however, Cathy Williams becomes Ca'ya, pronounced Kayyah. Ca'Ya has been honing her skills since elementary school.
"I've been writing songs since I was 8," she says. She went on to put out her first demo at 15 while at Callaway High School.
At 18, Ca'ya released her first rhythm-and-blues album, "Fantasies of You," in January 2004. Although her musical heroine is Mariah Carey, she was compared to an equally gifted but very different artist. "People say that the vocals on my first album reminded them of Sade," she says. "My new album will be more up-tempo. I'll be able to demonstrate more vocal range."
Five years since she recorded her first demo, Ca'Ya is working on her sophomore offering. "It should be out in July, around my birthday."
Ca'ya's voice is melodic, raspy and sultry. It flows smoothly from one word to the next like a rippling stream. Her voice was clearly made for making music.
Ca'Ya performed at the Farish Street Festival in September. She was nervous at first but once on stage that all went away and the performer took over. "I believe I'm a born performer," she says. The crowd was sparse in the beginning. "When I started singing the crowd drew in. It was amazing."
Ca'ya credits the M.A.P. Coalition with giving her the opportunity to work with various producers. She wants to work with Kamikaze in the near future. Her goals for herself are pretty lofty, and her matter-of-factness is courageous: "I want to nab a major record deal within the next two years." There's nothing lazy about that.
by Alex Slawson
With a name like Scarlet Speedster, one might expect music in the vein of early '90s Brit-pop or grungy alterna-rock. Surprisingly, they pump out a unique blend of darkwave and gothic rock that harkens back to the early days of The Cult, The Cure and, yes, even Depeche Mode and The Smiths. Created in the summer of 2004 by three close friends who were tired of the heavy-metal music of their previous bands, Scarlet Speedster set out to create music that had been lost in the local rock scene of late.
Members include Dusty Goff (guitarist/electronic programming), Jeremiah Lipking, (bassist) and Bobby Hansford (drummer/electronic percussion). Upon creating the band, the trio found the freedom necessary to fulfill their musical vision, which is a sound of lush melodies and driving rhythms reminiscent of the goth-rock scene of the early '80s. As mentioned before, their biggest influences are the superstars of the goth-era, e.g. The Cult and The Cure. One can even hear elements of The Prayer Chain, who were popular in the second gothic wave of the early and mid '90s. Make no mistake, these guys are constantly honing their sound and creating something that is rather unique to Jackson in the process.
Scarlet Speedster have just released a self-titled EP, which is available at their live shows and through their Web site; http://www.scarletspeedster.com They are currently working on another EP, slated for completion by April. The guys will play shows in Baton Rouge and Fort Smith, Ark., over the next month, but their next local live performance is scheduled for March 24 at W.C. Dons.
by Herman Snell
Apache Valentino grooves on a Velvet Underground-inspired gem followed by a Bloc Party-angular guitar-party riff. They wear their influences on their sleeves, but this four-piece indie-rock outfit from Jackson wears them well. In their spare time, they listen to Franz Ferdinand, Weezer, Wilco, The Strokes, Built to Spill, The Allmans and the Beatles. They've put their heart into a new album and they're still in high school. Expect great things from them.
by Catherine Schmidt
I walk into The Try-Force lair to find Daniel Johnson meticulously pasting bird-shaped scotchtape pieces to a canvas. Walter Young sets up a drum kit, and Jim Henegan holds Carl Jung's "Man and His Symbols" in his hands.
When you are in the same room with The Try-Force, conversation is punctuated with the rumble of a snare or a chord on the keyboard.
"I love these guys—I see this band as an outgrowth of our relationship," says keyboard and saxophone player Daniel Johnson.
Johnson and his cohorts Young, drummer, and Henegan, guitarist and vocalist, have been creating music together for years but have united under the name "The Try-Force" only in the last six months.
The band's name came from a discussion of the golden ratio, Young's affinity for Zelda, and the playful notion that the band is also the "Tri-Force."
Those familiar with the Jackson music scene might recognize the three as members of Alexander's Dark Heart—minus Roy Geoghegan, who has relocated to Starkville. Their music has evolved into a creature uniquely their own.
"One time I told someone we were a cross between Neil Young and Sigur Ros," says Young.
If this combination is hard to imagine, take it on faith that a Try-Force show can be like an out-of-body experience. In fact, Johnson identifies the ideal audience as "people who like to be mesmerized."
"I try to create organic, nature-rooted electronic sounds," Johnson explains as he demonstrates the versatility of his Microkorg.
Even the vocals take on a non-traditional element as Johnson explains that they are not simply placed on top of the instruments but rather are mixed with the instruments.
While the members of The Try-Force value their own innovation, they recognize their music as dovetailing with the direction of Jackson and its music in general. Recently, Johnson and Young have been exposed to many new Mississippi bands through their radio show "Mississippi Happening," which showcases the state's rising musicians.
"The different bands in Mississippi have a common spirit that you can connect and make a flowing show with. But they're different; they all have individual character," says Johnson.
by Herman Snell
The first instant you hear him sing, you know he is the real deal. His silky pure melancholy pop and masterful blend of soul and folk is astonishing. Bohlke's medicine goes down like a cure-all of Sufjan Stevens, Ben Harper and Stevie Wonder. He has the unrequited emotional impact of Nick Drake, the pop prowess of Kill Rock Stars' Elliott Smith, and delivers something totally fresh and original.
Paying the toll as an acoustic singer/songwriter on the Jackson scene can be perilous on a budding new talent. He grew up singing in the church choir in Sardis, Miss., and has played only a hand full of shows at Hal & Mal's so far. It's tough to break out of the coffeehouses for many an acoustic singer/songwriter. The earnestness and deep soulfulness is apparent, and proof positive that this Mississippi native is in touch with his roots. Since college he's been based in Oxford, and has been making regional waves long enough for things to start to take hold. Bohlke is going to happen. He's what you've been looking for. His self-titled debut album is available on Oxford's Ampere Records.
by Adrienne Hearn
Lil Shane looks even younger than 19—and then there is the Caucasian factor. Even though Lil Shane is preceded by other highly successful Caucasian rappers such as Eminem, Bubba Sparxx and Paul Wall, people still question his hip-hop knowledge and talent. However, he assures me that once he has the mike in his hand all questions of his ability tend to dissipate. "Actually it's kind of like an advantage. 'Cause I'm white, I'm real small, I don't look like I'm 19, and then I get up there and I start rapping and they're tripping out."
A native of Brandon, Miss., Lil Shane—born Jeffrey Shane Roberts—says rap was something of a birthday present. "One year for my birthday I told my mom and pops I wanted to go to a studio and lay down two tracks and just hear them bump to a CD. That's where it started from about April of last year and I've been doing it ever since," he says.
Lil Shane admits he still has a lot to learn when it comes to hip-hop, and he prefers performing on stage to being in the studio. "I'm just getting started in the studio, I'm learning still. But performing, I've got over probably 200 performances under my belt just within like nine months," he says.
Lil Shane admires artists such as Lil Boosie, Juvenile and David Banner. He is also thankful for all who offered a helping hand for his up-coming album entitled "Planet Purple 601—The Album" including Baby Stone, Braq of the Queen Boyz and Kamikaze. The album contains a total of three discs, including not only the album itself but also a DVD and a mix-tape entitled "Down & Dir't."
The young artist has also created "Dir't Boy Entertainment" with a newly signed artist who calls himself Country Boy Blaizz. Lil Shane keeps himself busy learning all he can in the studio, and of course performing every chance he gets.
When asked the question about what he thought was more important, lyrics or beats, his response was definitely "your lyrics have got to be strong. To make it is what I've always wanted to do. Actually doing this, what I love, rappin', I've never thought that you could do something like that," he says.
Like many other Mississippi artists, Lil Shane is a part of the M.A.P. Coalition. He is currently an independent artist without any record deals for now, although he does admit that if one were to come along with the right offer, he'd certainly take it. His album "Purple Planet 601" will be out by Christmas and available at local Be-Bop Record stores. Additional information about the album, "Dir't Boy Entertainment," or Lil Shane can be obtained by e-mailing him at [e-mail unavailable].
Look for the Apache Valentino CD in the next few weeks.
- Patrick Roach