Photo by Deon Egenti
“This year Halloween fell on a weekend,” rapped the late Bushwick Bill in the 1991 Geto Boys smash hit, “Mind Playing Tricks On Me,” and this year marked a manifestation of his words. Sunday, October 31 marked the live concert of Lil Flip and 8Ball & MJG at Bar 5015, where the southern legends, from Houston and Memphis respectively, were coming together to perform their greatest hits and receive the flowers they righteously deserve.
For the “Freestyle King,” who got the nickname from the legendary DJ Screw, it’s all about paying it forward. Flip has had significant success in the early and mid-2000s with classic projects, like The Leprechaun and Underground Legend, and hit records, such as “I Can Do Dat” and “Sunshine.” As he continues to rise as an entrepreneur and seasoned veteran in the rap game, the Leprechaun rapper continues to perform across the state while elevating the artists on his label and showing everyone why the title of “Freestyle King,” is so befitting.
The legendary duo 8Ball and MJG arrived later with a huge entourage in tow as they made their presence felt. You can’t help but stare at their gold grills as soon as they open their mouth to greet you. Although they hail from Memphis, the duo got their big break in Houston when they signed to Suave House Records 30 years ago. Since then, they’ve had classic and impactful records that have lauded them as one of the most influential groups in hip-hop. If you want to know where the genesis of Memphis rap begins, it starts with them.
As I see Lil Flip and 8Ball and MJG greet one another, I couldn’t help but think about the impact both Memphis and Houston have on hip-hop currently. From the production, flow, and cultural impact, these two cities have made their mark in the genre. The underground and independent rap scene wouldn’t be what it is today without the artists from Houston who paved the way to make it lucrative. There are so many current waves in hip-hop that the South has birthed which make the region so impactful to this day. Fast-forward to the present day, Drake’s song “Knife Talk” could never be a top ten record if it wasn’t for the artists from Memphis who brought that sound to the forefront.
The Southern legends talk about both of their cities’ influences in hip-hop, how their relationship started, and the attributions to their legacy.
DE: You’re doing a concert with 8Ball &MJG at Bar 5015. I heard the song, “Destiny” that you did with them a while back where you talk about how you’ve been listening to them since you were young. What’s it like to have this relationship with them and how did you guys connect?
LF: Ball and G are some of my favorite rappers, so they’re one of the main reasons I’m working on music. They had a record called “Just Another Day in the Hood” that tells you about the music industry and they broke down the record game to me. We have a few records together. I got a record with them on Slab Routers, a record with MJG called “Can’t You Tell” on I Need Mine, and a record called “Bitch I’m The Man.” So I’ll be at Orange Mound pressured by MJG to drink Jack Daniels hahaha.
DE: With you being from Houston and 8Ball & MJG being from Memphis, do you feel like there are similarities between your two cities musically and culturally besides being from the South?
LF: Definitely! Ain’t too many people that can glide on the track like MJG. They are legendary and have influenced the culture in more ways than one. I love those guys.
DE: Flip, you’ve been here for more than two decades with classic tapes and platinum records under your belt. What are some things you attribute to your legacy and longevity?
LF: Man, just being raised by great people taught me to value and treat everybody with respect. My grandma always told me “even the dog deserves respect.” So I always treated people like the trashman like he’s a boss because you never know. The tables might turn and he might be the boss.
PART TWO: Interview with 8Ball & MJG
You guys have a deep connection with Houston because of your relationship with Suave House Records. Tell me about how you guys connected.
MJG: It was back in 1992, we moved to Houston, and we had prior stuff before then. Long story short: we dropped Comin’ Out Hard in 1993 and zoom up to now, we closed in on the thirtieth anniversary.
I believe you two have been so influential in hip-hop in recent years from rappers using y’all flows, production, and sampling your music. Have you guys realized the impact the Memphis sound has had on hip-hop currently?
8Ball: Nobody knows. You can have ambition, but nobody knows how they’re going to look at you in the future.
MJG: Spending 30 years in the entertainment industry whether it’s sports, acting, or music is rare. We’re constantly going into uncharted territory each day, week, and month. It’s new to us; it’s almost like the beginning again because a lot of artists don’t make it this far. So now, we’ve become stars in a new circle of cats who make it this far because you never know.
You two were ahead of y’all time with the album, Living Legends, that came out in 2004. Thirty years in the game with multiple classic gold records. What are some things you attribute to your legacy and longevity?
8Ball: We just do us, man. We can’t be anything else but ourselves.
MJG: That’s why we ain’t never acted in any movies or anything because it’s hard to act. That’s why we don’t do podcasts because I don’t want to turn into a newscaster. I just want to rap, so we’re just ourselves.
Photo by Deon Egenti