Soul, rock 'n' roll, hip-hop, and garage rock—Memphis, Tenn., is brimming with music, and it’s been that way for as long as anyone here can remember. Both Sun Studios and Stax Records are here. Elvis’ Graceland is here. Isaac Hayes could be seen cruising around town in the Shaftmobile (until it was impounded during his descent into bankruptcy). Johnny Cash and Howlin’ Wolf built careers here, as did native musical pioneers Booker T. & the M.G.’s, and Big Star.
In the ’90s, hip-hop artists like Three 6 Mafia and their predecessors, 8Ball & MJG, were making music that was almost unheard of outside of certain parts of the South but would later go on to influence an entire generation of hip-hop artists like Young Dolph, Yo Gotti, and Don Trip. And that’s not to mention the dance known as jookin’ or the rap subgenre of Crunk that both hail from Memphis.
All that is to say is that there’s a lot happening here if you step just beyond the Beale Street dives, the touristy blues haunts, and the watering holes frequented by foreigners. Artists, record shops, labels, entrepreneurs, and hustlers are all quietly and tirelessly helping to shape Memphis’ music scene. It’s one that somehow doesn’t ever quite get the credit it deserves, but leads to more than a handful of hidden gems. With a hearty shout-out to Madison at Goner Records (also a member of rad local band NOTS) for her awesome insight, let’s take a look at what’s going on in the Memphis music scene today.