Memphis Jelks’s new album just dropped on SPITdigital. I had the opportunity to sit down with Memphis Jelks and discuss his new album, his video shoot with C-Doc, how he met Chuck D, his musical influences and how he got his name.
The SpitSlam Record Group (Kate G): You have a new album coming out. Tell us what we can expect.
Memphis Jelks: Well, first of all, I just want to say that I appreciate this opportunity. Thank you for having me. As far as the album goes, you can expect the unexpected. This album is eclectic. I think that it is vital to have a message in your music, especially in these times. There is a digital revolution going on and it is affecting all of us on many different levels. It’s not a good time, so if you have any information that you believe may be beneficial in helping to improve the lives of others, then it’s imperative that you pass it along through your personal interactions with others, and especially in your art. This album is very special to me because I was going through a rough patch in my life and it provided me an outlet to vent. That’s what music is supposed to do.
Recently you just shot a new video with David “C-Doc” Snyder. Share what that experience was like for you.
Memphis Jelks: C-Doc is awesome! He’s a real class act. I explained to him my vision for the “Happiness Is Love” video and I put the rest of the work in his hands. I asked him to lead and we will follow, and he did just that. We shot four videos in one day! It was Doc’s first time being in Memphis, and I believe he loved it so much that he might have wanted to move here. If we had more time during the shoot, I would have treated him to some Rendezvous Bar-B-Que.
From your new album, what is your favorite song and why?
Memphis Jelks: I love them all, but I would have to say “Happiness Is Love” because there are so many people that I know who have gone through or are eventually going to go through a similar situation as the people in the song. If it ever happens to you or someone you know…that’s your song. It’s like therapy for the heart and soul. I can’t wait to see the video!
How did you meet Chuck and sign to his and G-Wiz’s label?
Memphis Jelks: By the grace of GOD. There is no other way that I can explain how a small town artist such as myself, being from Ripley, TN, ends up meeting one of his idols who is arguably the greatest of all time. Then I eventually got signed to his record label! It’s a story made for Hollywood.
I remember like it was yesterday. My big homie, Al Kapone, was scheduled to perform at the Beale St. Music Festival 2013. When I found out that he was on the ticket, I called him and asked him about the background vocalist gig because, at the time, I was doing background vocals for Kapeezy. I knew that Public Enemy was going to be there as well and had informed my brother that it would make my entire year to have the opportunity to meet Chuck D and give him a copy of our mixtape. As fate would have it, we ended up sharing the same trailer as them. The trailers were like duplexes. They were on one side and we were on the other side. At some point, I saw Professor Griff and Flavor Flav, in which I am also a fan, but still, no Chuck. It was approaching time for our performance and I was a bit disappointed as we were heading backstage when suddenly, my brother tapped me on my shoulder and said…”there go yo boi”. I looked up and I was stoked! It was Mr. Chuck D. I nervously walked up to him and asked him if it would be cool if I were to give him a copy of our mixtape. He accepted the cd and then he asked…”Who do you go through to distribute your music to iTunes ? I said ”TuneCore” and he said ”I helped create TuneCore” I was literally blown away! He gave me his card and if you’ve ever seen the Temptations movie, I was like Otis, when Blue and he met Barry Gordy. I left the Beale St. Music Festival with a card and a dream. To make a long story short, I kept sending him music and he would play some of my songs on his radio show “Andyoudontstop” on Rapstation.com. Then one night, during the Grizzlies/ Golden State playoffs battle in 2015, he hit me up on Twitter out of the blue and told me that I should run with the “SwampBall” idea, and that if I did, then he would bless me with a fire hook. The rest is history.
Tell me about your musical influences and how they impacted you?
Memphis Jelks: I study the arts, as well as the artists. I consider myself a student of all musical genres. I enjoy everyone from The Four Tops, The Chi-Lites, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Whitney Houston, Public Enemy, 2pac, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Nas, Three Doors Down, Emenim, Bruno Mars, Snoop Dogg, Al Kapone, Aerosmith, and Dr. Dre. My musical influences are endless. If you were to check out the playlist on my android phone, you’d be in for a total surprise. I respect anyone who has ever picked up a microphone or instrument and attempted to add something new to the world. Music is power.
Do you write your own music?
Memphis Jelks: Yes, I take pride in writing my own lyrics, as well as my own beats. Coming up alongside my two brothers Kilo Slang and Q-Bol, we always believed in being original and having our own styles. That’s why we named our company Ori-G-inO Dynasty. It means “more original than original”. We would get in a room, play an instrumental and write and record songs, faithfully. Together, we are The Jelks Boys. We each have our own sound but it blends, sonically, because siblings’ voices automatically harmonize with one another by nature’s law. Honestly, it took a lot for me to get beats from other producers for this album, because sometimes I can be stubborn and want to do everything myself, or either I will get a beat from my brother, Bol. Although, I’m glad I did reach out to Q Nic West, D-Techneekz and James Clark, though. The album is fantastic. To me, it’s a must-have collector’s classic.
How was it working on the song, “Swamp Ball” with Chuck?
Memphis Jelks: It was surreal. To this day, I still pinch myself when I hear “SwampBall”. Never, in a million years, would I have thought that I would be blessed with the opportunity to create a song with the greatest of all time. Mr. Chuck is someone whom I’ve always had the utmost respect and admiration. And the song is SLAMMIN! I feel blessed because he didn’t have to do that for me. That reassures me that GOD is in the plan. If you would have put P-Diddy, Jay Z, Dr. Dre, Baby, from Cash Money, and Chuck D in a line and asked me to pick which one that I wanted to sign with…I would’ve selected Chuck D…Hands Down! It’s no coincidence that I’m on SpitDigital Records. It’s destiny.
Tell us how you got your name?
Memphis Jelks: Mr. Chuck named me Memphis Jelks. It was a game changer. I’ve spent my entire career under the name J-Smoove, while performing in Memphis and surrounding areas, but that’s such a common name nowadays. There are a lot of J-Smoove’s but there is only one Memphis Jelks. It’s an honor for me to wear the name of such a musically and culturally diverse place.
Anything else you want to tell us?
Memphis Jelks: Again, I just want to say thank you for having me. Also, to anyone out there who is reading this interview and think dreams don’t come true. They do. I am living proof. Keep grinding and searching life for the right avenues. Invest your time and money. Explore all of your options and when you’re done with those; create new ones. It’s never too late to accomplish your goals. Keep GOD first because all things are possible through GOD. Peace!
Kate G is Kate Gammell for Update Reports on The SPITdigital SLAMjamz Recording Label Group