Memphis Music Feature: Hippy SOUL
Ed. Note: Memphis group Hippy SOUL drops their new album “Worthy NeGrow” TODAY (July 28, 2017). Wesley Paraham has all the info on this established duo and why you need to download right now. All photos by Cat Evans.
Around the time I started as an I Love Memphis contributor, I asked other people who follow local music if they knew of anyone that I didn’t, and who should be huge. The modern talent. The overlooked and under-recognized. That sweetness.
Two names came up the most. One I’ve already written about, and the other is Hippy SOUL. If you sent me links to this group’s music, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Hippy SOUL is a rap group by Idi Aah Que and Teco Tate: two guys who met in an East High School English class while working on a poetry writing assignment. They were the only ones who actually put effort into writing and performing their poetry, and their shared passions sparked a collaboration.
Since then, they’ve released a mixtape, an album, an EP, and several remixes and singles. Their second album, Worthy NeGrow, is set to release on July 28th.
Hippy SOUL, in their five years of local activity, already has fanatics and at least a couple hundred thousand Soundcloud plays. They rap like they already have the riches, the fame, and the laurels. The artistry is apparent; the hunger is deep.
I recently attended a listening party for their new album, where fans and industry folk gathered for an exclusive listening opportunity held at the 1524 Events & Banquet Facility.
When I met Idi, he walked in the venue holding a stack of soul and R&B CDs, as if Earth, Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, and Erykah Badu were references on his curriculum vitae. We bonded over old school, which is funny, because neither of us were even born when most of the albums he was carrying were released.
It was a stormy Sunday, which had me worried about the turnout, but that didn’t stop dozens of people from coming for a chance to hear Worthy NeGrow before anyone else.
My Dojo, the single off their new album, is an ample threat display. Its production relies on creeping, distorted bass. In the first 20 seconds of the song, Idi, with headstrong delivery, reminds us that he shares a name with Ugandan warlord Idi Amin, most likely in reassurance that he’s not someone you wanna mess with.
Anyone who’s dropping comparisons to a man who called himself “Lord of all the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas” better have the bars to back it up. Idi does not disappoint, as you can hear below.
The hook, “I’m on a bizarre adventure / I feel like I’m JoJo”, is a reference you may not get. “The background on that was really just me watching JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure the day before,” Teco told us.
For anyone unfamiliar, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure is a manga series about a family of people who’ve inherited the uncanny ability to beat bloody everyone they come across from their British ancestor, Jonathan Joestar. It’s really quite a good series, and an appropriate metaphor for Hippy SOUL.
You’d be hard pressed to find any twenty-something rapper who doesn’t love anime these days. You have to remember — we’re living in the timeline where the dorks won the Culture Wars, and now you’re the hopeless loser if you can’t at least name the Five Hidden Villages or don’t have a favorite Z Fighter. Anime is integral to Hippy SOUL’s identity, and an artist’s identity is all they have.
“That’s what makes your shit different,” Teco said. “You ain’t gonna reach your full potential if you ain’t being you.”
About thirty of My Dojo’s 1,600 Soundcloud plays are mine, because the song is dope. I wish I had some profoundness to drop on y’all about this, but the most I can say is that it goes hard as hell, and it made me feel like I could win against anyone in a fist fight while I was bumping it in my 2004 VW Beetle convertible, complete with a flower holder on the dashboard.
Worthy NeGrow isn’t all club anthems and braggadocio, though. There are tracks that explore social issues such as racism, colorism, and gentrification.
In fact, the album gets its name from the statement carved on the original Tom Lee memorial obelisk downtown, which embarrassingly characterized Tom Lee as “A Very Worthy Negro”. This also inspired a track on the album, titled Tom Lee.
“For a person to save lives and still be called just a worthy negro? It says a lot about us being from Memphis, and with all the hard work we do, and we never get the shine for it,” Idi said, explaining the meaning behind the song.
Idi and Teco recognize that Memphis isn’t a perfect city, but they feel that retreat isn’t the answer. “Realistically there’s only so much you can get here,” Teco said. “But what I really feel like we want to do is make something happen here. It ain’t really there yet. And I feel like we have a role to help cultivate that.”
Even though they have big dreams, they don’t shy away from the “Memphis rapper” label, unlike some.
“We from Memphis and we rap. I don’t mind somebody calling me a Memphis rapper,” Teco assured me. “I ain’t ashamed of my city.”
I’m telling you, this is worth more than six bucks. What are you going to do with six bucks? Buy some McDonalds? A shot of bad liquor? Do something responsible for once.
Follow Hippy SOUL on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Follow @ilovememphis; we’ll keep you updated on when the group has a local show. In the meantime, check out this video from Cat Evans of Hippy SOUL in action.
About The Author
Wesley Morgan Paraham loves the 901 so much that his cat is named Belvedere. If playing RPGs were a full time job, he’d be a rich man. He’s currently seeking a degree in public relations at the University of Memphis, and does freelance writing for I Love Memphis and graphic design in the meantime.
About The Photographer
Cat Evans was born in California, raised in Memphis, and now lives in midtown. She’s a photographer, writer, organizer for DreamFest Weekend, founder of CLE Events, and a Reiki Master. Find her work at Focus Magazine, I Love Memphis, her online portfolio, and Instagram.