Only in Memphis, Tenn., the home of ground-breaking independents from Elvis to Three Six Mafia, could a new king emerge, one who's ready to take the nation by storm with a unique roster of acts, attitude, production skills and plenty of undeniable club bounce.
Welcome Antonio '2 Shay' Parkinson, empresario of Shay-Dawg Entertainment and its fast-rising label Memphis Sound Records.
As the owner of Shay-Dawg, 2 Shay, oversees production, recording, writing, publishing, promotions and just about every other business aspect in the hip-hop spectrum.
"I've learned the whole gamut of the industry," he says. "What you put into it is what you're going to get out of it. And our time has come."
His company's calling card, the soon-to-be-released album, "Clubs, Thugs, Sex & Drugs," has already got a street buzz the size of the Mississippi River. Produced by 2 Shay, the album features such street anthems as "Shake It For Me," "Pimps, Players, Hustlers, Macks," "Break Da Bricks Down" and "Ball-a-holics." It also spotlights the Shay-Dawg roster -- such talented rappers and singers as P-Smooth, Nikki Boo, Klassik, Cladette Janell Franklin, Jerry Askew, Da Ruins and M.F. -- a posse soon to be reckoned with in the rap and R&B world.
Those expecting yet another foray into the clichÃ©d Memphis gangsta rap sound can go home. While indebted to his home of the past 13 years, 2 Shay's style isn't defined by the usual hardcore moves of the Deep South. Instead, his approach is an individualized blend of West Coast and Third Coast, which befits someone who has lived literally all over the world.
Born in Oakland, Calif., 2 Shay lived with his mother first in Los Angeles. From age 11, in Port Arthur, Texas, they began to fall on rough times even experiencing the plight of the homeless. He played alto sax in a band as a pre-teen, though sports quickly sidetracked his musical pursuits. By high school, however, he found himself writing rap lyrics, working at radio and deejaying.
Oddly enough, his passion for music came from an estranged father he never knew. His dad, Charles Striplin -- who died before the two could ever meet -- was also a deejay, it turned out. When 2 Shay paid a recent visit to his pop's family in Oakland, he was met with a jolting discovery.
"I never knew where my love for music came from," he says. "I've got thousands of records at my house now, old vinyl records from 70's rock to rap. And as soon as I walked into his house, it was the same way. They were lined up along the wall just like mine are."
2 Shay's introduction to Memphis came when he was stationed there while enlisted in the Marines for four years. He soon got sent to Okinawa, Japan, where he started playing along to Dr. Dre tracks on a Yamaha keyboard he had. The music bug was back for good. Once his service was behind him, 2 Shay settled in Memphis in 1991 with one overriding goal: to be the best rap producer he could be.
To this day, he thanks the Marine Corps for providing the discipline to do it.
"That's the hardest branch of service there is -- which is what I needed. If it wasn't for the Corps, there's no telling where I would have ended up. It taught me to get your ass up regardless of whether someone is standing over you or not. 'Cause you're going to pay for it if you don't . . . Now, I come in the studio sometimes at 9 o'clock in the morning and leave at 4 o'clock the next morning. I'm hungry as hell." "I believe that what you put into this game, is what you will get out of this game."
Since the late 1990s, 2 Shay's resume has steadily grown. He scored a No. 1 song in the Memphis market in 1998 with the hit single, "Throw It Up," by Da Ruins. In 2000, 2 Shay found himself signed to RCA with his brother, Maurice Parkinson, as B.K. Clique. Signed to the RCA affliate, Judgment Records, the duo made a single and video only to see RCA pull the plug on their whole black music division before anything could come out. From that experience, however, came other opportunities including remixes of songs with Nelly featured on them and others.
"I got a lot of work out of it," says 2 Shay. "And I learned a lot from it, too."
Which brings the multi-tasking music professional to the present: a new label, a new record and a new day. The rap industry better be ready for 2 Shay because he's about to change things in a big way.
Testament to his sharpened business skills and knowledge, 2 Shay also serves on the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission, where he sits ever so prestigiously on the mayor-appointed executive board.
The versatile rap producer even has his eyes set on the big screen. Already having some acting experience, he has continued that by completing several acting classes and is currently finishing a screenplay.
"Movies, that's just one more part of the success that will soon be Shay-Dawg Entertainment," he says.
Look for "Clubs, Thugs, Sex & Drugs" this summer. And don't say you weren't warned when it blows up.
For more info log on to: www.shaydawg.com or email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 901.372.8925
Check out the artist's website:
1. Get it Crunk
2. Welcome to the Club
3. Break Da Bricks Down
5. Memphis Is
6. Pimps, Players, Hustlers, Macks
8. Club Security
9. Shake It for Me
11. Clubs, Thugs, sex & Drugs
12. Screwed and Chopped
13. Streets Is Watching
16. Minister Pink McCloud
17. Do Some Freak Sh*t
18. Miss Lovely
19. Makin' Dollaz
20. Attorney Fees