Playa Fly movin’ and groovin’

Rap­per went from drugs, jail to mu­sic

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Music - By An­dria Lisle

Last Tues­day night, rap­per Playa Fly stood in a kitchen in Mem­phis’ north­east­ern sub­urbs, chop­ping bell pep­pers and gar­lic cloves for a mari­nade. His spot­less Prada sneak­ers had been dis­carded by the front door, and his hair, usu­ally shaped into tight braids, was re­leased in an un­ruly halo. He wore a white un­der­shirt and jean shorts, and talked in­ces­santly as he pre­pared his fa­vorite lamb dish.

For Playa Fly, aka Ibn Young, this was as real as it gets.

“There are 168 hours in a week, and I’m try­ing to uti­lize as many of those hours that I can,” said Fly, 31, who will ap­pear at the Es­cape Club Satur­day night.

The con­ver­sa­tion veered from his legacy as a pi­o­neer on the lo­cal rap scene to the king crab legs that lay de­frost­ing in the kitchen sink. “We’re just movin’

and groovin’,” said Fly.

He might’ve been miles away from his per­sonal ground zero in South Mem­phis, but meta­phys­i­cally at least, he was very much at home.

“I grew up at 639 South Park­way East,” said Fly, slip­ping into an easy rap. “That’s right across the street from South­side Park. That’s a Laud­erdale sub(divi­sion) — it sits be­tween 51 and 61, the high­ways that is. That’s Elvis Pres­ley and Third Street. It’s like the Sun­set Boule­vard of Hol­ly­wood, Calif., to me. Yeah, that’s the strip, that’s where I’m from, that’s where I’m at.”

Unequiv­o­cally, Fly is a prod­uct of his en­vi­ron­ment.

His fa­ther, Wil­lie David Young, who sang with the Avan­tis and later, the Ova­tions, was best known for co-writ­ing “Keep On Dancin’,” a huge hit for garage rock group the Gen­trys. His mother traf­ficked nar­cotics. Both were heavy drug abusers.

“I got it hon­est,” said Fly, who par­layed his rep­u­ta­tion as a teenaged drug dealer into a ca­reer as an un­der­ground rap star be­fore a prison sen­tence nearly de­railed him.

“My dad sung at Stax. He went to Booker T. Wash­ing­ton (High School) with Mau­rice White (of Earth, Wind & Fire). There was a lot of hang­ing out with Bobby Wo­mack. I even re­mem­ber the Pips com­ing by my dad’s house at Mis­sis­sippi and Saxon,” said Fly. “Where was my mom? She was stuffed in the box, serv­ing a fed­eral sen­tence for traf­fick­ing drugs.”

Fly’s grand­mother, Min­nie Mae, taught him how to cook. She’s the one who lived on South Park­way. She raised Fly and his first cousin, Tony Bones, as broth­ers, be­fore she died in 2000. An over­sized charm, em­bla­zoned with the let­ter ‘M’ and the num­ber ‘3’, hung from a gold chain around his neck.

“This is M to the third power; M by M by M,” Fly said. “Min­nie Mae Muzik.

“My grand­mother never sold a drug in her life. She was Church of God in Christ, sanc­ti­fied and filled by the Holy Ghost. She never got ar­rested, never felt hand­cuffs on her wrists, never sat in the back of a cop car. She never got her lights turned off.”

De­spite Min­nie Mae’s ex­am­ple, Fly was 13 when he started sell­ing drugs, and just a few years older when he hooked up with Three 6 Mafia’s DJ Paul and laid down his first rap.

A few years later, Fly sev­ered his ties with Three 6 yet con­tin­ued his solo ca­reer, self-re­leas­ing al­bums like Movin’ On and Fly2K, which yielded the stel­lar “No­body Needs No­body,” fea­tur­ing his fa­ther, who died in 1998, on vo­cals. Then he went to jail. “It was for so many charges,” said Fly, who served a seven-year sen­tence at Shelby County Pe­nal Farm. He was re­leased in mid-2006.

Fly pointed to a com­po­si­tion book filled with hand­writ­ten lyrics to songs such as his lat­est un­der­ground hit, “Moo -Lah.” “I ac­tu­ally have 50 songs ready to go,” he said. “I’m fin­ish­ing a new al­bum called Mafia All Day and record­ing a group al­bum and an­other Playa Fly al­bum.”

“The ra­dio sta­tions are still play­ing ‘No­body Needs No­body,’ but that song is 10 years old,” Fly said. “I ap­pre­ci­ate the homage, but I’m work­ing on a new record. We’ve al­ready mas­tered this — now my fans are wait­ing for it to go to an­other level.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.