The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - MUSIC - By John Beifuss

Mem­phis hip-hop artist Al Kapone’s lat­est record­ing is “M’s Up,” a sa­lute to hometown pride with an ac­com­pa­ny­ing video in which a ros­ter of lo­cal rap roy­alty demon­strates how to flash a four-fin­gered “M.”

“It’s not a gang sign — it’s a pro-mem­phis sign,” Kapone said. “And it’s a proMem­phis-rep­re­sent song.”

As one of the city’s most en­thu­si­as­tic cham­pi­ons (his discog­ra­phy in­cludes “The Mu­sic” and, er, “Mem­phis Pride Up in This B*tch”), Kapone is an ap­pro­pri­ate head­liner for Satur­day’s in­au­gu­ral 901Fest, a Mem­phis i n May In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val event in­tended “to ex­alt all things Mem­phis,” ac­cord­ing to a pro­mo­tional press re­lease.

Said Kapone: “Peo­ple are al­ways talk­ing about how Mem­phis in May should show more fo­cus on Mem­phis or lo­cal tal­ent. So we will see if peo­ple re­ally sup­port lo­cal mu­sic and lo­cal ven­dors, like they said they would.”

The fes­ti­val’s con­clud­ing throw­down and its re­place­ment for the Sun­set Sym­phony (which ended its 39-year run last year), the 901Fest — which runs from 3 p.m. to about 10 p.m. in Tom Lee Park — is al­most en­tirely Mem­ph­i­cen­tric. It will show­case Mem­phis per­form­ers on four themed mu­sic stages, while pro­vid­ing space for a cu­rated se­lec­tion of 33 lo­cal food, beer and mer­chan­dise ven­dors. The re­sult is “a nice lit­tle Mem­phis mar­ket­place, with a very bal­anced and di­verse lineup,” in the words of Pene­lope Hus­ton, Mem­phis­in­may­mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor.

Hus­ton said the 901Fest is a man­i­fes­ta­tion of a “resur­gence of love for Mem­phis” that can be seen in the pop­u­lar­ity of lo­cal craft beers, the ubiq­uity of Griz­zlies gear, the “I Love Mem­phis” blog, the “Choose901” move­ment, and on and on.

“Re­ally, we just want to cel­e­brate all the won­der­ful things about Mem­phis that we see ev­ery day but we don’t al­ways show­case,” Hus­ton said.

Backed by a six-mem­ber band, Kapone will be the head­liner on the Nex­air 901 Beats stage, which — in re­sponse to an­other com­plaint about the Beale Street Mu­sic Fes­ti­val — of­fers rap and hip-hop, from start to fin­ish. In con­trast, the Au­tozone 901 Arts Stage will em­pha­size the “clas­si­cal” arts, com­plete with a clos­ing per­for­mance from Opera Mem­phis.

“The thing that I’ve been say­ing since I got here is that Mem­phis is one of the most in­ter­con­nected mu­sic towns I’ve ever lived in,” said Ned Canty, Opera Mem­phis gen­eral di­rec­tor since 2011. “Mu­sic is mu­sic is mu­sic. If some­one goes from lis­ten­ing to Al Kapone and walks across the park to hear ‘ La Bo­heme,’ so much the bet­ter.”

The 901Fest fol­lows an­other new Mem­phis in May event, the Great Amer­i­can River Run, a marathon (and more) that will trace a course through Down­town and Har­bor Town. River Run par­tic­i­pants get free ad­mis­sion to 901Fest. The fes­ti­val con­cludes with fire­works, and will fea­ture such non­mu­si­cal at­trac­tions as an air show and “Knocker­ball,” in which play­ers are en­cap­su­lated in clear in­flat­able pro­tec­tive “bub­bles,” so they can knock each other over and bounce back up.

The new fest is not only more lo­cal, but it’s also more com­pact: Un­like the mu­sic fes­ti­val or World Cham­pi­onship Bar­be­cue Cook­ing Con­test, it will oc­cupy only the north half of Tom Lee Park. And even those who don’t at­tend can choose 901, so to speak, on their tele­vi­sions: WPTY-TV Chan­nel 24 will pre-empt prime-time ABC pro­gram­ming to broad­cast live from 901Fest from 8 un­til 10 p.m. Mem­phis rap­per Al Kapone head­lines on the Beats stage at Satur­day’s in­au­gu­ral 901Fest, a Mem­phis in May event in­tended “to ex­alt all things Mem­phis.” 3 p.m. un­til af­ter dark, Satur­day, Tom Lee Park. Tick­ets: $10, or $9 in ad­vance. Visit mem­phis­in­may.org.

4:15 p.m.: Com­mem­o­ra­tive Air Force air show. 4-8 p.m.: Knocker­ball. 9 p.m.: Mem­phis-themed fire­works fi­nale. Orion 901 Rocks Stage 3:30-4:15 p.m.: The In­cred­i­ble Hook 4:45-5:50 p.m.: Star & Micey 6:30-7:45 p.m.: Dead Sol­diers 8:15-9:30 p.m.: North Mis­sis­sippi All­stars

Nex­air 901 Beats Stage 3:30-4:15 p.m.: Artis­tik Ap­proach 4:45-5:45 p.m.: Tyke T 6:20-7 p.m.: Lil Whyte 7:20-8 p.m.: Frayser Boy 8:20-9:10 p.m.: Al Kapone

Au­tozone 901 Arts Stage 3:30-4:15 p.m.: Stax Mu­sic Academy

4:45-5:30 p.m.: New Bal­let En­sem­ble 6-7 p.m.: School of Rock 7:25-8 p.m.: IRIS Or­ches­tra 8:20-9 p.m.: Opera Mem­phis

901 Fan Choice 4:50-6:05 p.m.: Nut­tin’ Fancy Band 6:20-7:30 p.m.: Chi­nese Dub Con­nec­tion Em­bassy 7:50-8:50 p.m.: Zi­gadoo Mon­ey­clips



As Kapone raps, Opera Mem­phis takes the Arts stage, a jux­ta­po­si­tion that pleases OM gen­eral man­ager Ned Canty.

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