Louisville Magazine

JUL 2016

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE 7.16 95 THE ARTS R.I.P. (Rap in Peace) By Mary Chellis Austin / Photo by Mickie Winters The arts and music festival that wants to stop the violence in the West End and beyond. "For some of these younger guys who have that dream, who spend night and day in the studio and not in the streets, I want to give a platform for them to be seen." Five years ago on Derby Day, LaFon "Fonz" Brown stopped at a liquor store on 15th Street to pick up some champagne and beer. As he crossed the street, two guys came at him, asking him for a lighter. As he reached into his pocket, they shot. One guy went running and the other kept pulling the trigger, demanding money. "I looked like money that day," Brown says. "I had my nice jewelry on, earrings, watch was nice, car was nice. I had my guard down." Seven cars passed, some slowing to look at the scene but not stopping. "My hands were cemented to my body, holding the wounds where I was shot to keep from letting the blood pour out," he says. Finally a woman who had witnessed the whole thing from a bus stop across the street came running over in her heels and hat to help him. Te next day was Mother's Day — Brown's mother didn't get a good call that night. Tough it took a year and a half before he could get around without a walker, Brown was alive — unlike some of his friends, many promising rappers, he says. A year ago this month, Michael Tomas Jr., a local rapper known as Louis Keyz — he had opened for Yung Joc at Headliners and recorded with Nappy Roots — was murdered near Iroquois Park. "We lost a really good talent," says Brown, Tomas' friend and fellow rapper. "He was truly not into the streets. All he rapped about was girls and parties." Not only was Tomas' shooting one of 84 homicides last year — Louisville's deadliest since 1979 — but it was also a tipping point for Brown, 36, and others in the hip-hop community. "We have more to ofer in Louisville than just murders, killings — even in the West End," the rapper says. "A lot of it is our own fault because we don't help each other out." Now Brown and his friend Ethan "Mugg" McKenzie are holding PeaceFest 2016, a day of music and other arts July 30 at Sheppard Park in west Louisville's Russell neighborhood. Several others, including flmmaker Terrence McCraney, rapper/ producer/graphic designer Ahmon Salter (aka K.G.) and activist Christopher 2X, are helping the guys launch the festival. "I have personally observed incremental eforts from the hip-hop community to speak out against violence," 2X says over the phone in June as he's traveling back to town from Hollywood, where he and rapper Master P have been shooting a video for the community-building Hood 2 Hood movement. "I always give an ear to their passion. I might be a little bit older, but I can relate. I come from the same place. I think what Fonz is doing is fantastic — bringing artists together to say, 'We need to do our part.'" Te festival comes at a moment when Louisville hip-hop is bumping from speak- ers well beyond west Louisville. James Lindsey (formerly Jalin Roze), Jecorey "1200" Arthur (onstage at Forecastle this month) and Bryson Tiller (his 2015 RCA debut, Trapsoul, sold more than a million copies) are becoming household names. Tiller, along with Nappy Roots and Jack Harlow — a kid fresh out of Atherton High School — are scheduled to perform at the festival. "He's gonna come out in the city and do big things," Brown says of Harlow. "For some of these younger guys who have that dream, who spend night and day in the studio and not in the streets, I want to give a platform for them to be seen." One group he would love to have onstage at PeaceFest, if their schedule allows it, is Linkin' Bridge, a local a cap- pella foursome that's been on the current season of America's Got Talent. (Te day will also include a car show from hydrau- lics specialist Cool Cars, spoken-word performances and a job fair.) Brown, who lives in southwest Louis- ville, was born here and as a kid lived in Atlanta, a city that exposed him to a lot of top musicians. He started pushing his own music when he returned to town as a teen- ager and claims to have sold 20,000 copies of his albums just by walking around the city on foot. "I sold so many CDs because I didn't want to sell drugs anymore," says Brown, who is the detail manager for Mercedes and Mini Coopers at Tafel Motors on Shelbyville Road. "I come from nothing. I've slept on concrete foors. My sheets were my curtains. My socks were my wash towels," he says. "To be where I am right now, statistically — it's not supposed to happen to me." When I meet with Brown at Fourth Street Live, he's on his way to talk to some of the radio stations, including B96.5, about broadcasting live from PeaceFest. "I didn't want to just say 'music fest.' I wanted to have a reason we're together," Brown says. "I'm telling people: Represent your loved ones; wear T-shirts with their faces on them. "We're past that point — well past — where we were last year," Brown says of the number of murders that have already occurred this year. "I just want to do some- thing big for Louisville. We are the next spot to be in the music scene. Te mass audience doesn't know that we are this."

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