Memphis artist, Cool Courtney releases latest mixtape, ” The Mud”
It’s easy to see why the city of Memphis has acquired such nicknames as Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll. Since the dawn of American music, the city has served as a springboard for several new styles of music.
From the gut-wrenching blues of BB King, to the rock-n-roll swing of Elvis Presley, the moving testaments of soul man Isaac Hayes, to the angst-inspiring energy of rap subgenre known as crunk, the Barbecued Pork Capital of the World has been fertile grounds to supply the musical soundtrack for the rest of the world to enjoy.
The newest installation in the city’s rich musical tradition is Memphis native son Cool Courtney. Over the past decade, he has built a cult-like fan base with a slew of albums, mixtapes and sizzling hot singles. His latest single “Wide Open” has been spreading across the South like wildfire, and he is set to further fuel the flames with the upcoming releases of two albums; Cool World Order and Air Courtney #LEAK 2 via new business venture OGE/ICE.
“I do all music. I do whatever I want to do on the music, Everybody wants to do a certain template or rap a certain number of bars. I got no order with my music and I don’t do just one kind of music.”
Life for this rising star began in South Memphis’ now-demolished but bloodily infamous Lamar Terrace Housing Projects. The middle child of seven kids, his parents worked hard to move the family to better surroundings. So they moved to the Frayser community in North Memphis. But after the crime and violence of the South side of town followed them to the North, they once again relocated and settled into the suburbs of East Memphis.
“East Memphis was like the come up. It was the melting pot of all sides. It seemed like everybody from all hoods moved to East Memphis, “Everybody thought East Memphis was the getaway, but it turned into the most hood part in Memphis.”
As soon as he was old enough to jump off the front porch, young Courtney could be found blazing the neighborhood basketball courts way past the time that the street light came on. A natural beast on the hardwood through early middle school, his short-lived basketball career came to an abrupt end at the adolescent age of 12.
It all happened one night at East End Skating Center when Courtney entered a freestyle competition and murdered every so-called rapper in the house. “I won one battle and they asked me my name,” Courtney recalls. “I didn’t have a name so they started calling me Lil Freestyle.”
Week after week after week, this pre-teen verbal titan earned the name Freestyle by killing the competition for sport. “I came back and never lost,” he says. “I did like 50 battles and never lost.”
Although Courtney knew he had the talents for a successful music career, he knew he needed help figuring it out. So he bought a Murder Dog magazine and started calling the phone number on record label advertisements. After arousing interest from several independent record labels, Courtney signed with Hoodoo Labs, distributed through Select-O-Hits.
That same year, the label released underground album Crunktivity with Freestyle as one-half of group duo Da Crunkstaz in 2004, featuring respected Memphis rap veterans La Chat, Al Kapone and Gangsta Pat. He was only 13.
“It had me not-so-focused on going to school. I was trying to be on the music scene,” he admits. “The internet wasn’t as popular back then. It was big for me to do something like that at my age.”
Riding off the success of the group project, Courtney decided to go solo. He had taught himself to produce tracks his own tracks on his older brother’s used computer and a bootleg download of FrootyLoops music production program. He recorded and pressed up his own homemade mixtapes and passed out a few hundred copies each day at school.
“By the end of the week, I made sure that everybody had my cd. The whole east Memphis went super live off it,” he thinks back.
His neighborhood superstar status caught the attention of Memphis rap trailblazer Kia Shine, who enlisted Freestyle as a member of group Da Preps in 2009. The group gained much media attention but after being asked to freestyle on the spot with ever appearance on BET and MTV, he decided to change his name altogether.
“I’m too cool for that,” he contends. “Since my name is Courtney, I changed my name to Cool Courtney because this is me, and nobody can be me better than me.”
To celebrate his newfound moniker, he released two back-to-back solo mixtapes Its Cool and L.L. Cool Courtney in 2010, generating runaway smash singles “Pretty Boy,” “Club Wal-Mart” featuring Yung Joc and Kia Shine and “Break The Knob.”
Over the next five years, he kept his faithful fan base fed with a string of highly popular mixtapes, including Fast Life Live-N in 2013, Kush and Cool-Aid in 2012 and two mixtapes last year—Cooluminati and Air Courtney #LEAK–that had the internet in a frenzy.
Paying homage to Michael Jordan and his line of popular shoes, Courtney is on the cover of Air Courtney #LEAK dressed in Chicago Bulls jersey and shorts. Each song on the Jordan-themed mixtape references the basketball legend.
“Everybody in Memphis goes crazy over Jordans,” he explains. “They camp out overnight for Jordans. People will kill you over Jordans. Everybody loves Jordans.”
Since the mixtape’s release, other rappers have borrowed elements, themes and song titles from Courtney, including popular tracks “Halftime” and “Jumpman.” Not only that, many of Courtney’s fans have complained about nationally known artists borrowing elements from his earlier recordings as well as his style of dress, tattoos and even hair color.
“You can look at the dates to when I dropped my mixtape and when a lot of these other rappers drop and see that I did a lot of that music and had a lot of that swag first, These guys are imposters. They bit me and everybody in Memphis feels the same way. It’s plenty of people that would vouch for that”
He continues, “I feel like I’m the guy that all these rappers are eating off ,but they can’t do it like me. I’m flattered by all this biting, though.”
Giving them even more material to borrow without permission, Cool Courtney is set to release two more albums side by side on new business venture OGE/ICE with music industry veteran CEO/ film director Jack Frost. Cool World Order and Air Courtney #LEAK 2 are due to hit the streets this March with tracks produced by Courtney as well as famed Memphis producer Drumma Boy (Young Jeezy, T.I., Scarface, Chris Brown). Until then, he has kept his name ringing with his latest R&B-tinged club single “Wide Open.”
“I don’t just do rap or just R&B. I do all kinds of music,” says Courtney. “I’m just doing me on the track. I do whatever I feel. That’s why I started producing, because nobody can do me better than me.”
We will be paying close attention to Cool Courtney’s work. Be sure to download the mixtape and let us know if you think it’s “Platinum”!
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