Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Coworkers: Part 91 - In-Store / Three 6 Mafia‏

   Competition intensified. Too many stores peddled tunes. Mall stores, free standing concept locations, electronic marts, bookstores. Hustling for nickels. Despite the record labels' legal efforts, filesharing drained profits. Mp3 quality was inferior, but most downloaders listened off crappy computer speakers. Back in the day, the pursuit was for fidelity and decibels. Watts. Tower speakers and amplifiers that radiated more heat than an oven.
   Yesterday, however, couldn't compete with FREE.
   Wherehouse couldn't or wouldn't play cards they held. Such as in-store events.
   Labels usually set up events, paid ad dollars for promotion, shuttled artists into the stores. With our chain, however, labels were wary. Advertising dollars rarely tinkled into actual ads. Our District never saw slicks in the local rags, let alone TV or radio spots. Labels hurled promotional CDs to Corporate to scatter shoot through stores. Generate buzz, in-store airplay. Instead, Corporate slapped USED price stickers on promos, dumped them in Distribution Centers, and sold 'em.
   Wherehouse never arranged in-store shows. Probably because they did not want to pay for security.
   So we did it ourselves.
   Rather, the evening crew did that.
   The lot that morning shift (Mandy, me, The Boss, The Professor) always grumbled, "What the fuck do they do all night?"
   Actually, Mandy never cursed. To be honest, I was the last Sound Warehouse potty mouth. I digress.
   Things began small.
   Jacob did a solo show one night. Singing an Usher tribute with his ukulele.
   Wasn't a monster crowd, but there was a crowd. There was applause. If Jacob had made CDs, he could have earned a couple of bucks.
   J D did have merchandise to sell.
   J began a series of monthly rap fests. Brought in some playback equipment, couple of speakers, backbeat city.
   J sold CDs and took orders for his upcoming DVD, titled Da Killa, due any day now. Zombies in Como, if you can believe that.
   Anyway, evening crew got good creating and controlling events. Stacey, Pat, Angela and Joe handled the crowd (Yes, there were crowds. J D had fans.) while GG Licious and John prowled the front and back of the Floor.
   Then, Joe began phoning his contacts.

   Joe worked an indie gig for Relativity Records as a field rep. Relativity had reinvented itself from a Heavy Metal label to a Rap one, especially Southern Rap. Southern Rap was what Camp Bowie focused on.
   Joe toured area stores, tacked up ad slicks, posters, banners, handed out promos. No pay involved. Did this because he received free CDs, free admission to shows, backstage passes, chance to meet Rap stars. Hell, Joe was in showbiz.
   He arranged a small afternoon event.
   Gangsta Boo.
   Simple meet 'n greet. She chilled at the Listening Center for two hours. Turnout was steady. J D's entourage was already there. Fans from Como swung by, then Poly. Two radio stations aired announcements. It was afternoon, however, so many fans hurried in on a quick break just to say "Hello," get an autograph, buy a CD. Joe acted as host and A&R guy. He reminded Boo he was available, that he took requests. She smiled diplomatically.
   This was a big deal. She was, after all, Gangsta Boo. Had this been evening, the place would have been bedlam.
   Gangsta Boo must have put in a good word. Relativity gave us the green light for their main sluggers.
   Three 6 Mafia.

   Crowd control was tricky. Joe lived in Northside, as did Angela, Mark The Shark, and I. Northside was "red," Blood country. J D and his posse were Como "blue." Crips neighborhood. There were other gangs, notably East Side Homeboys, Latin Kings, and MS-13, but they weren't expected.
   For events like concerts, reunions, birthdays, parties, an undeclared truce ruled. Camp Bowie, though, was blocks away from Como. If gang members got territorial or into a pissing contest, the event would be slammed.
   Our riot concerns proved groundless.
   The crowd was large, noisy, but chillin'. Everyone wanted to meet Triple 6.
   DJ Paul and Juicy J held sway at the front table, along with Crunchy Black and Gangsta Boo. Autographs and chat, members must've sat through hundreds of those, but the group was still carving their way through the Rap arena. They weren't West Coast or East Coast, they were Memphis based. Even a record shop party was exposure. So here they were, sipping Coke mixers, and shining bright.
   Music pounded. Joe chopped down a mix from Mystic Stylez to Choices. He tried to edit out language, but gave up. It wasn't exactly a Disney crowd, anyway.
   The Professor got stuck working that night, much to his disgust. He didn't like Rap in general, and complained loudly when the counter in the Classical Room proved a perfect bar top. Not that anyone brought Hennessy into the store! That would be inappropriate. Shocking, even. Be like ... I don't know ... smoking reefer. Not that --
   The Professor complained, but everyone ignored him. We had worked with him a decade, while guests recognized his model. Guy who assumed all Rap shoppers were thieves, guy didn't like crowds, didn't like ghetto, didn't like teenagers, didn't like women.
   Maybe ... maybe not.
   Like I said, we'd worked with him ten years.
   Near the end, an impromptu booty shake off was organized. Half dozen girls peeled down to thongs or strings. Beats were set and asses shook in rhythm. First one who broke rhythm was eliminated. The Professor, who knew more stripper and pole dance asses than the store combined, succumbed to the force of gravity. He edged closer and closer, till he stood front row. Breathing heavily.
   Three 6 sat in front of the front window, so there was a rambunctious, hollering mob just outside. Cheering the ladies on. Falling in love and falling down. Everyone took videos from cameras and phones. A couple of shots caught The Professor, jaw opened wide, eyes mesmerized. We're still chasing down a copy for the photo albums.
   And then it was all over.
   Group members said goodbye. Went to concert, party, after-party, film studio, hotel rooms. None of us knew. Gangsta Boo recognized Joe and blew him a kiss.
   Then, Three 6 Mafia was gone.
   Good times.
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