May 2010 Archives

New York Times reports on decline in black wealth in Memphis

The New York Times is running on Monday's front page a long story focusing on the decline of African-American wealth in Memphis, a piece that dovetails well with Wendi C. Thomas' Sunday Viewpoint essay on the wealth gap afflicting black women.

Most of what the Times story covers will be familiar to Memphians; the story goes in depth into the lawsuit by Memphis and Shelby County against Wells Fargo, which they accuse of marketing toxic loans to black home buyers. And the Times story repeats one fact that Wendi mentioned in her Sunday piece: that for every dollar of wealth a white family has, a black family has only 16 cents. However, there was one particularly striking statistic that I had not seen reported around here:

The median income of black homeowners in Memphis rose steadily until five or six years ago. Now it has receded to a level below that of 1990 -- and roughly half that of white Memphis homeowners, according to an analysis conducted by Queens College Sociology Department for The New York Times.
The Village Voice has a double feature on two of Memphis' longest-running, most successful rap acts, Three 6 Mafia and 8ball & MJG. The two groups -- the former from North Memphis, the latter from Orange Mound -- emerged from the same nascent rap scene in the early '90s, and they have collaborated a few times over the years, but they have always seemed to be flip sides of the same coin: Three 6 with their ominous tracks and primal flows, 8ball & MJG with a smoother, funkier sound. In the past few years, their fortunes diverged somewhat: Three 6 won an Oscar for their work on the "Hustle & Flow" soundtrack and landed a couple of reality-TV gigs, while 8ball & MJG drifted a bit while signed to Sean Combs' Bad Boy label. Now both acts are poised to release new albums -- Three 6 even lined up a guest appearance by global rave DJ Tiesto, and 8ball & MJG are now signed to T.I.'s Grand Hustle imprint.

For the initiated, the most intriguing part of the article might be 8ball's implication (to put it lightly) that Three 6 has sold out.

"It's just my opinion, but after the Oscar, they weren't the same," he says. "Even their hood stuff don't sound like that Three 6 Mafia that took over Memphis, after we kicked the door open. I think people's music changes with their surroundings, sometimes."

Juicy J of Three 6, who counts 8ball & MJG as mentors, bristled at the suggestion.

"If someone said, 'If you do this song, you can make 10 to 15 to 20 million dollars,' would you be like, 'Nah, I'm gonna just chill with my hardcore fan base and nickel and dime here and there'?"

Andy Rooney blasts Martin Luther King Jr. sculpture in Memphis

Time blogger Claire Suddath has some fun with angry old man Andy Rooney's scathing critique of public art from this Sunday's "60 Minutes." While decrying the multicolored livestock sculptures and bronze Mr. Potato Heads popping up on the streets of cities and towns across the country, Rooney takes a shot at an abstract sculpture in Downtown Memphis:

Rooney examines a modern art memorial to Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn. "I'm an admirer of everything Martin Luther King stood for," Rooney says, "but I don't think he would have stood for this." (Double zing!)
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