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Reclaiming Mississippi's music history: 'I see it as Wakanda; it's like we're hidden in plain sight.'

reclaiming music history in Mississippi
Posted at 7:50 AM, Jan 30, 2023

JACKSON, Mississippi — Regardless of what kind of music you like to listen to, it seems there are always roots that tie back to Mississippi, and now, the music industry in the state is trying to reclaim its music history.

Like a blank canvas, music has the ability to be anything it desires.

"I'll know that it's special when something stops me in my tracks and I'm like, 'Wait, wait, wait, what was that?'" said Stephen Brown, who is otherwise known as 5th Child.

When it comes from Jackson, Mississippi, artists here say it has deeper roots.

"I see so much potential here. I see it as Wakanda. It's like we're hidden in plain sight," Brown said. "My name is Stephen Brown, aka 5th Child, and I am a hip-hop artist and producer from Jackson, Mississippi."

Artists like 5th Child could have left for music hot spots like Atlanta, LA, or New York.

"I choose to live here because there are some experiences I've had artistically that I've never had anywhere else," Brown said.

Known as one of the South's most groundbreaking Hip-hop artists, he independently released nine solo albums of original material from the comfort of his home studio.

"Having complete control of the production is liberating," Brown said. "As an artist community, we made a decision to X out the middleman and stop asking for permission."

Mississippi is taking back its identity, Brown says, by pushing the rest of the country to pay homage to its music history. The national music scene has started to pay attention to the rise of hip-hop coming out of Jackson, but experts say we can actually trace Mississippi back to the birth of the blues. The state has influenced genres from jazz to country and rock 'n' roll to the gospel.

"There's a line I have in one of my songs, 'God gave us the blues for our blues,' and so it's like out of our trauma, out of our pain and sadness, we created art with it," Brown said.

Without Mississippi, he says other music scenes wouldn't exist.

"Whether it is slavery, whether it is Jim Crow, whether it is civil rights, whether it is women's suffrage, our music has reflected that," said Brad Franklin.

"I am Brad Franklin, more commonly known as Kamikaze around these parts," Franklin said. "I've shown constantly that you do not have to leave Mississippi in order to make it."

His stardom as one half of the hip-hop duo Crooked Lettaz led to mentorship, and he is now serving as a voice for this reclamation.

"Mississippi has been a victim of letting other people create our narrative for us," Franklin said. "Mississippi is music. We are the birthplace of American music, so when you grow up in Mississippi and you grow up on this soil, you realize you are on sacred ground."

"My name is Stephanie Luckett and I am a singer and soul artist," said artist Stephanie Luckett. "It's the place of music and it's the first place that gave me my start as an artist."

Evident in her music is her Mississippi roots, alongside her courage to be authentic and vulnerable.

"Music played a heavy part in my escape from the domestic violence," Luckett said.

"You can't tell the story, or even define authenticity without perfectly describing Mississippi," Brown said.

It's the artists working to make it right here in Jackson that say reclaiming Mississippi's music history is about breaking pre-conceived ideas and putting rhythm and soul back where it all started.

"Now, people are really kind of starting to tap in just a little bit but Mississippi is making its mark," Luckett said.