Mississippi musicians are pushing to reclaim state's music history

Many genres of music have roots that tie back to Mississippi. Now, the music industry in the state is trying to reclaim its history.
Posted at 2:48 PM, Feb 01, 2023

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.

Known as one of the South's most groundbreaking hip-hop artists, Brown 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."

Artists like 5th Child could have left Jackson, Mississippi for music hot spots like Atlanta, Los Angeles or New York. But when it comes from Jackson, musicians there say it has deeper roots.

"I choose to live here because there are some experiences I've had artistically that I've never had anywhere else," Brown said. "I see so much potential here. I see it as Wakanda. It's like we're hidden in plain sight."

Mississippi is taking back its identity, Brown says, by pushing the rest of the country to pay homage to its music history. 

Though the national music scene has started to pay attention to the rise of hip-hop coming out of Jackson, experts say Mississippi can also be traced back to the birth of the blues. The state has influenced genres from jazz to country and rock 'n' roll to gospel.

Music group inspires movement by bridging the past and the future
Duo performs music

Music group inspires movement by bridging the past and the future

Afrofuturism has been around for decades, but it usually receives most of its attention during Black History Month.


"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, Brown says other music scenes wouldn't exist, and others agree.

"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, more commonly known as Kamikaze in Jackson. "I've shown constantly that you do not have to leave Mississippi in order to make it."

Franklin's 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."

Evident in soul singer Stephanie Luckett's music is her Mississippi roots, alongside her courage to be authentic and vulnerable.

"It's the place of music, and it's the first place that gave me my start as an artist," Luckett said. "Music played a heavy part in my escape from the domestic violence."

It's the artists working to make people remember their home 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.

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

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

Snoop Dogg, Gloria Estefan, Sade make it to Songwriters Hall of Fame
Musicians Snoop Dogg, from left, Gloria Estefan, and Sade

Snoop Dogg, Gloria Estefan, Sade make it to Songwriters Hall of Fame

The seven songwriters from the class of 2023 will be inducted at a gala June 15 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City.