For the second year in a row, the crew at Unapologetic will be curating the annual Indie Memphis Film Festival block party, transforming the span of Cooper between Monroe and Union into a celebration of what producer IMAKEMADBEATS calls “disruptors.”
The event will also mark the release of Stuntarious Vol. 4, the latest installment of the group’s yearly EP releases. In addition to live musical performances, of which there will be many, Unapologetic will also be unveiling projects from the newly launched Unapologetic Visual team, as well as selling a new line of Unapologetic Garments. 3:30 On a Wednesday, a beer they made in collaboration with Memphis Made Brewery, will be on tap as well. While many of the specific details remain intentionally vague (who doesn’t like a surprise?), this year’s block party promises to eclipse last year’s successful event in terms of both scale and ambition.
For those of you unfamiliar with Unapologetic, the group can be notoriously hard to define, which is largely by design. Are they a record label? Well yes, but… An artist collective? Closer, but still not quite right. “There’s a reason why we regularly write our name with a period at the end,” explains IMAKEMADBEATS, Unapologetic’s founder and arguably the city’s hottest producer. “This has never been just about music. It was started by a musician, and we ran with those legs, but now we have the kind of legs that can support other things.” As proof, the group recently announced their first visual artist signee, longtime collaborator 35 Miles. “35 has been cranking out music videos for us, and really anything else we need in terms of visual content, but I don’t want him to be known just as a function of musicians.”
I meet IMAKEMADBEATS at his home studio, lovingly known as Dirty Socks, which serves as Unapologetic’s de facto base camp. Within moments, musicians and producers such as C MaJor, Kid Maestro, and Aaron James slowly drift into the room, illustrating the group’s communal spirit in real-time. When asked how this year’s block party will compare to the last, the studio erupts into a knowing laughter. “Last year was dope, but we’re about to turn up on that one. We’re about to take it to the next level, an uncomfortable level. Without saying too much, let’s just say last year we were in a tent, and this year we’re on the block,” IMAKEMADBEATS says with a smile. Despite the sense of pride the group takes from last year’s event, it becomes clear that everyone is determined to outdo themselves the second time around.
“We’re super against getting comfortable. Every time we do something, and this is literally from the beginning, we’ll look at each other like ‘Okay, now how do we do it bigger next time?’”
One of the many factors that will differentiate this year’s block party from the last is the joint nature of the event, which will function both as a showcase for Unapologetic’s roster and as an album release for Stuntarious Vol. 4, which is being marketed as “A Night of Disruption.” “Every year, the Stuntarious EPs are about us connecting with other artists. We can drop our own projects any time, but Stuntarious 4 is all about the features, about showing collaboration,” IMAKEMADBEATS says. “I think you’ll hear some major growth on this one, but what’s cool is there’s still a strong and tethered identity, which speaks to sincerity” Kid Maestro chimes in. In addition to appearances from Unapologetic artists like Cameron Bethany, A Weirdo from Memphis, and PreauXX, the EP will include features from Austyn Michael, Doll McCoy, The Mighty Quinn, Boss Ladi, and many more.
IMAKEMADBEATS credits John Miller, a co-owner of Shangri-La Records and the booking agent for the festival, with originally facilitating the collaboration between Unapologetic and Indie Memphis. “John reached out early last year, and we had some conversations about vinyl and other things to do with Shangri-La. A few months later, he mentioned that Indie Memphis was throwing this block party and that he’d love for us to curate it. We were like ‘a block party? Not a venue, a block party! Alright, bet…’” As evidenced by their invitation to return as curators, Unapologetic has forged a strong relationship with the team at Indie Memphis, one based largely on mutual trust. “Indie Memphis, I love that organization. I love working with them because they listen. So many times we’ve been relegated to this low-level entertainment box, but these guys really have an awareness of creatives and the creative sector,” IMAKEMADBEATS explains.
Before I leave, I ask what audiences should expect from the block party, particularly those who have never had the pleasure of attending an Unapologetic event before. “It’ll be like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Get ready to follow with us, and allow yourself to be vulnerable,” says IMAKEMADBEATS. “Also, follow directions. Be sure to get the Unapologetic World app to get the most out of the experience,” C Major adds a bit cryptically. Whatever they have in store, one can rest assured that it will be an authentic representation of their vision.
“I started Unapologetic four years ago with the philosophy that nothing connects with people more than vulnerability and sincerity. Nothing,” says IMAKEMADBEATS. “I think that’s what has allowed us to do things that folks think we shouldn’t be able to do, and that philosophy will be on full display Friday night.”
Unapologetic’s Indie Memphis block party will be held on Friday, November 1st beginning at 8:30 P.M. Scheduled performers include Sapphire, Hippy Soul, HANNYA CHA0$, Boss Ladi, AWFM, Aaron James, Cameron Bethany, She’Chinah, Kid Maestro, 35 Miles, Eillo, Daz Rinko, PreauXX, and IMAKEMADBEATS, among others. It is open and free to the public.
Learn more about Indie Memphis and see the festival schedule at indiememphis.com.