For a decade, the Southern Entertainment Awards (SEAs) has provided independent rap artists, producers, DJs, event promoters, and music fanatics with the chance to enjoy panel discussions, artist showcases, and a star-filled awards ceremony.
Everyone from the likes of Def Jam Records’ Big K.R.I.T., Grand Hustle’s B.O.B., Southern rap heavyweight Gucci Mane, Memphis' own Yo Gotti and platinum producer Drumma Boy, and even female rap superstar Nicki Minaj have graced the event with their presence over the years.
Although it's been held in Memphis for the last two years, the SEAs will celebrate its 10th annual conference and award show in Nashville (the city where it began) from March 21st-24th at the Embassy Suites and Marathon Music Works, among other venues.
“We’re embarking on 10 years. Not too many other events can say that,” said Janiro Hawkins, co-founder of the SEAs. “The Source Awards didn’t even last five years, so it’s been a blessing that after 10 years of hard work and labor and red tape, we’re still here, because it’s not easy for African-American males who are entrepreneurs to do what we’re doing in any city.”
Guest panelists and performers for the event will include Big K.R.I.T., Memphis native and Interscope Records signee Don Trip, Grammy Award-winning producer/songwriter Syience, and others.
“From the conference, [independent artists and DJs] can expect to get some guidance and direction on what their next step needs to be,” Hawkins said. “In addition to that, they can network with some key individuals and DJs throughout the market to build long-lasting relationships. The conference will have different topics up for discussion on a panel that individuals can sit in on. They can learn about marketing, how to get songs on radio, how to protect their music, and earn money from their music legally.”
Although the event's primary objective is to help launch the careers of aspiring entertainers in the Southern region, the SEAs is most notable for its award ceremony. Some of its past nominees, winners and performers include Yo Gotti, Drumma Boy, Big K.R.I.T., Gucci Mane, Kinfolk Kia Shine, La Chat, and Gangsta Boo.
During the ceremony, awards are provided in more than 30 categories that include “Mixtape DJ of the Year,” “Number One DJ in the South,” “Producer of the Year,” “Magazine of the Year,” and “Website of the Year.”
Hawkins expects to have more than 750 people attend the 10th annual conference and award show. The price to attend the awards is $50, and the conference price is $50 as well.
Hawkins said the idea to create the SEAs came about after he and partner DJ Infamous dealt with so many independent artists and DJs at their music store, Platinum Bound Records, and noticed the lack of appreciation they receive for their hard work.
“Month after month, year after year, we saw that they weren’t being acknowledged for their work and contributions to music, especially the DJs, anywhere in the south,” Hawkins said. “Like from a grassroots, independent function. So what we did was look at the DJ in all the different facets of music that they touch and have an influence in. And that’s kinda how we branched out our categories. … it was based on what the DJ was instrumental in doing. That’s what started the event 10 years ago. We wanted to create a way for people to show their appreciation for a lot of these indie artists and DJs and individuals that are out here creating the music who ultimately may go on to become the next A-list artist. “
Since launching, the SEAs estimate to have impacted the careers of more than 5,000 nominees within the southern region. The first ever SEA event took place in Nashville in 2004. Since then, the event has migrated from various casino resorts in Tunica, Mississippi to both the Cannon Center and Cook Convention Center in Memphis, before returning to its birthplace in Nashville.
Hawkins said the company decided to bring the SEAs back to Nashville due to lack of support and assistance from the Memphis Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, city government, and the Memphis & Shelby County Music Commission. An increase in Memphis hotel rates was a contributing factor to the move as well.