Twenty-year-old emerging rapper Chris "Preauxx" Dansby grew up in New Orleans, moving to Memphis at age 10, where he ended up graduating from Bolton High School.
New Orleans, via the No Limit and Cash Money crews, and Memphis, via the Three 6 Mafia family, both boast distinctive hardcore rap sounds that thrived during Dansby's formative years. But Dansby, who appeared on a Live From Memphis "60 Seconds" video last year clad in a Tribe Called Quest T-shirt, says his favorite rappers were Jay-Z and Kanye West.
This interest in hip-hop history and penchant to find influence via records and media rather than from physical environment connects Preauxx (who celebrates the release of his second mixtape, Love Jones, at the Hi-Tone Café this weekend) to an emerging new generation of somewhat like-minded but still diverse local rappers who includes promising artists such as Skewby, Cities Aviv, Taktix, Royal' T, and Knowledge Nick.
In fact, Preauxx recently collaborated with Cities Aviv and Royal' T on a one-off song, "Fame x Money."
"We've done so many shows together," Preauxx says of the collaboration. "We just decided to go to the studio and make a song together.
"Different is good," Preauxx says of his connection to local artists. "I found my own lane. I feel like Memphis is welcoming to different styles."
Currently a junior marketing major at the University of Memphis, Preauxx says he always wanted to get involved in music — not just hip-hop — and was influenced to write by the poetic talents of an older sister.
"I used to write poems in class to try to get the girls," Preauxx says. "But I loved hip-hop so much, that I started writing to a beat."
Preauxx got serious about recording and performing and trying to find his niche in the local scene when he started college and draws on his penchant for romantic themes on Love Jones.
"Love Jones is a mixtape about my trials and tribulations in life and love," he says. "I didn't want to do a mixtape that was a hip-hop vibe, a lot of nod your head stuff. I know I can do that."
Preauxx's engaging charisma comes through on the video for the Love Jones song "Going In For the Night," directed by fellow U of M student Steven Simpson, which depicts Preauxx lugging his backpack around the U of M campus on a sunny autumn day. It was also on display at a hip-hop show at the Young Avenue Deli last month, where Preauxx welcomed MC Dutchess onstage to give himself a female focus for one of his romantic songs.
If Preauxx's style stands in contrast to regional expectations, there is one area where his Louisiana upbringing is apparent: his chosen moniker.
"I started out as 'Pro,'" he says, "but that just seemed so bland. And around that time the [New Orleans] Saints won the Super Bowl, and I saw fans holding signs that said 'Geaux Saints.' I thought that was cool, so I decided to spice up my name a little bit."
Preauxx will be joined at his mixtape-release show by DJ Homework (aka Josh Metzger), who is helping him produce and release Love Jones via Homework's newish Westham label. Homework introduced the label last year with "Pushin' Buttons," a terrific Internet single featuring Cities Aviv and Taktix along with singer Ify. He's also been working with Taktix on a debut album.
Also on the bill for the show, which is Sunday, February 27th, at the Hi-Tone Café, are new local rapper Tres, scene stalwart Jason Da Hater, and DJ Redeye Jedi. Admission is $5, which also gets you a physical copy of the Love Jones mixtape. Doors open at 9 p.m.