Last Thursday afternoon, before Andrew "Kaz" Westmoreland could get ready to take the stage at Newby's as an opener for Lord T & Eloise, he had to finish his work as a line cook at Interim.
By the time I caught up with the 26-year-old rapper, he was zooming down the interstate, headed home for a break before the high-profile gig.
"I worked all day, but I'm happy with it, you know," Kaz says. "My dad told me that if you can find a job you love, you'll never really work a day in your life."
His words remind me of the hook that anchors his new song "Shovel and a Shotgun," on which vocalist Katherine Fowler advises listeners to "party all night/work all day," although, in his next breath, Kaz reveals that the lyrics are a thinly veiled reference to friends who sling medicinal marijuana in northern California.
One of the most prolific up-and-comers on the local music scene, Kaz has a solo album, Tha Bushwhacka, available in local stores and via My Space.com/KazMemphis this week and a hill-country-blues-meets-hip-hop album, recorded with his band Willie & the Herentons and engineer Kevin Houston, that's due in October.
"My solo album is on the independent label I have with Matt Mages, Bushwhacka Productions. The beats are by me, this guy Mindspin, Matt, Elliott Ives, and Primo from Free Sol. Kevin Cubbins engineered it. Cameron [Mann, the studio manager at Young Avenue Sound, who performs as Lord T] has been really supportive of me," he says.
Featuring Kaz's own rapid-fire rhymes, Tha Bushwhacka is an ethereal rap album. It's already earned heavy praise from the likes of insiders Al Kapone, Nick Scarfo, and Gangsta Boo, who lent her vocals to a track called "The Perp."
"I've been very surprised," Kaz says of the positive response. "I happened to be friends with a lot of rappers before I started, and when I played 'em some songs, they were like, Damn, Kaz, I didn't even know you rapped."
An avowed jam-band fan, Kaz learned his fast-spitting style during a six-months jail stint, after getting busted for Ecstasy at a Widespread Panic concert.
"I was spoiled in my ways, and that experience opened my eyes up to appreciate tomorrow," Kaz says. "The good thing that came out of it is I realized I don't have to get crazy to have fun. I figured out that I could be happy in a lot of different ways. If I hadn't been bored in jail for so long, I wouldn't have started rapping.
"I kick it with so many types of people — like kids who like Panic and Phish," he adds. "One of the first songs I ever recorded was with Cody Burnside, R.L.'s grandson, and I've spit with Garry Burnside and The Burnside Exploration at Newby's. Then I see how Al Kapone gets crazy buck jumping. I guess that's why my style is the way it is, but I don't know how I ended up in the middle of all of it.
"I'm trying my best to establish myself in Memphis right now. I love doing shows with Lord T & Eloise, and maybe one day, I'll do something on the road with them or Free Sol," says Kaz, who will perform with Willie & the Herentons and Afroman at Young Avenue Deli on Thursday, September 20th.
"I just wanna have fun with it," he says. "If it gets to the point where I can't enjoy it, I'm done."
Meanwhile, expect Three 6 Mafia's former first lady, Gangsta Boo, to drop a long-awaited album, Forever Gangsta, at any moment. According to the Web site MemphisRap.com, the diva MC is also working on a memoir, which is sure to be filled with dishy details on her life with DJ Paul and Juicy J.
Hip-hop fans will be thrilled to learn that DJ Redeye Jedi and MCs Bosco and Rachi — aka Tunnel Clones — are right on schedule with their sophomore release.
The phenomenally fun World Wide Open, recorded at Scott Bomar's Electraphonic Recording and mixed at Redeye's own Hemphix Audio Labs, is due to hit the streets on September 25th, although locals can purchase it at the group's CD-release party, scheduled for Saturday, September 20th, at the Hi-Tone Café.
The 15-track disc took about a year to produce and features veteran soul vocalist Phyllis Duncan, multi-instrumentalist Hope Clayburn, and rappers Fathom 9, Jason Da Hater from Kontrast, and Fyte Club's Mighty Quinn.
"We used all local talent to get an urban underground roots sound," Bosco explains. "Hope was amazing. She murdered every track she was on."
To preview songs from the album, such as "Last One Standing," the funky, finger-snapping "Way Back When," and the electric, eclectic "Honey and Sunshine," visit My Space.com/TunnelClones.