Arkansas Bo
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Arkansas Bo

Dallas, Texas, United States

Dallas, Texas, United States
Band Hip Hop Soul

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Dec
10
Arkansas Bo @ Backbeat Cafe

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, USA

Nov
06
Arkansas Bo @ University of Arkansas Pine Bluff

Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA

Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA

Oct
08
Arkansas Bo @ A3C Hip-Hop Festival @ Masquerade Park

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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Music

Press


Arkansas Bo is Marlon Jennings, a member of the duo Suga City and one of the South's best little-known rappers. Though he possesses a smooth flow and specializes in funny punch lines, he has yet to get his due. This might have something to do with the state from which he hails. As he notes in "Arkansas Sound," just about every other part of the South has gotten its national hip-hop props, including Georgia (home to OutKast), Tennessee (Three 6 Mafia), Louisiana (Lil Wayne) and Mississippi (David Banner). "Why we the ones that everybody fail to mention / and my state lies smack-dab underneath the Mason-Dixon?"

Jennings was raised in Stuttgart, Ark., and though he now lives in Dallas, he's made it his mission to win respect for his birthplace. And so in "Arkansas Sound," from his mixtape The Notebook, he addresses a question he's often asked: What does Arkansas rap sound like? "I don't know," he responds, "but I sound like this." Over a beat that employs thick bass and braying guitar (and feels sampled from a '70s acid-rock track), he addresses Little Rock's reputation for gangs and pays homage to the state's attractive women. "I'm so cold I threw the state on the front of my name," he notes. "If you don't like it, looky here: You ain't gotta listen."

- NPR


Arkansas Bo is looking for work: "If you've got any leads," he says, "let me know."

The rapper, whose real name is Marlon Jennings, hails from the tiny Arkansas burg of Stuttgart, the "rice and duck capital of the world," he says with a laugh. He moved to Dallas in 2007 to take a job with FedEx, but was laid off in 2009. Next, he got hired by a temp agency—but his gig with them finished in December. He's still got bills, though. His apartment in Carrollton costs him $688 a month, and he's got two young daughters to support.

So he's taken to selling CDs by hand.

"I be standing at the liquor store off Marsh Lane and Belt Line by the RaceTrac gas station," he says in his slow, rolling baritone. "Or a couple doors over at the Quick Stop, or at the mall."

It all seems unjust for an MC as talented as Jennings, whose weighty-yet-charming musings and soul-music-inspired flow make him one of the South's best unsigned rappers. His duo, Suga City, has recently received plaudits for its cultured, fresh take on hip-hop. The group, which also includes Andrew "Goines" Goins (who works at the Walmart Supercenter in Pine Bluff, Arkansas) was praised in a feature-length article in Oxford American's recent Southern Music Edition, and the duo's cello-infused song "Savoir Faire" was included on the issue's CD soundtrack. Meanwhile, Suga City's mesmerizing, horn-filled slow-burner "New New" was featured in last year's Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 video game.

Still, those placements aren't going to make Jennings rich—or even solvent—overnight. In a town full of young rappers breaking big with materialistic, chauvinistic jingles, Jennings is the principled veteran perfecting his craft. Though he won't say how old he is, he's been making music for a rap eternity, having joined his previous group, Varsity, more than a decade ago and been featured in The Source's March 2005 "Off the Radar" column.

"That was pandemonium," he remembers of the piece. "People were stealing magazines out the store in my hometown. Everybody thought I had made it big, but I was still working at the post office."

About all Jennings can hang his hat on these days is the fact that he continues to deliver tremendously solid music. On albums like Porch Thinkin' and The Life and Suga City mixtape tunes (the group's debut full-length The Best We Got...Right Now is on hold), he offers up funny, introspective, streetwise nuggets. "'Fuck talent, you've gotta have swag to succeed,'" he raps on "Onetime," echoing a rap truism. "Fuck swag, that word don't mean shit to me but bad weed/ They say 'I drink too much'/ 'I'm trying to keep it real'/ This shit stank like a dead skunk in front of the paper mill." Combined with his soft, stripped-down melodies—courtesy of various underground producers—his music would seem to have crossover potential with the college radio crowd.

On "The Dream," a highlight off his new mixtape The Notebook (available at djbooth.net), Southern rappers like Scarface, Juvenile, Big Boi and Young Jeezy offer him advice. Actually, it's just Jennings imitating these guys, but the impressions are so uncanny you'd think they were actually on the track. Elsewhere, he infuses philosophical tidbits with braggadocio and bravado, such as on "Attacking Issues," in which he confronts a Dixie dolt wearing a rebel-flag T-shirt.

"I'm giving you real life situations, but I make it pleasurable to the ear at the same time," he explains. "I hide the medicine in the ice cream."

As critical as he can be of Caucasian oppressors, he also stresses the need for black men to shape up. "We have the worst reputation on the planet. We ain't blow up no buildings, but that's the way it is. I saw that movie District 9, and it kind of reminds me of us."

Jennings himself was once something of a tough, gangbanging youth in Stuttgart. Though he was never much into drug dealing, "I could fight all day," he says. "It was 'fight for your respect'-type shit. I ain't never killed nobody, but I whupped a couple of people."

He calls that behavior "dumb," and adds that he takes great pains not to glorify 'banging in his songs. In any case, his family eventually set him straight, and he got things on track as a visual arts major at the University of Arkansas Pine Bluff. Though he dropped out because of the birth of a daughter, while there, he met some of the members of Varsity and, later, Goins. The pair then formed Suga City, deriving its name by dropping the T's in Stuttgart and combining it with the second word of a Pine Bluff nickname derived from its noxious paper mills—"Stank City."

Suga City is on hiatus right now, with the two members exploring their own creative paths, though Jennings stresses that there is no beef and the group is not done. He adds that his next solo album will be called Swine Flu, "because I'm a Razorback and I'm sick with it." As for a due date, he admits he has no idea.

"It's coming soon," he jokes. "Like every other rapper says, 'It's coming soon.'"

Still, Jennings' humorous, dark self-assessment contrasts with the current crop of local hitmakers' penchant for self-aggrandizement.

"That ain't my style," he says, referring to the guys with the nice paint jobs and those with the propensity for hitting hoes. "I'm not saying that it's bad, 'cause I don't want these niggas coming at me."

He laughs and adds: "I know what kind of music Dallas likes. They like simplistic beats and simplistic lyrics."

As if the thought just occurred to him, he suddenly wonders aloud whether it might behoove him to appropriate this style, if only to help improve the lot of his two daughters.

But just as quickly, he abandons the idea.

"I ain't going to dumb nothing down," he concludes. "I'm just going to keep putting the medicine in the ice cream."

- Dallas Observer


Discography

Singles:

1. "Cup Insida Cup" currently getting spun on Little Rock's top hip hop station, Power 92.

Mixtapes:

1. I Know Dat's Right, Vol. 1
2. The Notebook

Albums:

1. Porch Thinking
2. Skill Zone

Photos

Bio

Wednesday, September 8, 2010: Based in Dallas for the past two years, Arkansas Bo, came home from a long and tiring day. After numerous phone calls and a few interviews throughout town, Bo could chalk this day up as another fruitless attempt at locking down a job. On this particular day, the frustration was compounded by the eviction notice on his door. Now, not only did Bo find himself out of work, he also found himself in a desperate search for a place to rest his head that night.

Right now, the show that brought a packed house to one of Little Rock’s most popular clubs is a distant memory. The Dallas Observer article proclaiming Arkansas Bo as one of Texas' top hiddent talents is filed in the memory banks somewhere behind his need to find a place to live and even greater need for a paycheck. This is the life. Not too much bottle poppin and Ciroc sippin over here.

THE FUTURE:

Despite the hard times, Bo stays optimistic about his future in music. Confident that he has something to offer the saturated music scene, Bo has reason to beleive he is next up. In 2009 one of Bo's songs was selected to be included in the best selling video game, Modern Warfare 2. Additionaly, Bo increased his fan base by garnering increased blog attention from some of Hip Hop's top taste makers. Asked what influences his music, Bo responds, “I just talk about hard times…that’s what influenced my music…the condition that black folks go through….I don’t want to glorify no street shit cuz I’m a daddy…I don’t want have to pop a nigga for comin at me cuz I'm glorifyin bangin and he wanna try and test me.”