Hip-Hop Artist Alexander King talks tragedy in Nashville, its people, and its imminent rise to rebuild

“You’ll see people group together, it’s a blessing in the mist.”

In the wake of the tragedy that struck the music city this week, we reached out to Alexander King, A renowned Hip-Hop artist from East Nashville and a man who has worked relentlessly over the past few days to reduce the suffering. He is not only a star and pivotal figure in the city’s music scene; he is also a devout citizen and benevolent neighbour. He set up a hotline and called in as many friends that have construction skills to help the vulnerable among the community. Alongside rebuilding, he has taken a hard stance on protecting the victims from looters. Synonymous with Hip-Hop is representing your home town; Alexander King walked that talk in this disaster through long days and late nights helping his community. He was generous enough with his time to provide Gigsoup a long phone call about what is happening in Nashville right now, what people can do to help, the best charities for donations, his and his teams efforts and the new line of merchandise which will raise money for the rebuild. Here is the conversation we had from not only a supreme artist, but a pillar in the beloved yet heart-torn metropolis that is Nashville.

” You know, the sunshine always comes right after the rain, and keep your head up. My message would be different to different people, if you’re here to help, then thank you would be my message. If you’re the ones that need help, stay strong.”

I’ve seen on your Instagram that you’ve been out helping the victims of the tornado, what is the general atmosphere like out there at the moment?

I’ve just been trying to do what I can man, share any resources that I’ve got. What I realised more than anything yesterday was that if I can connect people that are trying to get her and do what they can then maybe I can be a little more effective. I’m trying to connect the dots with crews that are coming in, I’ve got a lot of friends that are in construction so we’ve got a lot of crews that are coming into town. I’m just trying to help them get where they need to.

A lot of people from overseas are willing to help, is there a go-to charity that is best for people to donate to?

I tell you what, the two that I’ve been posting seems like they are helping on the most immediate needs are (www.cfmt.org) and (www.hon.org) cfmt is from middle Tennessee and they seem to be the most directly connected, nothing against any of the others or anything, but cfmt goes to immediate middle Tennessee funds, opposed to national funds, so they are really there to help us. I hate to say us because I’ve been in a tornado before but with this one I wasn’t affected really. I was three blocks off of where Nashville was hit, so you know, I’m counting my blessings everyday because my Mother lived right in the path and lost electricity and we couldn’t communicate with her for a few hours and she has breathing issues and other stuff, so things like that have made me hyper aware that we’re not the most affected. Me and my friends made it through this, but we’ve been in the other seat that people are in right now of losing everything and lost power for weeks at a time and not having insurance and everything. So, those are the two organisations that I’ve been pushing, we’re trying to do something more central and I’ve been trying to meet with these people but they’ve been so slammed and hands on.

I’ve been trying to get a link going to some of the people that are stuck here and won’t leave they’re house. The thing sometimes with tornadoes is the house won’t be fully condemned so people want to stay and protect their house and they’re belongings. So I’m trying to get a link up before the weekends over for sure that is a fund for people directly here in the neighbourhood. Until then the two charities I mentioned are the ones I’m pushing as they seem to be the most effective at the ground zero mark.

Nashville is a special place and the people have really pulled together, as a native, do you expect this, or has it shocked you in anyway?

Man, I would say if I didn’t grow up here it’d be shocking and I’m sure that it is to other people. Being from here, I know what the volunteer state is right? It sounds cliché but I would assume that we were called the volunteer state because during war times the hospitals and volunteers here were insane with their efforts, so yeah, I assume that that’s why they named it the volunteer state. We have had a lot of floods here and a lot of tornadoes so for me I’d say that it’s a heart warming thing but not shock, because we’re the volunteer state and people stand up here. There’s a neighbourhood saying and everybody says it about the South if you travel the country like we do that you have a different welcoming when you need directions or need a jumpstart or when somebody lets you out in traffic you know? There’s a certain nuance to the energy of the people in the south that is very neighbourly. The tornado was only a few blocks from us, late at night and by 7:30am there were already people out clearing debris  and getting people out of houses, there wasn’t even a call to action or even time for a call to action, people were already in action. It’s not shocking to me and I do have an expectation for our community.

I was nineteen when a big tornado hit in the nineties and people were out in big trucks and their four wheelers pulling people out of ditches, it’s just something we’re used to seeing out here but it’s just as amazing every time, it’s just as heart warming. It’s what makes me come back to Tennessee, I’ve lived all over America and even as an adult I’ve lived in different places outside of here but I think it’s what always brings me back.

As such a creative city, do you think we’ll expect a huge wave of freshly inspired art?

Yeah, we’re such a community of creative’s, especially in Nashville and even more isolated on the East side where I am, it’s all creative’s there. You know, with tragedy, comes resilience if your community is what we are. I think that there will be a victory after the abyss and an ascent and triumph with the rebuild, if you have a community that’s willing right? What comes with that is a celebration of the rebuild. The president is going to be here tomorrow or today, I’m kind of not paying attention to the news because it’s just so much, I’m just trying to isolate and tackle the tasks at hand. I’m trying to keep the business and the shop going and realised when I got to the shop that I’ve been in tornado mode for just forty-eight hours straight, but you have to keep the business going and keep yourself healthy and keep going otherwise you can’t be much help to anyone else. The thing with tragedy is, you can get the sense of what it’s like to rebuild after that tragedy and go through something like this. I do think it’ll spark a lot of creativity and I think there’ll be a lot of great concerts and a lot of money raised for people that need it. We’ve been through a lot of floods, tornadoes and no electricity for two or three weeks at a time. You’ll see people gathered in the same house that has gas, fifteen, twenty deep having to sleep and shower in the same house. It’s a regular thing to see in the winter and when tornadoes happen. You’ll see people group together, it’s a blessing in the mist.

Do you think the city could take any further precautions for the future such as removing any existing asbestos from older buildings or lead, because this has been a problem over the past few days?

It’s a tough thing, how do you deal with the whole city becoming a construction site? A tornado picks things up and dumps it all over the place and all the materials become loose so ultimately I don’t know what the precautions would be besides having masks here. I had them on deck because we don’t pay for construction builds, we do our own build outs because we’re all construction kids that grew up and got in the music business right? Precaution wise you should keep masks around, but, in the storm, windows and doors get blown out and it becomes a security thing too. What I immediately did was went and beefed up and got a couple more firearms to make sure that people that I knew that were boarding things up were able to protect their things. The first thing to do is to clean up , secure and deal with what’s next, and you should have masks so that you don’t breathe in all of the debris. What I would say is the two most necessary things it to board up what you need to and protect your place, and be able to protect yourself physically.  I hate to say it but one of the most heart breaking things is when somebody shows up pretending that they want to help but they’re really just there to scout your land and steal s***t from you. Those are the immediate security issues that come to my mind, you need to have yourself protected, board your stuff up and not breathe in the debris that’s coming in from these completely destroyed properties. I didn’t go through these things this time but from going through it last time, the first thing that I immediately got was a shotgun and masks to not be breathing in the debris from the old houses, we were surrounded by old houses back in the day. So board the place up, grab a mask and I don’t know how I didn’t say this in the first place but LED flashlights, they’re so inexpensive, gas stoves and hot plates. Hot plates and flashlights should be the first things, a shotgun and a good impact drill that’s battery operated in case of a cut out so you can still work. Those are the things I delivered around because they’re the things that I needed when I was hit.  And obviously canned food, water and anything for survival, you should stock up on just in case.

However, you do need to be able to protect yourself because when the lights go out, the scavengers come out and it was really stressing me out whilst I was riding through the city and seeing if the people that I grew up with and know were cool and checking on people, I could already see, you can look at people sometimes and know by their body language that they’re not really there to help. It’s the city you know? You have a whole bunch of people that don’t have s**t and a bunch of people that work really hard, and they’re right up against each other. Just because people are working in the city doesn’t mean that they can afford to live there. They may be living beyond their means, working toward something and chasing a dream so they’re willing to barely make ends meet. So you may have a kid who’s twenty-five years old working as a waiter, living right next door to somebody who don’t do s***t and doesn’t care, so when a tornado hits and all the lights go out, these guys and girls go against each other, one becomes food and the other the predator, the one that becomes food doesn’t even realise it. I hate to sound so morbid but that’s a real thing and was on my mind as I was riding around. I have friends that have aunts, uncles and grandma’s that live in that neighbourhood so I was going over to make sure they were okay and thank god they were and already had family over. I just wanted to make sure the older people weren’t being taken advantage of who didn’t have defence mechanisms in place. When you move here, I always tell people, make sure you have flash lights, portable cooker, basic survival kit and a way to protect yourself.

Do you have a message for the people suffering in Nashville?

I would say just to try and appreciate that we’re alive and breathing and that tomorrow is… you know, the sunshine always comes right after the rain, and keep your head up. My message would be different to different people, if you’re here to help, then thank you would be my message. If you’re the ones that need help, stay strong. I’ve been through this, people take it serious, the cops are out here busting a** keeping everybody safe, it’s high stress. I would just say take a breath, Namaste, and know the sun shines hard after the rain right? The rainbow’s come out, that sounds cliché but stay strong because there are people who want to help. Just stay blessed because if you’re hearing this, and alive, you’re on the upside of whatever this thing was, because there’s a lot of people that can’t say that and there’s a lot of people that had someone they lost. There’s been a lot of human loss, above all of the property loss, the headaches and horrifying act, not to take anything away from those people but they are on the upside if they lived through this. I’m sure and positive that it does get brighter, living through one of these tragedies I can say that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. So stay strong and let me know if I can help in anyway.

We’ve turned our studio into a cafeteria, so we’re feeding people tonight, we’re feeding people for the next couple of weeks. We have some crews here, I have a couple of them, one from Milwaukee and Chicago that came down. So we’re feeding people and if there’s anybody down here that’s working, needs a place to stay, needs a hot meal or needs a hot shower and doesn’t want to haul up in a hotel. Even if you want to see some friendly faces, listen to some music and hang out with some of the local music community, then we’re going to be jamming at our studio for the next couple of weeks. We have mattresses for the workers, a cafeteria, we’re turning our place into an air B’n’B, we have a lot of space and blessed we didn’t get hit.

My last thing would be that if you need some assistance and need a place to stay, our friends are donating rooms at air B’n’B’s that people can stay in. So just reach out to us I have a number we’ve been using as a hot line it’s 719 – 419 – 1681. That’s our 25/8 hotline, if you need assistance and nobody has gotten to you yet, call that and we’ll send people out. Anybody that’s here volunteering and working we have meals for them. There’s so many people out here volunteering that we’re a small blip on the radar but I wanted to make sure that people have a place they can go, especially any fans of what we do, they can come meet us. We have designs for a T-shirt and hoodie, the proceeds will go the ground zero survivors and family’s who lost somebody. That will be on up on a few sites so check Instagram for those.

Thank you for your time, we’ll follow this up and focus more on upcoming music.

Thank you, appreciate you man, talk to you soon brother.