Big Break: Memphis’ ‘Peppa Mouth of the South’ using his success to give back to the city he calls home
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Dressed to the nines in Salvatore Ferragamo loafers, plaid pants and a pea coat trench, the secret ingredient in this guy’s saucy outfit? Pepper. As in “Peppa Mouth of the South.”
“My hustle is like from the streets to the boardroom,” he said.
His real name is Artemis Williams, one of the most connected movers and shakers in Memphis who has parlayed his experience with Def Jam Records into not only bringing A-list entertainment to the Bluff City but also creating A-list community events for kids, schools, you name it.
“I may be dealing with the mayor or the police chief or the district attorney in the morning, but end my day in the middle of South Memphis talking to a gang banger,” said Williams.
His dream started at his grandmother’s house in South Memphis. After high school and a handful of different jobs working as a valet parking attendant at a casino where he says mosquitoes “ate him up,” then on to working at the hub at Federal Express. Later, he eventually hooked up with Memphis rap legends Three 6 Mafia.
“Three 6 Mafia used to pay me $300 a week," he said. "I used to be the bus driver, I used to be the manager, the DJ, I used to do everything. I paid my dues.”
The rest, as the saying goes, is history.
So just how did Williams get his break?
“Def Jam Records wanted to fly me to New York on a private jet, by myself, offered me a job to become the vice president of Def Jam South, and I was maybe 21 or 22 and they offered me a six-figure salary, told me I would have an American Express corporate card," said Williams. "I said I’m in, I’m in the game now and I ain’t looked back since then.”
Williams says over the past 20 years his strong relationships with various music artists allowed him to be influential in booking some of the headliners the Bluff City has seen. He says last year Memphis in May asked him to bring some diversity to the stage. He agreed, but only if he could create a platform to showcase the heavy hitters and the novice entertainers.
“Once he reassured me that, then we came on board and we booked Cardi B, Moneybagg Yo," said Williams. "But along that we booked Bloc Boy JB and up-and-coming artists, and it was a huge success and it sold out.”
Another of Williams’ proud moments -- Memphis Madness 2019.
FedExForum was packed. Penny Hardaway and his top tier recruits said they wanted all the smoke, and the “Mouth of the South” came through in the clutch.
Although he admits, he was a nervous wreck.
“I made a few phone calls, and I pitched it to Future and he had never done a college performance or nothing like that before," said Williams. "When I first told Penny about Future, he was like you got Future. I was like YES! And he was like come on Peppa, 'cause it’s like unheard of and I was like I’m telling you and I kind was scared 'cause I was like man I sure hope this man don’t cancel on me. I was on pins and needles up until the minute his jet landed.”
Wheels down, Future was indeed in the building.
As a father of five, Williams’ kids undoubtedly think he’s a cool dad. And when you have friends in high places, your kids get major shout-outs from celebrities like Meghan Trainor.
Now through his community engagement firm, APW Agency, Williams is committed to making sure other kids, especially those in the inner city, are afforded experiences they might only get through his connections, introducing kids to new experiences through events like his summer block parties.
“I pay $3,200 every Friday just for those animals,” he said.
Williams has come a long way from his humble beginnings. His first car was a Kia Sephia, and he says it got repossessed. But now he says he’s blessed with a bit of a fancier ride and he enjoys spending a part of every day using his big break to help young ones manifest their own.
Do you know anyone who’s had a big break? Maybe it’s you!
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