by Jim Ridley
From Scene staff writer Ron Wynn:
They don't get anywhere near the publicity or worldwide attention devoted to the Oscars, but Sunday night there's another set of awards being presented in Memphis whose growth and appeal has steadily risen. The seventh annual Southern Entertainment Awards (SEA) has evolved from an event that attracted a grand total of 752 people for all its activities in the first year to last year's extravanganza in Tunica that attracted more than 2,500 people.
From a handful of labels and participants, this year's weekend festivities, which began Thursday evening with welcoming events that included a night of bowling and a listening clinic, continues with Saturday's conferences and Sunday's award ceremonies. More than than 400 DJs and 200 indie labels from throughout the region are supporting the event. It's being held at the Memphis Marriott and Cannon Center/Cook Convention Center.
"This event was originally designed to give some credit and publicity to the disc jockeys," SEA founder and co-head Janiro Hawkins says. "My partner Brent Buford and I saw that there was a major lack of recognition for their efforts in helping expose and publicize independent music, particularly black and urban music.
"So we devised the Southern Entertainment Awards to spotlight the DJ's in the region, with emphasis on everything from mixtapes to radio personalities, rappers and street performers. We also targeted those companies who are vital to the music."
From its rather meager beginnings at Gibson Showcase in Nashville, the SEA's have continually expanded and broadened in scope and impact. The number of categories has increased from 20 to 84, with not only DJ's and producers being honored, but labels, recording artists, websites, retail stores, models and clothing companies. Things have gotten so big, Hawkins says, that it's now time for some streamlining.
"We're going to condense some categories after this year," Hawkins says. "We want to make the awards show more uniform with more specific categories. For instance, this year we have both best online and best record store. Next year we'll just have the best record store period, online or retail. It's really about eliminating possible duplication."
Along with founding partners Buford and Jesse Johnson, Hawkins sees other changes on the horizon for the SEA's, including an eventual return to Nashville.
"It's really been a case of venues and space in terms of where we've had the event," Hawkins says. "We haven't been able to get the type of settings we need in Nashville during the month of February, but with the new convention center coming that may change. The reason we picked Memphis this year was both because of its central location in terms of people being able to reach it from multiple points throughout the Southeast and also because there are two hip-hop stations there. But we hope to do the 10th one in Nashville to mark a decade for the SEA's."
Sunday's awards show at the Convention Center gets underway at 2 p.m. The performing roster includes Drumma Boy & Drum Squad, Kapri Styles, Finess Da Boss, Spark Dawg, Skai, Christelle and Malaki & MORE, among others.
For more information on various seminars and other items at the seventh annual SEA's, call 901-281-7050 or online at southernentawards.com.