Georgio Coffin, Devante Lewis and Damien Minor want Blount County to show up at Worlds Fair Park in Knoxville at 4 p.m. Sept. 19.
The Alcoa rap trio “2-Much” will perform at the first annual Knoxville’s Got Talent Community Talent Show Competition.
The name reflects the group’s attitude. “We have too much heart, put in too much time and too much effort to be denied,” Coffin said.
Lewis encouraged folks in Blount County to come see them perform. “Come to the event and see folks from where you live perform on stage,” he said. “It will be a good show.”
Minor echoed Lewis’ sentiments. “We’re going to show how a young act can rock out a crowd just as good as older people, and we can have a good time,” he said. “We’re going to prove to our community young people can rock a crowd as good as a veteran performers.”
While the trio is excited at the chance to perform, the organizers of the event hope all the contestants will put on a good show and help raise money for a good cause.
The event benefits Youth Leadership Academy of Knoxville. Community organizer Rebecca Booker started the organization in October of 2008 and recently chartered it as a non-profit agency through the state.
Booker, a community organizer, said the Youth Leadership Academy has existed since she started it on Oct. 20, 2008. “We’re so used to hearing the negative things about young people,” she said. “We just want to highlight the positive side of our young people. They sing, dance and are extraordinary people.”
She enlisted Sissy Ferguson, executive director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Alcoa, to help find talent for the competition. Ferguson said she likes the idea behind the competition. “It gives you hope. You always hear the negative about young people,” she said.
Ferguson said she told Miner about the competition and convinced him to get the other two members of “2-Much” to go with her to audition for the event.
“They were nervous,” she said.
Ferguson got the boys to the Literacy Imperative Book Store on Harriett Tubman Avenue in Knoxville where the auditions were being held. Once there, they told Ferguson and Booker that one of their songs had mild profanity in the lyrics.
“They write all their lyrics themselves but I had never seen them on the spot before,” said Ferguson. “I told them, ‘This is where you have to have a Plan B. Plan B is more important than Plan A,’” she said.
Ferguson said she told the boys they could refuse to change the lyrics and miss an opportunity, or they could change two words in a song. I told them, ‘What if someone wants to hire you to do a birthday party for a 10-year-old?’” she said.
Ferguson said the boys went backstage and created new lyrics, replacing the words in a matter of minutes. The MLK Center executive director said she was impressed with how the boys handled themselves and how quickly they adjusted to the new lyrics. “They absolutely did a fantastic job. The judges asked them a number of questions, and the boys had good manners,” she said.
Booker said she liked how they handled themselves in front of the judges. “They talked about education, so that was impressive,” she said. “I was impressed. I told them they could do this.”
Ferguson said she realized the three boys sang and rapped together but she didn’t realize how good they sounded. “When I heard them, they are my kids and I thought, ‘You all wrote this?’ They’re bashful off stage but when they’re on stage, they morph into performers,” she said. “It’s like they’re someone else. I get so excited think about them and their opportunity.”
Ferguson said another aspect of the competition that appealed to her was giving the boys the chance to sing and perform outside of their own community. “It gives them confidence,” she said.
Booker said the competition will do more than showcase talent, it will create connections. “It bridges communities. Our goal is to do this every month on a Sunday afternoon. We hope to get national recognition,” she said. “This is the first Knoxville’s Got Talent.”
Booker said there have already been three auditions and a third is planned for Aug. 28 and a fifth audition is set for Sept. 11.
The event organizer said that while this is a fundraiser for Youth Leadership Academy, she isn’t setting a certain goal amount, she just wants a good show for those who attend.
The event is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sept. 19 at World’s Fair Park in Knoxville. Admission is $10 each. “World’s Fair Park seats 1,000. Our feeling is to give the people a show they’ll never forget and the fundraising will take care of itself.
Ferguson said she believes each show will generate more participants, and Booker said they want to get 10 acts per show. First place will receive $250, second place $125 and third place $75. “We really want to reward them for their efforts,” she said. “It’s work.”
Booker said winners in the competition will be determined by crowd response as well as the contestant or contestants’ presentation, technique and talent.
The boys regularly practice together and when Ferguson first approached them about competing, each saw the chance to make another step as performers.
“I thought it was a good chance to meet artists like ourselves. I was thinking it was an opportunity to get our names out as local rappers,” Coffin said.
Damien Minor, 17, an Alcoa High School senior, was excited about the opportunity. “It’s not everyday someone gives you an opportunity like this. I think it gets us out there as a group,” he said.
Devonte Lewis, 18, an Alcoa High School senior, said it is a challenge because he’s not always comfortable in front of a lot of people. “It was something I was definitely interested in,” he said. “It’s also a chance for good exposure because we’re in front of a lot of people.”
Coffin, who graduated Alcoa High School and plans to attend Middle Tennessee State University this semester, said music heritage runs in his family. He and Minor are cousins and each grew up watching family members sing. “It just runs in the family. I used to write poetry so I just started putting those words to a beat where it would flow,” he said.
Lewis said he has been into music his whole life. “My stepdad was part of a group, and I’ve always been a big fan of music. I wrote my first rhyme in Florida on my 14th birthday for my dad when we were at the beach,” he said. “Once I put it together, I decided it was good thing, and I stuck with it.”
Coffin said that when he’s writing, “I want to make someone else in the world feel the way I do,” he said.
Minor agreed, “It’s more than just the ‘hook’ you use to get their attention, the whole song is supposed to ride,” he said.
Coffin said for folks who like entertainers who can write good lyrics will want to come see him, Lewis and Minor perform as 2-Much. “This is a show you don’t want to miss.”