"History is always happening" at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site
7 p.m., Philander Smith College Auditorium. Free.
In late September, Mississippi rapper David Banner testified before the House of Representatives. The hearing, “From Imus to Industry: The Business of Stereotypes and Degrading Images,” focused largely on the violent and misogynistic language and imagery in rap. By his own admission, Banner is one of the most vulgar rappers around. But as he demonstrated in the hearing, he's also one of the most eloquent and thoughtful. “I can admit that there are some problems in hip-hop,” he told the panel, “but it is only a reflection of what's taking place in our society. Hip-hop is sick because America is sick.” He also cited a 1971 Supreme Court opinion in which Justice Marshall Harlan II said, “One man's vulgarity is another's lyric;” noted that the word “nigger” appears in “Huckleberry Finn” 215 times and remains required reading in classrooms across the country; and reflected on the lack of publicity he'd gotten for the massive benefit concert he organized in aid of Hurricane Katrina compared to the attention focused on his vulgar lyrics, which he framed as “a bible with a Playboy cover.” The rapper comes to continue the conversation as part of Philander Smith College's new “Bless The Mic: Chopped and Screwed” lecture series, a spin on the regular series that will allow the college to address current events.
KEVIN GORDON/ JIM MIZE
9 p.m., White Water Tavern. $5.
Fans of literate, down-home, blues-infused, country-tinged swamp rock, take note. Two of the best will play White Water Tavern on Thursday. Raised in Shreveport and schooled at the prestigious Iowa Writer's Workshop, Kevin Gordon has soldiered away in Nashville for the last 10 years, building a cult following with a ragged voice, bluesy guitar and deep, dark story songs. Gordon has teamed with Lucinda Williams for a song, and has had his material covered by greats as far flung as Sonny Burgess (of Newport) and Irma Thomas. A long-tenured insurance adjustor by day, Conway's Jim Mize is perhaps the state's best lyricist. He writes with a plainspoken brilliance that recalls blue-collar Southern authors like Larry Brown and Harry Crews, and sings with an appealingly deep, gravelly wail. His back-up band, featuring Charles Wyrick on guitar, Jason Weinheimer on bass and Dave Hoffpauir on drums, helps make the material even more searing and haunting. Jimmy Davis, a Memphis folk-rock star, comes to town behind his latest album, “Campfire Songs.”
7:30 p.m., Weekend Theater. $10-$14.
A change of pace at the Weekend Theater: Melissa Anderson stars in a one-woman show about an overweight young woman who can't seem to keep a job. “Blown Sideways,” an Obie-award-winning comedy by Broadway phenom Claudia Shear, tracks a young Shear as she's forced to work scores of menial jobs to support herself. With no marketable skills to speak of, Shear bounces from working as a cook to a waitress to a proofreader to a whorehouse receptionist. All in all, she loses 64 jobs. She's also overweight, which, as she explains, means she's branded not just “unerotic” but “un-American.” The Weekend Theater promises a “droll, insightful and ultimately frightening look at the inner lives of those who serve us.” Unlike most Weekend Theater productions, “Blown Sideways” will only have a two-night run, with a second performance scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20.
8 p.m., the Village. $15.
Earlier this year, MIMS, the self-styled savior of New York rap, reached the top of the charts with the song “This Is Why I'm Hot.” Overblown bragging has a long, rich tradition in hip-hop, but on “This Is Why,” MIMS manages something unprecedented (and a little mind-boggling): He brags about not rapping, while rapping. In the first verse, he rhymes, or rather, he doesn't rhyme, “This is why I'm hot / I don't got to rap / I can sell a mill saying nothing on the track.” The hook follows through on that promise: “This is why I'm hot / I'm hot cause I'm fly / You ain't cause you not.” Not to get all William Safire on your ass, but that, my friends, is half tautology, half logical fallacy — a hook so dumb, it's kind of catchy. But you probably know that already. The song is so ubiquitous this year, it's probably entered your blood stream. The show, sponsored by various local radio stations, is being billed “Rap for the Cure, Rock for the Cure,” in coordination with Saturday's “Race for the Cure,” and will also feature local alt-rockers Cities and Thrones and 13X, a local metal act.