Southern hip hop, also known as Southern rap, South Coast hip hop, or Dirty South, is a blanket term for a subgenre of American hip hop music that emerged in the Southern United States, especially in Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Memphis, and Miami -- the five of which constitute the "Southern Network" in rap music.
The music was a reaction to the 1980s flow of hip hop culture from New York City and the Los Angeles area, and can be considered a third major American hip hop genre, after East Coast hip hop and West Coast hip hop. Many early Southern rap artists released their music independently or on mixtapes after encountering difficulty securing record-label contracts in the 1990s. By the early 2000s, many Southern artists had attained national success, and as the decade went on, both mainstream and underground varieties of Southern hip-hop became among the most popular and influential of the entire genre.
|Southern hip hop|
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the American hip hop music market was primarily dominated by artists from the East Coast and West Coast. Los Angeles and New York City were the two main cities where hip hop was receiving widespread attention. In the 1980s, cities throughout the Southern United States began to catch on to the hip hop music movement. The Geto Boys, a hip hop group from Houston, were among the first hip hop artists from the Southern United States to gain widespread popularity. Southern hip hop's roots can be traced to the success of Geto Boys' Grip It! On That Other Level in 1989, the Rick Rubin produced The Geto Boys in 1990, and We Can't Be Stopped in 1991. After the Geto Boys rose to stardom, Houston became the center for Southern hip hop. Miami also played a major role in the rise of Southern Hip-hop during this time frame with successful acts like 2 Live Crew and other artists who relied heavily on the Miami bass sound. In the late 1980s, other rising rap groups such as UGK from Port Arthur, Texas, and 8Ball & MJG from Memphis, moved to Houston to further their musical careers.
By the 1990s, Atlanta had become a controlling city in southern hip hop music. LaFace Records had given Atlanta a reputation as "the Motown of the South" with acts like TLC and Kriss Kross, and local production crews such as Organized Noize that represented hip hop groups such as OutKast and Goodie Mob played a huge part in helping the South become a center for hip hop music. OutKast became the first Southern artists to generate album sales like the powerhouse rappers on the East and West coasts.
The most successful Southern independent labels during the mid-to-late 90s came out of the cities of Memphis and New Orleans. Both scenes borrowed heavily from a production style first introduced by way of the obscure late-1980s New York rap group The Showboys, heavily sampling the beats from their song "Drag Rap (Trigger Man)." By the turn of the century these scenes found mainstream success through Cash Money Records and No Limit Records out of New Orleans and Hypnotize Minds out of Memphis, revolutionizing financial structures and strategies for independent Southern rap labels.
By the early to mid-2000s, artists from all over the South had begun to develop mainstream popularity with artists like T.I., Ludacris, Lil Jon, Young Jeezy from Atlanta, Trick Daddy and Rick Ross from Miami, Lil Wayne and Juvenile from New Orleans, and Three 6 Mafia from Memphis all becoming major label stars during this time. In 2004, OutKast won six Grammy awards for their album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, including Best Album, while in 2006 the members of Three 6 Mafia won the Academy Award for Best Original Song for "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp" from Hustle and Flow, a Hollywood film about a fictional Southern rap artist. In 2005, the Houston rap scene saw a revival in mainstream popularity, and many Houston rappers started to get nationwide and worldwide audiences such as Paul Wall, Mike Jones, Chamillionaire, Lil' Flip, Slim Thug, Z-Ro, Trae, and many members of the Screwed Up Click.
The height of Southern hip-hop was reached from 2002 through 2004. In 2002, Southern hip-hop artists accounted for 50 to 60 percent of the singles on hip-hop music charts. On the week of December 13, 2003, Southern urban artists, labels and producers accounted for six of the top 10 slots on the Billboard Hot 100: OutKast had two singles, Ludacris, Kelis (produced by The Neptunes), Beyoncé and Chingy (on Ludacris' Disturbing Tha Peace label). In addition to this, from October 2003 through December 2004, the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart was held by a Southern urban artist for 58 out of 62 weeks. This was capped by the week of December 11, 2004 when seven out of the top ten songs on the chart were held by or featured Southern urban artists. In 2004, Vibe magazine reported that Southern artists accounted for 43.6% of the airplay on urban radio stations (compared to 29.7% for the Midwest, 24.1% for the East Coast and 2.5% for the West coast). Rich Boy from Mobile, Alabama was successful in 2007 with his debut album.
Unlike hip hop in other regions of the United States, numerous mainstream Southern rap artists did not come from larger cities and instead came from either suburban areas or areas with smaller hip hop scenes. Notable examples include Field Mob, natives of Albany, Georgia, Bubba Sparxxx, from LaGrange, Georgia, and Nappy Roots, from Bowling Green, Kentucky and the artists of Trill Entertainment out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Popular Southern artists to emerge in since the mid 2010s include Young Thug, Future, Travi$ Scott, 2 Chainz, Rae Sremmurd, Waka Flocka Flame, Gucci Mane, Rich Homie Quan, Migos, 21 Savage and Lil Yachty. In addition, many younger non-Southern artists such as French Montana, ASAP Rocky, Desiigner and Lil Uzi Vert have established themselves within the hip hop scene through southern flavored beats and have acknowledged being heavily influenced by Southern styles of hip hop.
In 2009, the New York Times called Atlanta "hip-hop's center of gravity", and the city is home to many famous hip-hop, R&B and neo soul musicians. Local multi-platinum artists include OutKast, Ludacris, T.I., Usher, Ciara, B.o.B and Young Jeezy. Others include:
In the 1980s and early 1990s, Atlanta's hip hop scene was characterized by a local variant of Miami's electro-driven bass music, with stars like Kilo Ali, MC Shy-D, Raheem the Dream and DJ Smurf (later Mr. Collipark). MC Shy-D is credited with bringing authentic Bronx-style hip-hop to Atlanta (and Miami), such as 1988's Shake it produced by DJ Toomp; Jones was signed to controversial southern rap label Luke Records, run by Luther Campbell aka "Uncle Luke". Arrested Development won the Grammy in 1992 with "Tennessee", while "Mr. Wendal" & "People Everyday" and Kris Kross won with their hit song "Jump".
By the mid-1990s, the rise of OutKast, Goodie Mob and the production collective Organized Noize, let to the development of the Dirty South style of hip-hop and of Atlanta gaining a reputation for "soul-minded hip-hop eccentrics", contrasting with other regional styles.
From the late 1990s to early 2000s, producer Lil Jon was a driving force behind the party-oriented style known as crunk. Record producers L.A. Reid and Babyface founded LaFace Records in Atlanta in the late-1980s; the label eventually became the home to multi-platinum selling artists such as Toni Braxton, TLC, Ciara. It is also the home of So So Def Records, a label founded by Jermaine Dupri in the mid-1990s, that signed acts such as Da Brat, Jagged Edge, Xscape and Dem Franchise Boyz. The success of LaFace and SoSo Def led to Atlanta as an established scene for record labels such as LaFace parent company Arista Records to set up satellite offices.
In 2009, the New York Times noted that after 2000, Atlanta moved "from the margins to becoming hip-hop's center of gravity, part of a larger shift in hip-hop innovation to the South." Producer Drumma Boy called Atlanta "the melting pot of the South". Producer Fatboi called the Roland TR-808 ("808") synthesizer "central" to Atlanta music's versatility, used for snap, crunk, trap, and pop rap styles. The same article named Drumma Boy, Fatboi, Shawty Redd, Lex Luger and Zaytoven the five "hottest producers driving the city".
Before the early 1990s, most Southern hip hop was upbeat and fast, like Miami bass and crunk. In Texas, a different approach of slowing music down, rather than speeding it up, developed. It is unknown when DJ Screw definitively created "screwed and chopped" music. Although people associated with Screw have indicated any time between 1984 and 1991, Screw said he started slowing music down in 1990. In Tulsa, Oklahoma Dj Dinero And Dj Z-Nasty helped popularize Chopped And Screwed music in the Mid South. There is no debate, however, that DJ Screw invented the music style. He discovered that dramatically reducing the pitch of a record gave a mellow, heavy sound that emphasized lyrics to the point of almost storytelling. After experimenting with the sound for a while Screw started making full length "Screw Tapes".
Between 1991 and 1992, there was a large increase in use of purple drank in Texas. Purple drank has been considered to be a major influence in the making of and listening to chopped and screwed music due to its perceived effect of slowing the brain down, giving slow, mellow music its appeal. DJ Screw, however, repeatedly denounced the claim that one has to use purple drank to enjoy screwed and chopped music. Screw, a known user of purple drank, said he came up with chopped and screwed music when high on marijuana.
As the spread of Southern Rap continued, its mainstream breakthrough occurred in 2000. Rap duo UGK made a high-profile guest appearance on Jay-Z's smash hit "Big Pimpin'" and also appeared on Three 6 Mafia's hit "Sippin' on Some Syrup." Both of these collaborations greatly increased their reputation and helped fuel anticipation for their next project . A song that originally appeared on the compilation album The Day Hell Broke Loose 2, Mike Jones' "Still Tippin'", achieved mainstream success in 2004 leading to local Houston rap label Swishahouse signing a national distribution deal with Asylum Records. Jones released his major label debut, Who Is Mike Jones?, on Swishahouse/Warner Bros. in April 2005; the album was certified platinum that June. Paul Wall's major label debut, The Peoples Champ, on Swishahouse/Atlantic, was released in September 2005, eventually topping the Billboard 200. Before embarking on his rap career and while still at school, Wall had worked in the Swishahouse office. Some notable Texas artists include:
New Orleans, with its rich history of African American musical traditions, has occupied a central place in the history of hip-hop in Louisiana, although several notable rap artists have emerged from other cities like Baton Rouge and Shreveport/Bossier. Building on a decade of local activity, rappers and DJs in New Orleans during the early 1990s created a new local style of hip-hop that was eventually christened "bounce." While the style remained regionally limited, the bounce scene helped support the growth of a local industry. However, the city’s distance from hip-hop’s initial centers of activity (New York and later Los Angeles) meant that it would take a significant amount of time for New Orleans-based rappers, producers, and record labels to penetrate the commercial mainstream. Building on the early foundation, several independent record labels, including No Limit and Cash Money, captured national audiences in the late 1990s and helped establish New Orleans as one of the centers of the "Dirty South" style. New generations of artists and companies emerged in the early twenty-first century, but many of those suffered a major setback in the form of Hurricane Katrina-related disruption.
Locally established record labels and producers were responsible for some of the earliest rap recordings to come out of New Orleans. These included singles by Parlez (on Senator Jones’s Superdome label) and Jones and Taylor Experience (on Soulin’ Records), among others. New York Incorporated, a group of several DJs and rappers led by transplanted New Yorker Denny Dee, was one of the first devoted exclusively to hip-hop. It included Byron Thomas and Mia Young, who would go on to later fame as Mannie Fresh and Mia X, respectively. Other groups from this period included Rockers Revenge and the Ninja Crew (composed of rappers Gregory D, Sporty T and DJ Baby T), who released a single in 1986 on the Miami-based 4-Sight label.
After Ninja Crew disbanded, Gregory D partnered with Mannie Fresh to form a duo that would prove to be one of the most prolific rap groups of the late 1980s. The pair released records on the Yo! Label, based in Dallas, Texas, and the Los Angeles-based D&D. While they produced music that was largely indistinguishable from mainstream commercial rap, their two-song single on the local Uzi Records was a groundbreaking expression of the local hip-hop sensibility, relying on participatory, call-and-response-based cadences, and references to the city’s housing projects and other poor or working-class areas where hip-hop was taking root.
Other rappers and producers attained prominence in the late 1980s. MC J Ro J’s single "Let’s Jump" was the first local hip-hop tune to sample music from New Orleans’s second line brass band tradition. Other important groups from the period included the Famous Low Down Boys and E.R.C. Several rappers from the West Bank area of greater metro New Orleans achieved prominence, including MC Thick, whose single "Marrero" led to a contract with a subsidiary of Atlantic Records. Other West Bank rappers included Tim Smooth, who signed with Yo! and later, Rap-a-Lot. Ice Mike, who had built his production and rapping skills as a member of the Def Boyz, released records as a solo artist and produced records for others, most prominently BustDown, who was signed to Effect Records, based in Miami, Florida. Club owner and promoter Warren Mayes had a local hit with the chant-heavy song "Get It Girl," which was released as a single by Atlantic Records in 1991. Several rap groups, including Full Pack and 39 Posse, started their own independent labels, through which they released recordings of themselves and others.
The isolation of New Orleans hip-hop from the national mainstream ended in 1995, when Michael "Mystikal" Tyler signed with Jive Records. His debut album for Big Boy Records was re-released with the new title Mind of Mystikal, the first of several successful releases for the energetic rapper. Despite many local references in his lyrics, Mystikal’s music was not linked to New Orleans bounce.
Meanwhile, New Orleans native Percy "Master P" Miller was in the process of building an underground gangsta rap empire that would see him become one of the richest entertainers in the world. Miller founded the No Limit label while he was living in Richmond, California, but the enterprise took off after he returned to New Orleans and enlisted several prominent local artists, including Mia X and producer Craig "KLC" Lawson. Along with Mo B. Dick, KLC founded the production company known as Beats by the Pound (later the Medicine Men) including Craig B and Odell who produced music for the label in its heyday. No Limit’s early releases included the group TRU, as well as several albums by Master P himself. In 1995, the label recorded several promising local artists for the Down South Hustlers compilation, including Joe Blakk, Mia X, Skull Duggery, Magnolia Slim, and others. In 1996, No Limit sealed a "pressing and distribution" deal with Priority; the label sold millions of copies of subsequent releases by Master P, his brothers C-Murder and Silkk the Shocker, Mia X and, later, Mystikal. Other artists on the roster included Big Ed, Big Ramp, C-Loc, Choppa, Curren$y, D.I.G., Fiend, Full Blooded, Gambino Family (group), Ghetto Commission, Kane & Abel, Krazy, Lil Italy, Lil Ric, Mac, Magic, Mercedes, Mia X, Mo B. Dick, Mr. Serv-On, Mr. Marcelo, Prime Suspects, Romeo, Silkk the Shocker, Snoop Dogg, Sons of Funk, Sonya C, Soulja Slim, Steady Mobb'n, Tre-8, and Young Bleed.
While No Limit’s success was groundbreaking for New Orleans, it was followed in 1998 by a similar deal between Cash Money and Universal. The agreement helped Juvenile’s second album for the label, 400 Degreez, sell more than three million copies, with bounce-flavored songs like "HA" and "Follow Me Now" winning over critics and audiences nationwide. Juvenile’s success was soon followed by other hits, including B.G.’s iconic song "Bling Bling," on his album Chopper City in the Ghetto. The rap group The Hot Boys, which included Cash Money artists B.G., Lil Wayne, Juvenile, and Turk rose to regional prominence in 1997 with the release of Get It How U Live! and later found nationwide success with later releases in 1998. Although group found national traction in 1998, the label's former stable of artists nourished its local popularity in the early half of the decade. The early roster included Magnolia Shorty, PxMxWx, Kilo G, Pimp Daddy, Ms. Tee, Lil SLim, Ziggler to Wiggler, U.N.L.V., Mr. Ivan, B.G., and Lil Wayne.
Beginning around 2000, New Orleans saw the emergence of a cohort of openly gay male rappers, called "sissies" or "punks." Led by Take Fo’ artist Katey Red, this contingent also included Vockah Redu, Sissy Nobby, and Big Freedia. Other rappers like Gotti Boi Chris and 10th Ward Buck helped return New Orleans rap to a local orientation, with collective participation driven by chanted call-and-response lyrics. Labels including Black House and Money Rules formed part of the newest wave of grassroots activity in the city. However, local favorite Soulja Slim was murdered in 2003, just as his national career was taking off after a high-profile collaboration with Juvenile.
The New Orleans hip-hop scene had barely recovered from this shock when Hurricane Katrina struck, scattering rappers and producers to nearby cities like Baton Rouge, Houston, Dallas, and Atlanta, where they struggled to keep their careers moving forward. Lil’ Wayne, who relocated to Miami after the disaster, has risen to become one of the nation’s most popular rappers. New artists to rise during the post-Hurricane Katrina era include Curren$y and his Jet Life Recordings label, Jay Electronica, 3D Na'Tee, Flow, Ace B, Big Ramp, and Lil Cali. Others include:
The first major rap artists out of Alabama was southern rap duo Dirty from Montgomery, Alabama. They sold well regionally before signing with Universal Records. Their major label debut, Keep It Pimp & Gangsta, is their best-selling album. Rich Boy, from Mobile, Alabama released his self-titled debut album in 2007. The album topped the Billboard Rap Albums chart and rose to third on the Billboard 200. His debut single, Throw Some D's charted sixth on the Billboard Hot 100. Yelawolf, from Gadsden, Alabama was the next successful rap artist to gain mainstream and popularity in the media and his music from Alabama. His debut album, Radioactive, was released in 2011 and met with positive reviews, debuting fourth on the Billboard Rap Albums chart.
The term crunk is used as a blanket term to denote any style of southern hip hop, but it is mainly used to denote a musical style that originated by Three Six Mafia in Memphis, Tennessee, in the mid-to-late 1990s. It was popularized by Atlanta rapper Lil Jon, and gained mainstream popularity in the period 2003–04. A typical crunk track uses a drum machine rhythm, heavy bassline, and shouting vocals, often in call and response manner.