HipHop Area logo  
...Should I shoot his bitch, or make the nigga rich? Don't wanna commit murder, but damn they got me trapped...

Break Dance
Contact Us




Rap: Southern rap

Southern rap
outhern rap (or Dirty South hip-hop) is a type of hip hop music that emerged in the late-1990s as a popular force from cities such as New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, Memphis, Houston, and Dallas.

In the 1980s, the rise and spread of hip hop culture from New York City and California spurred cities in the Southern United States to develop and nurture their own respective hip hop scenes. Without large urban markets like New York City and California, major record labels largely ignored the south for decades. Southern rap artists were forced to release their music independently. The mixtape scene has factored largely in the success of many of today's southern rap artists.

Miami Bass

In Miami, a distinctive bass-heavy scene Miami bass evolved out of electro hop and similar hip hop-influenced dance scenes in Miami, including Luther Campbell and his group, 2 Live Crew. 2 Live Crew became infamous after their album, Nasty As They Wanna Be (1989), was banned in a Florida town and the group was subsequently arrested on obscenity charges after performing; the charges were eventually dismissed. The Miami Bass scene that 2 Live Crew typified is simply one form of southern rap and Miami Bass' club-oriented sound garnered little respect from hip hop fans. But the 2 Live crew is not the only music artist in Miami. This city also holds Trick Daddy, Rick Ross, Trina, Pitbull, Cool & Dre, DJ Khaled, Smitty, Pretty Ricky and many more. Miami rapper Trick Daddy also grew up in the Liberty Square Housing Projects of the Liberty City section of Miami, one of the city's and americas roughest areas. The city of Miami is also home to the label Slip "N" Slide Records.

  -  Cover art from Trick Daddy album Thugs Are Us.

Southern hardcore

The Geto Boys. The first rap group to gain national notice for southern rap music were the Geto Boys. The Geto Boys hailed from Houston, and consisted of Willie D, Bushwick Bill, and Scarface. Houston was the first major city outside of New York City and Los Angeles to attract attention from the rap world; the Geto Boy's 1989 local debut, Grip It! On That Other Level, garnered the attention of Def Jam founder Rick Rubin to executive produce and release their 1990 nationwide debut.

However, it was the Geto Boys' 1991 hit, Mind Playin' Tricks on Me, that began to break down the barrier for southern rap. The raw and unforgiving lyrics about paranoia and losing one's mind were a huge change from what most hip hop fans expected coming from the South. The song would go on to influence several other acts that would popularize the Southern rap scene; for example, while hosting BET's Top 25 countdown in 2004, OutKast's André 3000 remarked that "Mind Playin' Tricks on Me" "put Southern rap on the map." The Geto Boy's Scarface later launched a successful solo career and is referred to by some as the original "King of the South."

Soon after the Geto Boys' success, Houston became a main center of Southern hip hop. Now-popular groups such as UGK (from Port Arthur, Texas) and 8 Ball & MJG (from Memphis, Tennessee) moved to Houston in the late 80s to begin their musical careers. Both groups went on to release influential albums such as UGK's Too Hard to Swallow (1992) and 8 Ball & MJG's Comin' Out Hard (1993). Houston was also home to Rap-A-Lot Records, the first successful Southern rap label, incidentally headed by Scarface.

  - Cover art from Scarface album Mr. Scarface Is Back.


In Memphis, Arrested Development released their album five months after "Mind Playin' Tricks on Me." Their brand of lighthearted and spiritual party singles from their debut LP, 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of..., was a world apart from the sexually explicit, bass heavy party music of Miami and the gangsta rap bravado of Houston, but the group gained both commercial success and critical acclaim. While Arrested Development was not able to keep their momentum going, their success did set the stage for OutKast and Goodie Mob.

These two groups, both a part of the collective the Dungeon Family, debuted in 1994 and 1995 respectively. Their musical basis was alternately heavy-bassed funk over which were party raps, and slow introspective songs about poverty, promiscuity and racism. OutKast and Goodie Mob were the first groups to popularize Atlanta, Georgia in the South and were among the first acts from the South to gain national recognition.

  - Cover art from Arrested Development album 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of....

No Limit/Cash Money

By the late 1990s, Atlanta had emerged as a major city in hip hop and the city's success and influence in the rap world continues on today. While OutKast, Goodie Mob, and a number of other Atlanta-based acts (several of them part of Organized Noize the Dungeon Family collective) balanced critical and commercial success, New Orleans rapper/label mogul Master P popularized a bounce-based sound that focused more on commercial appeal than artistry.

The late 1990s also saw the emergence of New Orleans as a hotbed for rap music. Master P's No Limit Records popularized rappers such as Mystikal and Silkk the Shocker and became home to highly popular West Coast rapper Snoop Dogg; the compteting Cash Money label presented acts such as The Hot Boys (The B.G., Juvenile, Lil Wayne, and Turk).

The No Limit/Cash Money formula was also successfully co-opted by Miami's Slip-N-Slide label, which included Trick Daddy and Trina. Labels such as these also caused Dirty South music to be associated with "mass produced" albums released in rapid succession. The CD packaging for these releases typically featured brightly-colored, heavily Photoshopped "bling bling"-style album covers; and a whole page of the liner notes for each LP was usually devoted to advertising its follow-ups.

A number of other southern cities were the home base for popular hip hop acts: [1] The controversial Three Six Mafia hailed from Memphis, Nappy Roots from Bowling Green, Kentucky, Petey Pablo from Greenville, North Carolina, Little Brother from Durham, North Carolina, Missy Elliott, Clipse, Pharrell, Timbaland, and The Neptunes from Virginia Beach, and Dru Money from South Carolina

  - Cover art from Juvenile album 400 Degreez.


By the early 2000s, Southern rap was arguably becoming the genre's most popular form. This is due to the mainstream acceptance of the crunk music movement that originated from Memphis. Rap groups such as Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz, Eightball & MJG, the Youngbloodz, and Three 6 Mafia have had massive mainstream success releasing music focused on the ever-popular club scene.

2005 saw the return of Houston as a leader in Southern rap with Houston artists such as Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Chamillionaire, Bun B of UGK, and Paul Wall experienced great commercial success; the genre now pervades the South, leading fans and major figures in hip hop to typify Southern rap as crunk music.

Many East Coast (most notably New York) critics, DJ's, and even a few rappers have frequently expressed their distaste for Southern dominance, the latest being 50 Cent in a recent interview, while East Coast rap is currently struggling for mainstream recognition. Critics of crunk music (such as Ghostface Killah) have expressed distaste at the fact that some New York artists (such as Mobb Deep) have recently delved into what they view as a trend or as strictly a Southern phenomenon. Fans of and from both areas also tend to clash on the subject of which type of rap is the better. There has been speculation that this might end up being a rivalry, similar to the East coast vs. West coast rivalry in the 1990's.

   - Cover art from Lil' Jon album Kings of Crunk.

Typical features

Stylistically, Dirty South is notably different from its northern and western counterparts. Whereas East Coast hip hop has historically been associated with complex lyrics and sparse urban beats, contemporary southern rap is largely characterized by its upbeat, exuberant, club-friendly tunes and simplistic, heavily rhythmic lyrical delivery. Crunk has been criticized by many for its tendency to focus on danceability and to shy away from political, social or spiritual topics, although some artists (such as David Banner and Bubba Sparxxx) have tried to embrace these subjects.

The production style of southern rap can veer towards either a soul-based sound (Dungeon Family, Arrested Development) or a grittier sound (No Limit, Cash Money, Mystikal). Where most East Coast rap operates at tempos around 90-120 beats per minute, Southern rap runs rhythms at 140-160, upwards of 180 beats per minute, and then places each snare hit twice as far apart.

This leaves more time to be filled between the kick (on the down beat of the first measure) and the snare (on the downbeat of the second). Sometimes this space is filled with quick trills of hi-hats, a style pioneered by Three 6 Mafia and Hit Man Sammy Sam's Big Oomp Records; other times, it is filled with additional snare patterns; for instance, Pastor Troy's "Ain't No Mo Play in G.A.," or Miracle's "Bounce." The fastest and slowest rhymers in hip-hop both belong to southern rap, as different talents adapt to the music's distinct tempo. Sampling, while still used, is less common in Southern hip-hop production.

  - Cover art from 2 Live Crew album As Nasty As They Wanna Be.

A mainstay feature of hip-hop has always been giving 'shout-outs' to entire coasts, states, or cities, but a more recent trend that is particularly common in southern rap has been to include much more specific shout-outs to specific neighborhoods or local jurisdictions, such the wards of New Orleans, for example, and particular housing projects.
Copyright © 2005-2008. All Rights Reserved.