Bertis English is an Associate Professor of History at Alabama State University. As part of the Fall 2013 focus on Atlanta history, Professor English discusses below the city's unique contribution to hip hop.
Dirty South Hip Hop
Dirty South hip hop refers to a gritty rap culture first developed in the southern United States during the 1980s and the 1990s. Goodie Mob, an eccentric quartet from Atlanta, Georgia, associated with the city's Dungeon Family/Organized Noize music collective, titled a 1995 single "Dirty South" in order to shed light on myriad societal ills in the former Confederacy. Ethnic prejudice and racism seemed to be perennial sicknesses. Public schooling was generally deficient, the overall poverty rate was high, and numerous judicial decisions were unfair and biased. In many southern locales, skin color or economic status could influence the outcome of a case as much as the severity of an alleged crime or the quality of the prosecution and defense. Mandatory sentencing requirements emanating from erstwhile American president Ronald Reagan's "war on drugs" exacerbated the abovementioned maladies. Reagan's initiative gave judges and parole boards a legal justification to impose and ensure lengthy incarcerations for relatively minor offenses, including usage and petty distribution.
Cool Breeze, an Atlanta rapper credited with coining the term dirty South, addressed those and related occurrences on Goodie Mob's 1995 hit. Today the term is used to describe an array of risqué artists, lyrics, clothes, and other fashion items originating in Dixieland as well as ordinary living conditions there. Even though few aspects of dirty South hip hop—beyond the colloquial manner in which it is verbalized and its emphasis on local personalities, issues, and events—are truly distinctive (the subgenre primarily is a synthesis of global rap influences and aesthetics), the emergence of Atlanta and other major Southern cities as recognized headquarters of urban popular culture has compelled some critics, music historians, and fans to describe the phenomenon as unique.
Southern Hip Hop Beginnings
The idea that hip hop began in New York during the 1970s is a consensus viewpoint. Though largely northern, inner city, and underground at first, the movement spread rapidly to other parts of the United States via radio, music videos, and live shows. In California, where "gangsta" rap developed most fully during the middle 1980s into the 1990s, individuals and groups such as Ice T, Niggaz wit Attitude, and Too Short described in frank and oftentimes foul language what innumerable observers regarded as ghetto, or "hood," life. Ethnic strife, illegal drugs, misogyny, and thuggish behavior were recurrent themes. In the South, meanwhile, a cadre of deejays and emcees made records that in time commanded attention nationwide on account of their sexually explicit, or "dirty," content.
The 2 Live Crew helped pioneer the southern version of dirty hip hop. Composed ultimately of four men—manager, promoter, and "hype" man Luther Campbell (also known as Luke Skyywalker and later Uncle Luke), rappers Brother Marquis and Fresh Kid Ice, and deejay Mr. Mixx—the 2 Live Crew was responsible for regional favorites like "Throw that D" (1987) and "We Want Some P—sy" (1987). Characterized by fast tempos, deep bass drops, crisp hi-hats, and turntable wizardry, the two party songs exemplified the Miami sound for which the 2 Live Crew, DJ Magic Mike, the 69 Boyz, 95 South, and many other Floridians would come to be known. With their appearance on the hip hop scene, aficionados were given a bubblier alternative to the often politicized or tragic matters addressed by East and West Coast rappers. Indeed, delivering penetrating social commentary was not what the 2 Live Crew and company sought to do. Instead, they wanted people to release their inhibitions and "shake a little something," or dance provocatively.
The 2 Live Crew's unabashed vulgarity—a portion of which was cut, scratched, or mixed in from the recordings of Rudy Ray Moore, LaWanda Page, Charles (Blowfly) Reid, and other X-rated comedians—led to widespread criticism from mainstream Americans. Tantalizing album covers and outrageous gigs that frequently featured strippers and occasionally had impromptu sex acts performed live onstage resulted in several arrests and concert cancellations. Undeterred, the 2 Live Crew released an album titled Banned in the U.S.A. in 1990 and continued to make sexually suggestive, profanity-laden party records that industry executives tagged with parental advisory labels. When authorities in Florida, Alabama, and elsewhere in the South deemed the recordings too obscene to be sold publicly, the 2 Live Crew filed a series of lawsuits designed to get its products back on shelves. The effort paid off. In 1992 a federal court in Atlanta ruled that the group's raunchy lyrics were protected under the country's freedom of speech statutes, and the United States Supreme Court upheld the ruling.
The Miami bass sound that the 2 Live Crew epitomized was contagious in the lower South. Deejays cut, scratched, and mixed Florida records, while partygoers tried out the state's latest hip hop moves. The 69 Boyz's breakout hit "Tootsie Roll" (1994) spurred a dance craze that swept the region. Cars simultaneously became shows on wheels, as scores of hip hop devotees outfitted their vehicles with brightly colored iridescent paint, large wheels, shiny rims, and hydraulics. Amplified loudspeakers calibrated for optimal low-end output blared the latest mixes to everyone within ear's reach. That activity was less feasible in places where rap fans depended on public transportation instead of private automobiles to get around. Because Southerners did not use mass transit in large numbers and normally lived or worked farther apart than did persons in other sections of the country, especially the Northeast, playing mixtapes and CDs at deafening levels from cars became a favorite pastime. As Magic Mike expressed, he did not want folk to simply listen to his sonic bass creations. They needed to "feel the bass" and respond accordingly. For countless audiences, gyrating wildly was a natural reaction.
The Formative Years of Atlanta Hip Hop
In Atlanta, King Edward J and the J Team, an assemblage of skilled young male and female deejays, cornered the city's mixtape market by the middle 1980s. Quite a few teammates went on to become respected hip hop performers and producers. MC Shy-D, a New York transplant signed to Atlanta's Ichiban Records, led the way. His techno-driven, bass-infused rhythms and playful lyrics set the tone for the danceable, non-confrontational rap style that flourished in Atlanta for the remainder of the decade.
J Team deejays Len and Lazy Rock cofounded the group Success-n-Effect. "Roll It Up" (1989), a moderately paced and socially conscious record about the possible consequences of smoking marijuana, was the group's principal accomplishment. Shortly after its release, Len joined emcees Bonay and Lil Redd to form the A-Town Players. For years their fast-moving, synthesized bass tracks could be heard everywhere in the South. Len's J Team comrades Kizzy Rock, Playa Poncho, and Smurf enjoyed comparable success as solo acts during the early 1990s, when Atlanta's all-nude strip clubs and two annual spring events, a music convention called Jack the Rapper's Family Affair and a more hedonistic festival dubbed Freaknick, brought hundreds of thousands of aspiring artists, industry executives, radio personalities, and black college students to the city. The turntable talents of Jaycee, another J Team member, enabled him to become the official deejay of Ludacris, currently one of Atlanta's most acclaimed rappers.
The years 1992 through 1994 were memorable ones for Atlanta hip hop, not all of which was of the dirty South variety. Arrested Development was a case in point. Its members rhymed, chanted, and sang about civic responsibility, social awareness, spirituality, and the black Diaspora rather than perpetuating misogyny or glamorizing the verbal and physical clashes of local and regional rappers, mainly those on the East and West Coasts. On occasion, feuds between them or their entourages yielded catastrophic results.
The South's sizeable black population and long history of white resistance to racial equality, a resistance symbolized by continued displays of Confederate battle flags—one of which flew above Georgia's state capitol in Atlanta—formed a fitting canvass for Arrested Development's artistry. A verse from the group's debut release "Tennessee" (1992) is illustrative. Speech, the Milwaukee native who founded Arrested Development while attending college in Atlanta, has a conversation with God: "Lord, it's obvious we got a relationship/Talkin' to each other every night and day/Although you're superior over me/We talk to each other in a friendship way." Speech, who as a child spent summers with his grandmother in a small Tennessee town, is commanded to return south to learn more about the area's storied past. His obedience compels him to "walk the roads my forefathers walked/Climb…the trees my forefathers hung from/Ask the trees for all their wisdom/They tell me my ears are so young/Go back to from whence you came/My family tree, my family name."
Speech's imagined travels represented more than enlightened poetics. From the official end of the Civil War in 1865 through the turn of the twentieth century and onward, millions of black Southerners migrated north, northeast, and west to avoid disenfranchisement, racial violence, segregation, and other Jim Crow injustices. Speech thus made a psychological journey back to most black Americans' homeland. And he did so, parenthetically, when many blacks were relocating in the South. Such introspection and thematic complexity contrasted sharply with the nihilistic and pornographic references of numerous other rap songs.
Arrested Development's ingenuity did not go unnoticed. In 1992 Rolling Stone magazine bestowed band-of-the-year honors on the bohemian-style troupe. Its members likewise earned two Grammys and a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Image Award, among other accolades. When Spike Lee's film Malcom X hit movie theaters in 1992, the soundtrack contained their song "Revolution".
Kris Kross, an Atlanta ensemble composed of two teenagers who wore oversized athletics jerseys and sagging jeans turned backward, made "Jump" in 1992. The high-energy rap, whose attendant dance was performed coast to coast, rivaled the popularity of "Whoomp! (There It Is)," a 1993 striptease-inspired party track by another Atlanta-based twosome, Tag Team. Released a month or so following 95 South's similarly titled song, "Whoot!" (There It is)," the Tag Team cut reached number one on the American Rhythm and Blues (R&B) chart and number two on the Billboard Hot 100. Both "whoot" and "whoomp" "there it is" became standard catchphrases for things done nicely. Moreover, neither Tag Team nor 95 South showed any resentment toward the other group's achievement. Their cordiality was refreshing in an environment where rap battles were becoming more commonplace and vicious.
Although less familiar on the national level, Atlanta's DJ Toomp, Kilo, DJ Taz, Raheem, and DJ Jelly of the Big Oomp Camp were five of the South's most adored hip hop acts during the early 1990s. Their Atlanta colleague, Da Brat, reigned supreme among female rappers. Kris Kross discovered her in 1992, and she soon joined them and their deejay, Nabs, on Jermaine Dupri's Atlanta record label, So So Def. Da Brat became one of the first women in rap to sell a million albums when her debut recording, Funkdafied, went platinum in 1994. By that time, So So Def ranked among the South's leading urban music companies. Its position signified a marvelous feat considering that Dupri, a former dancer for a number of R&B and hip hop stars (Cameo, Grandmaster Flash, Herbie Hancock, Run DMC, Whodini), founded So So Def Records in 1993. Furthermore, most major rap labels were headquartered in the North and the Northeast.
Dupri and So So Def helped transform Atlanta from a city known chiefly for Civil War and Civil Rights era campaigns, unpredictable professional athletic teams, America's busiest airport, Hartsfield, and the amusement park Six Flags to a hub of southern hip hop. Besides Kris Kross and Da Brat, Dupri's label attracted the likes of Atlanta's Playa Poncho, Jagged Edge, and Xscape. Dupri himself collaborated with many other hip hop and R&B headliners. They included Bow Wow, Mariah Carey, Monica, TLC, Usher, and Janet Jackson, whom Dupri eventually dated. He also shared production booths with Dallas Austin; Antonio (L. A.) Reid and Kenneth (Babyface) Edmonds, owners of the 1990s R&B powerhouse LaFace Records; and Tony Mercedes, Atlanta's booty music guru. In due course, Dupri enjoyed a stint as an executive at Def Jam, hip hop's premier record company and his prime motivation for founding So So Def. Austin held a key position at Def Jam South, whose first prominent artist was Ludacris. Mercedes became LaFace's artist and repertoire director.
The Motown of the South: Hip Hop Atlanta During the Early Twenty-first Century
In 2002 Dupri and Ludacris recorded "Welcome to Atlanta," a lyrical overview of the city's hip hop history and three cornerstones of its existing culture: cars, clothes, and clubs. The video for "Welcome" opened with an elderly white male tourist asking a young black female guide what "crunk" meant. Relative to the dirty South, the term was used to describe everything from getting angry or becoming inebriated to dancing excitedly or having great sex. Lil Jon, an Atlanta deejay and hype man employed at So So Def from 1993 until 2000, was widely regarded as the king of crunk. His onstage appearance alone symbolized the dirty South. He was bearded, wore dreadlocks, and regularly donned baggy pants and mouth-wide "grills" (expensive dental adornments), a trend among southern rappers that an Atlanta compatriot, Big Gipp of Goodie Mob, claimed to have started in the middle 1990s. Before long, rappers elsewhere in the country were sporting gold, platinum, and diamond teeth.
Creating thunderous beats; drinking from jewelry encrusted chalices, nicknamed "pimp cups"; and screaming "yeah," "okay," and "what" in a distinctly exaggerated manner were Lil Jon's trademarks. Together with partners Big Sam and Lil Bo, better known as the Eastside Boyz, Lil Jon revolutionized southern hip hop through tightly produced drum, guitar, and synthesizer-filled music. His incredibly energetic live performances served social and pecuniary functions. Similar to the 1970s and 1980s street parties of northeastern deejays like Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa, MC Shy-D's cousin, crowd participation became a central component of Lil Jon's shows. Many other rappers, in contrast, performed for self-gratification and rarely interacted directly with their audiences, even in safe venues. At times as raunchy as the 2 Live Crew—one of Lil Jon's self-acknowledged inspirations—he and the East Side Boyz earned critical acclaim by laying down habitually bottom-heavy tracks over which other hip hop and R&B artists rhymed, chanted, or sang. "Lovers and Friends," a 2004 cut by Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz featuring Ludacris and Usher, topped the Hot Rap Tracks and the Rhythmic Top 40 charts. The same cut rose to number two on Hot R&B/Hip Hop Singles and Tracks, and to number three on Billboard Hot 100.
Few Atlanta rappers have enjoyed as much commercial success as T.I., or Tip, the self-professed king of the South. A natural storyteller akin to Slick Rick, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Notorious B.I.G. , among other rap griots, T.I. has shown the ability to frame and deliver a tale as well as anyone else in hip hop, past or present. "I Still Ain't Forgave Myself," a revelatory tune from T.I.'s freshman release, I'm Serious (2001), offered a bird's eye view of his early life and times. Reared largely by his mother and grandparents in a relatively rough area of western Atlanta called Bankhead (as in the 1990s songs and dance), T.I. spent many of his adolescent years counting money derived from the illegal drug sells of his uncles. By age fourteen, T.I. himself was selling dope, toting guns, and trying to avoid incarceration. He reminisced about those experiences in "Still": "I bought an '85 Cutlass on some Dana Danes [customized wire rims]/Now, I'm the shit, huh?/The motor blew in thirty days…Hardheaded, man/I didn't listen to anything/I'm getting money, so I'm right and I got plenty game/Besides, why I need school/I'm a be rappin', Momma/And if that don't work, I guess I'm a be trappin' [dealing drugs], Momma."
As it turned out, T.I. was better at rhyming than at staying out of jail. He was imprisoned several times before the appearance of I'm Serious. The album featured a multitude of award-winning rappers and producers—Beenie Man, DJ Toomp, Lil Jon, Too Short, Pharrell Williams—and received rave reviews from southern hip hop enthusiasts, but it was unprofitable. Consequently L. A. Reid, then head of Arista Records, let T.I. buy out his contract and leave the label.
T.I's separation from Arista did not end his career. He cofounded the management and record company Grand Hustle Entertainment (later reorganized as Hustle Gang) and released several mixtapes. The products did well and confirmed his reputation as a promising southern lyricist. But he was not yet a king, not even in "the ATL," or simply "the A," as Atlanta is sometimes called. Lil Jon, Sammy Sam, the Ying Yang Twins, and a handful of other local rap acts that included one of the most brilliant and adventurous partnerships in hip hop, Big Boi and André 3000, collectively known as OutKast, were positioned higher. Within a half decade, though, that situation changed.
On 19 August 2003, T.I.'s second album, Trap Muzik, opened at number one on R&B/Hip Hop, number four on Billboard 200, and sold more than 109,000 copies in a single week. A slew of well-respected guest artists constituted a major part of the album's appeal. In addition to the Southerners 8Ball and MJG, Bun B, David Banner, Bone Crusher, Jazze Pha, and DJ Toomp, the Midwesterner Kanye West lent his very sought-after production talents to the project. However, T.I.'s passion, razor-sharp wit and crystal-clear oratory, delivered in a shamelessly southern vernacular, were the album's most notable assets.
Trap Muzik's title and rumbling bass made plain T.I.'s affinity for gangsta and party music, but he sought to educate as well. "No More Talk" included a partial polemic about senseless killings in the South and the false idea that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. The song "T.I. vs. T.I.P." put the rapper's moral and mischievous personas on full display. When T.I., the responsible citizen and bourgeoning rap superstar, announced that he'd "be a motherfuckin' fool [to] blow this lick [opportunity]…This [is] the chance of a lifetime, you know this shit," his alter ego, T.I.P., replied: "Since you become a paid cat, T.I., you been so laid back/I wonder where li'l bad ass Tip from back in the day at." The conversation, which he accomplished by double tracking his voice, was conceptually advanced and, of equal significance, believable. Shored up by a swelling fan base and ample street credibility, T.I.'s confident swagger, heartfelt lyrics, and enviable business acumen indicated that he truly was serious about ruling hip hop's southern realm.
"Bring It Out," a 2004 party anthem from T.I.'s third album, Urban Legend, sped his ascendance to the South's hip hop throne, which he captured in 2006. Besides a pair of Grammy nominations, he took top honors in four rap categories—artist, album, album artist, songs artist—and was named best videoclips artist of the year at the Billboard Music Awards show. He also costarred in the movie ATL, which Dallas Austin coproduced, and released another impressive album, boldly titled King. Concurrently Young Dro, T.I.'s protégé, elevated the status of Grand Hustle through a southern rap and dance sensation called "Shoulder Lean." B.o.B., one of hip hop's most imaginative representatives, made his formal rap debut at Club Crucial, an Atlanta nightspot that T.I. owned. T.I. eventually signed B.o.B., whose decision to join the Grand Hustle clique bolstered the notion that, as far as southern rap was concerned, T.I. really was what Young Dro's 2006 album purported to be: the "best thang smokin'."
Atlanta Hip Hop Revolutionized: Snap Music
The year 2007 was not as pleasant for T.I., his wife, Tiny, formerly of Xscape, and their family. On 13 October, a month after winning a Broadcast Music, Incorporation, award for songwriter of the year and hours before a scheduled appearance on Black Entertainment Television's annual hip hop awards show, T.I. was arrested for giving a bodyguard $12,000 to purchase machine guns. A search of T.I. and Tiny's home uncovered more weapons that T.I. could not possess legally because he was a convicted felon. The incident made headline news just as another Atlanta rapper, Soulja Boy, was making a name for himself via the tune "Crank Dat." DJ Smurf, who now went by Mr. Collipark (a colloquialism for College Park, the subarea of Atlanta where he, T.I., Jermaine Dupri, Ludacris, Yung Joc, and several other successful rappers either lived or recorded), produced the tune. It was nominated for a Grammy and held the number one spot on Billboard's Hot 100 and American Rap Songs charts.
"Crank Dat" and its accompanying dance, the Soulja Boy, further popularized a style of urban music referred to as snap on account of the almost obtrusive finger snaps used to keep rhythm. Already "Laffy Taffy," a 2005 recording by Atlanta's D4L, had topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Dem Franchize Boyz's "I Think They Like Me" (2005) and "Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It" (2006) went number one on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs and R&B charts, respectively. Yung Joc's 2006 smash hit, "It's Goin' Down," peaked at number one on Billboard's Hot 100 R&B/Hip Hop and Rap Songs charts. "Snap Yo Fingers," a 2006 collaboration between Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz, the west coast lyricist E-40, and Sean Paul of the Atlanta rap group the Youngbloodz, rose to number one on both the American Hot 100 R&B/Hip Hop and the German single charts. As a testament to snap's appeal, particularly among teenagers and young adults, the previous and newer tunes like "Buy You a Drank" (2007) by the Floridian T-Pain featuring Yung Joc were in constant club, radio, and video rotation when T.I. was detained for unlawful weapons possession in October 2007.
Big Meech, a Dirty South Boss
T.I.'s trial and subsequent incarceration provided Big Meech, another Atlanta hip hop celebrity, a respite from two years of continuous media coverage. Meech was chief operating officer of Black Mafia Family (BMF), an Atlanta record company underwritten by an estimated billion dollars in illegal drugs sold, manufactured, or distributed all over the country since the late 1980s. Before he, his brother, Southwest T, and approximately 150 of their employees were arrested in March 2005, BMF controlled nearly all cocaine, ecstasy, and related dope sells in Atlanta. Meech, an undeniable kingpin, pled guilty to drug charges in November 2007 and was sentenced to thirty years in federal prison, but his artists continued to make music. Such occurrences reinforced dirty South hip hop's alleged and actual ties to the criminal underworld.
The 2010 song "B.M.F. (Blowin' Money Fast)" by Miami rapper Rick Ross paid homage to Meech and the drug/entertainment enterprise that he headed in Atlanta. Young Jeezy, one of the ATL's most recognized rap sons, took exception to the song as soon as it debuted. He detested the fact that Ross essentially claimed to be an heir to Meech, whom Jeezy knew very well. In fact, Jeezy was named in the federal case against BMF, but he was never convicted of a crime. Nevertheless, his and other Atlanta performers' relationships with BMF; the repeat incarcerations of T.I., Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka, and other rap stars from the city; Atlanta's high crime and poverty rates; and a preponderance of adult fun spots in the city seemed to validate Goodie Mob's 1995 implication that the A was the capital of the dirty South.
Dirty South Stereotypes, Innovators, and Perceptivity
Goodie Mob opened "Dirty South," the song, with a drug raid. Cool Breeze followed with a quip about getting illegal drugs on consignment from American president and Arkansas native William (Bill) Clinton. Breeze later compared Clinton's ostensibly meteoric rise from the farmhouse to the White House with the fortunes of the television character Jed Clampett, a country bumpkin who became wealthy and moved to Beverly Hills, California, when oil was discovered on his land. Breeze conceded stealing part of Clinton's dope stash and hence wondered whether "Clampett will sick his goons on me." The analogy was not new. Conspirators were certain, for example, that federal employees planted crack cocaine in Oakland. But those and analogous beliefs were usually conveyed on wax generated outside Dixie.
Big Boi covered more familiar southern rap terrain on Goodie Mob's "Dirty South." Not yet twenty-one when the record came out in 1995, he nonetheless bragged about being a marijuana-smoking pimp who craved a "life of Cadillacs, Impalas, and Regals/Fuckin' around with hoes, bustin' nuts in they mouths/Kickin' that same southern slang/Lookin' for love off in yo' jaw." Cool Breeze then recounted robbing drug dealers as a youth and vowing never to tell authorities about his exploits, generally referred to as snitching or ratting. Near the end of the song, Goodie Mob, Cool Breeze, and Big Boi reiterated that Atlanta was a sleepless city and asked those not from there, "What y'all niggaz know about the dirty South?"
The previous question was and remains an indirect way of delegitimizing stereotypes about southern locales being universally backward, hospitable, and slow. The notion that the South's hip hop artists are extremely imitative is another idea that Cee Lo Green, graduate of the Goodie Mob school, Big Boi and his OutKast sidekick, André 3000, have worked hard to dash. Their award-winning recordings run the musical gamut. Seamless fusions of country, drum and bass, funk, gospel, jazz, metal, orchestra, R&B, reggae, rock, along with fantastic wardrobes and album titles, such as OutKast's Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik (1994), Aquemini (1998), and Stankonia (2000), have solidified the trio's reputation as three of the most talented, colorful, and avant garde figures in American popular culture. They also can be fairly philosophical. In "All I Know," a track from the veteran Atlanta deejay Greg Street's 2001 mixtape, Cee Lo ruminated on a common financial predicament among budding entertainers. He likewise provided keen insight on the pitfalls of machismo and the insignificance of sexual orientation, a touchy subject among rappers and American citizens in general. He sang, "I done been down this road before/It ain't the first time, it won't be the last/I gotta slow down, because I'm living too fast/It's time to admit I need some help/Still living with my momma, can't feed myself/Life ain't about who straight, who real, who fake, and who gay/It's about who pray."
Big Boi and André 3000 routinely match Cee Lo's perspicacity. Several insightful verses have stemmed from personal experiences. For instance, every line of the 2001 single "Ms. Jackson" from Stankonia revealed the confusion, anger, and regret that came with failed relationships involving offspring. "A baby drama mama, don't like me," Big Boi divulged. "She doin' things like havin' her boys/Come from her neighborhood/To the studio trying to fight me/She need to get a piece of the American pie/And take her bite out/That's my house, I disconnect the cable/And turn the lights out." Big then reminded his son's maternal grandmother that "her grandchild is a baby and not a paycheck/Private schools, daycare, shit/Medical bills, I pay that." He later contrasted his actions with hers: "She had fish fries and cookouts on my child's birthday/I wasn't invited/Despite it, I show her the utmost respect when I fall through/All you do is defend that lady when I call you."
Big Boi was clearly upset about his parental situation when "Ms. Jackson" was written. André 3000 expressed more anguish than he did resentment on the track, which won a Grammy in 2002 and in 2011 was heralded one of the best records of any type since 1996 by the British music publication New Musical Express. At the time of Stankonia's release in 2000, André no longer courted Erykah Badu, a multitalented singer and songwriter who had given birth to their son in 1997, and appealed to Badu's mother for solace. He assured her that his "intentions were good, I wish I could/Become a magician to abracadabra all the sadder/Thoughts of me, thoughts of she, thoughts of he [the child]/Asking what happened to the feeling that her and me had/I pray so much about it need some knee pads/It happened for a reason one can't be mad." Abhorring the thought of being a deadbeat or a mere distant dad, André promised "to be present on the first day of school and graduation."
André 3000 tendered a different, though equally as genuine and clever, apology in 2012. Rapping on "Sorry" from T.I.'s Trouble Man CD, André discussed why he and his once inseparable "ATLien," Big Boi, charted somewhat different personal and professional paths in recent years. The song, André lamented, was the "type of shit that'll make you call your rap partner/And say I'm sorry, I'm awkward, my fault for fuckin' up the tours/I hated all the attention so I ran from it/Fuck it if we did, but I hope we ain't lose no fans from it." Next, in a statement that might have seemed strange coming from the average southern rapper reared by an extended family with meager finances but a statement that fit André's demeanor and worldview perfectly, he declared: "I'm a grown-ass kid, you know ain't never cared about no damn money/Why do we try so hard to be stars, just to dodge comets?"
New Horizons: The Legacy and Future of Atlanta and Dirty South Hip Hop
Goodie Mob, OutKast, Cool Breeze, and their more hardcore 1980s and 1990s rap associates from Miami, Memphis, Houston, and New Orleans are indisputable progenitors of dirty South hip hop. Since those pivotal decades, a host of Atlanta performers has replicated their work and aesthetic. An even larger number from the city seems determined to keep Atlanta's hip hop heart beating strongly. Hitherto unmentioned pacemakers include 2 Chainz, Bobby V, Boyz n Da Hood, Ciara, the Dream, Drumma Boy, Fatboi, Future, Keri Hilson, Killer Mike, Travis Porter, Shawty Lo, formerly of D4L, and Shawty Redd. (Shawty, a term used in Atlanta to describe men and women, is a staple in Atlanta's hip hop lexicon.)
For those who question the authenticity and worth of southern hip hop, despite its existing record and substantial industry presence, Cee Lo proffers a tersely dirty response on his 2010 album Lady Killer: "Fuck you." Ludacris concurs. At a time when some people are heralding the death of hip hop because of its southward trek and the South's present-day dominance of the genre, southern artists are actually keeping hip hop alive, Ludacris argues. They continue to pen rhymes, birth or marry musical sounds, dress, and even speak in manners that show endless creativity. Not unlike beatboxing, graffiti, and street dancing during the vanguard years of the hip hop movement, Ludacris, T.I., Big Boi, André 3000, Cee Lo, and their dirty South companions' growing presence on the big screen and on national television—southern drawl and all—broadens the scope of American hip hop. In doing so, they afford future generations new artistic and entrepreneurial avenues to explore and remind everyone of popular black music's deep southern roots.
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