Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
9/27/2003 8:27:27 PM
Tags and topics realted to this article include David Banner, Ludacris, Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz, Outkast and Trick Daddy.
Rap music, which originated in the Bronx, is the only form of black American pop that doesn't have Southern roots. But, after 20-plus years of Northern exposure, hip hop is now exploding in the South.
In the last few years, such Southern rappers and producers as Jermaine Dupri, Master P., Timbaland, Nappy Roots and OutKast have crashed the Billboard charts with their off-kilter music. And the latest Southern rappers, including Ludacris, Killer Mike, Lil' Jon and the East Side Boyz, YoungbloodZ and the Ying Yang Twins, are taking their sounds to the next level of national popularity.
"People used to think it was corny to be from the South, but now it's cool to be country," says Virginia-based rapper Fam-Lay, whose gritty first single, "Rock 'n' Roll," appears on the Neptunes' best-selling compilation CD, "Clones" (Arista). Still, the umbrella term "Southern hip hop" can often be misleading.
"The rap music of the South doesn't have a monosyllabic sound," insists Mississippi-based cultural critic Charlie Braxton. "The music of producers Organized Noize is more soul-based than the fast 'crunk' sound of Lil' Jon or the Ying Yang Twins. Yet the music that comes out of Florida" - like Trick Daddy's - "has a more bassy sound. There are many towns down South, and each one contributes its own timbre, style and tempo to the music."
Majors like Warner Brothers (home of Lil Scrappy) and Arista (home of Bone Crusher) have begun signing more Southern rappers. Def Jam is the first label to open a Southern subdivision, Def Jam South in Atlanta. It signed the streetwise Scarface and the comical Ludacris, and is courting others.
"There are many Southern acts with pure talent," says Def Jam South general manger Chaka Zulu. "Many of these regional artists put out one or two albums locally before people in the North have even heard of them."
Zulu also manages Chingy, whose bouncy single "Right Thurr" (Capitol) has been on the Billboard single chart since spring, and Ludacris, whose latest album, "Chicken & Beer," comes out Oct. 7.
"Before Ludacris was signed to Def Jam South in 2000, I had been shopping his demo for a few years," says Zulu. The majors didn't pay attention, he notes, "until we put out an album independently and got it played on local radio. Now that the South has become a sales contender, we can expect to see more labels trying to emulate that success."
As the groundbreaking Ludacris explains, "It used to be a risk for major labels to sign Southern acts, but now that we have proven ourselves the door is open."
'CRUNK' CATCHES ON
The latest success story to emerge from the land of cotton is crunk. Influenced by the old-school raunch of 2 Live Crew and laced with heavy bass, 808 drum machines and live instrumentation, the moonshine high jinks of crunk has become the ultimate party music.
"It had its beginning in the Southern club scene," observes Kaine, partner of D-Roc in the Ying Yang Twins, whose third album, "Me & My Brother" (TVT), was released Sept. 16; they also rap on Lil' Jon and the East Side Boyz' s popular single "Get Low" (also TVT).
"Sometimes we have to crank things to get the audience started," explains D-Roc. "But crunk means it's already started. We are trying to bring a new energy to the music."
Although David Banner's booty-shaking first single "Like a Pimp" (Universal) hit the Billboard charts and won crunk club approval, the Mississippi-based rapper wants more.
"We're selling now, but not in 50 Cent numbers yet," says Banner, referring to the Queens hitmaker. "Many labels look at Southern rap as happy black music because there is so much emotion in it. But because we're not time-traveling through the pyramids doesn't mean we can't be deep. The styles popular now are just the beginning of our musical movement."
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