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Southern hip hop

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Southern hip hop, also known as Southern rap, South Coast hip hop, or dirty south, is a blanket term for a regional genre of American hip hop music that emerged in the Southern United States, especially in Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Florida—often titled “The Big 5,” five states which constitute the "Southern Network" in rap music.[1][2][3]

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 the third major American hip hop scene, alongside East Coast hip hop and West Coast hip hop.[4] 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 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.[5]


New Orleans rapper Lil Wayne
Uncle Luke
Miami rapper Uncle Luke, considered one of the pioneers of 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. The West Coast was mainly represented by groups like N.W.A., Death Row Records, and the East Coast had people like The Notorious B.I.G. and groups like the Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep and Bad Boy Records.[6] In the mid 1980s, cities throughout the Southern United States began to catch on to the hip hop music movement.[6] 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 the group's 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.[7]

By the mid-1990s, Atlanta had become a center in Southern hip hop music. 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.[8][9][10] Murder Dog magazine and Ozone magazine presented information about gangsta rap.[11][12]

A defining moment for Southern rap was at the 1995 Source Awards. The duo Outkast[13] had just been awarded Best New Artist, and within the tension that was the East Coast–West Coast feud, member André 3000 came up on stage followed by boos and said, "But it's like this though, I'm tired of them closed minded folks, it's like we gotta demo tape but don't nobody want to hear it. But it's like this: the South got something to say, that's all I got to say." As stated by rapper T.I., "Outkast, period. Outkast. That's when it changed. That was the first time when people began to take Southern rap seriously."[14] Former co-owner of the magazine The Source Benzino took credit for the incident in an interview from April 2023, saying "they gave OutKast 4.5 mics (out of 5)... and it got back to OutKast... I didn't understand the music and I was wrong."[15] 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)".[16] By the early 2000s, these scenes found mainstream success through Disturbing tha Peace in Atlanta, 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. According to HipHopDX, "Not only is the South on the radar, but now the region that was an underdog is the barometer for rap music and hip-hop culture."[17]

By the early to mid-2000s, artists from the South had begun to develop mainstream popularity with artists like Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Mike Jones, and Lil Keke from Houston; T.I., Ludacris, Bubba Sparxxx, Lil Jon, Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy from Atlanta; Trick Daddy and Rick Ross from Miami; Master P, B.G., Lil Wayne and Juvenile from New Orleans, and Three 6 Mafia and Yo Gotti from Memphis all becoming major label stars during this time.[8][18]

Southern hip hop peaked in popularity 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 (with two singles), Ludacris, Kelis (produced by The Neptunes), Beyoncé and Chingy (on Ludacris' Disturbing Tha Peace label). Additionally, 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).[3]

The Dirty Decade


"The Dirty Decade", spanning from 1997 to 2007, marked a period of evolution of southern hip-hop. This era witnessed the genre's maturation and widespread recognition, with artists from the Southern United States achieving commercial success. The term "Dirty Decade" is often used to describe the gritty and distinct sound that emerged during this period. Southern hip hop has its roots in the 1980s, with artists like OutKast and the Geto Boys laying the foundation for the genre.[19] It was during the Dirty Decade that Southern hip-hop gained prominence on a national scale. The genre's influences are diverse, drawing from regional cultural elements and blending them with traditional hip-hop elements. Artists who rose to prominence during this era, such as OutKast, Ludacris, and Lil Wayne, continued to shape the contemporary hip-hop landscape.[19] The regional diversity showcased during the Dirty Decade laid the groundwork for the ongoing growth and expansion of Southern hip-hop.

The Dirty Decade in Southern hip-hop was characterized by specific musical elements that set it apart from other regional styles. Heavy basslines, distinctive use of slang, and a fusion of regional influences into the production were notable features. Producers such as Mannie Fresh, Lil Jon, and Organized Noize played key roles in shaping the sound of this era.[19] Artists from the region consistently dominated the charts, with many albums reaching platinum and gold status. Crunk music, in particular, gained widespread popularity, with hits like "Get Low" by Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz and "Salt Shaker" by the Ying Yang Twins becoming notable contributions to the genre.[19]



In the late 1990s "bounce" music was born in New Orleans. Master P established No Limit Records. In 1992, Cash Money Records was founded, releasing bounce and gangsta rap music.

It has fast beats, catchy call-and-response lyrics, and background adlibs, all meant to make people dance and express themselves. Since the late 1980s, bounce music has been really popular in New Orleans. One of the most famous bounce artists is Big Freedia, known as the Queen of Bounce. She has worked with Beyonce, walked the MET Gala Runway with Ciara, and even had her own TV show on Fuse.

You can hear bounce music in many clubs across the city, especially at The Hangover Bar. On Second Line Sundays, brass bands play lively beats for people to dance along the parade route. If you want to learn some moves, there are interactive twerk classes like Twerk NOLA and Shake Ya Brass at Crescent Park that feature bounce music.

More popular bounce artists are DJ Jubilee, Juvenile, Magnolia Shorty.[20]



Miami Bass music is known for its explicit lyrics about sex, fast dance beats, and a strong bass with a constant kick drum. The genre is all about parties, drugs, sex, and champagne.[21]

The single "Throw The D" by the group 2 Live Crew in January 1986 was the first Miami bass song. Fresh Kid Ice (Christopher Wong Won) said that the song came about when he noticed a new popular dance in Miami, when Herman Kelly and Life's song "Dance to the drummer's beat" played.[22] 2 Live Crew released their album As Nasty As They Wanna Be in 1989.[23]

2 Live Crew got into trouble for explicit lyrics in their 1989 album "As Nasty as They Wanna Be." A judge said it was too obscene to sell, but 2 Live Crew won the legal fight. This allowed them and others to keep using slang and explicit content, but they had to put a warning on album covers.

Luke Campbell and David Hobbs from 2 Live Crew were important in making Miami Bass popular through these controversial albums.[21]



Three 6 Mafia, DJ Paul, Juicy J, Lord Infamous, Crunchy Black, Gangsta Boo, La Chat, Project Pat, Indo G, Playa Fly, Eightball and MJG, Yo Gotti, Moneybagg Yo, NLE Choppa, Pooh Shiesty, Blac Youngsta and Young Dolph all came from Memphis, Tennessee.[24][25]

Tennessee hip-hop blends the style of southern rap, and funk. The Tennessee rap scene popularized musical subgenres within the community, such as Memphis Rap, and Memphis horror-core. Arrested Development's debut album 3 Years, 5 Months and 2 Days in the Life Of... had the song Tennessee in 1992, which is thought to have been the first rap song to release from the state.[citation needed]



The gangsta rap group Dirty is from Montgomery, Alabama.[26] As hip-hop formulated in The Bronx, its influence began to bleed to other parts of the world. For decades, hip hop has existed in Alabama. Codie G was the manager to G-side and became a mentor to many Alabamian people in the rap community. His involvement spear-headed the genre into popularity within the state of Alabama. In 1999, The group Dirty Boyz debuted with the album Country Versatile thus solidifying hip-hop's place in the state.[citation needed]



In 2009, the New York Times called Atlanta "hip-hop's center of gravity",[27] and the city is home to many famous hip-hop, R&B and neo soul musicians.[28]

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Atlanta's hip hop scene was characterized by a local variant of Miami bass, with stars like Kilo Ali and DJ Smurf (later Mr. Collipark).[27][29]

By the mid-1990s, the rise of OutKast, Goodie Mob[30] 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. On August 3, 1995, Outkast received the award for Best New Artist in New York City at the Source Awards. At the time, the primary hip hop heard nationally was from artists on the East and West Coasts, due at least partly to high- profile disputes between rappers from each coast. It was groups such as Outkast who were determined to let the world know that the South had something to say.[27]

In 2009, it was noted that after 2000/2001, 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", primarily due to the massive popularity of Waka Flocka Flame's 2009 debut mixtape.[citation needed] 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.[27] The same article named Drumma Boy, Fatboi, Shawty Redd, Lex Luger and Zaytoven the five "hottest producers driving the city".[27]


Houston's Hip Hop artist Z-ro.
Hip hop artist Z-Ro from Houston, Texas

In the late 1980s, the Geto Boys were Houston's first hip hop group to gain mainstream popularity. In the early 1990s, Texas groups such as Nemesis, PKO, and UGK (from Dallas, San Antonio, and Port Arthur respectively) also gained popularity. Before the early 1990s, most Southern hip hop was upbeat and fast, like Miami bass and crunk. In Texas, however, the music started to become slower. In the early 1990s, DJ Screw created "chopped and screwed" music. Although people associated with Screw have indicated any time between 1987 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.[31][32]

Between 1991 and 1992, there was increased abuse of purple drank in Southeast Texas. Purple drank was a major influence in chopped and screwed music due to its effect of slowing down perception. DJ Screw, a known user of purple drank, said that it is not required to enjoy chopped and screwed music and that he came up with the style when high on marijuana.[31]

As the spread of Southern hip hop continued, its mainstream breakthrough occurred in 2000. Duo UGK made a high-profile guest appearance on Jay-Z's 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. UGK's Pimp C died from a sudden heart attack after overdosing on purple drank on December 4, 2007 at the age of 33. 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 and was certified platinum that June.[33] Paul Wall's major label debut, The Peoples Champ, on Swishahouse/Atlantic, was released in September 2005, eventually topping the Billboard 200.[34] Many rappers from Houston began to have mainstream success in the 2000s. In 2005, MTV named Houston the new rap capital of the South.[35]

Notable artists in Houston include Travis Scott, Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, Bun B, Pimp C, Z-Ro, Big Hawk, Big Moe, Big Mello, Big Steve, Chris Ward, C-Note, Devin The Dude, DJ DMD, E.S.G., Fat Pat, J-Dawg, Killa Kyleon, Kirko Bangz, Lil' Keke, Lil' Flip, Lil' O, Lil' Troy, Mike D, Mike Jones, K-Rino, Al-D, Mr. 3-2, Slim Thug, South Park Mexican, Yungstar, Trae Tha Truth, Scarface and groups such as ABN, Boss Hogg Outlawz, Botany Boyz, Coughee Brothaz, D.E.A., Guerilla Maab, Geto Boys, Herschelwood Hardheadz, M.O.B., Screwed Up Click, South Park Coalition and UGK. The Houston hip-hop scene is known for the chopped and screwed sound invented by Screwed Up Click leader DJ Screw, and remains the location most associated with the style.

Vanilla Ice was born in Dallas, and grew up moving between Dallas and Miami.[36][37] The D.O.C. is from West Dallas. He worked with Dr. Dre as an artist and writer. Christian hip hop artist D-Boy Rodriguez received moderate commercial success and was part of the burgeoning christian hip hop scene in Dallas and the rest of Texas in the late 80s, until he was murdered in 1990. Other rappers such as Big Lurch, Mr. Pookie, Mr. Lucci, Big Tuck, Dorrough, and Dondria also hail from Dallas. Rappers such as legends Lil Sin, and P.K.O. as well as Worldwide, Richie Branson, Cadillac Muzik, King Kyle Lee, and Mike Dimes all hail from San Antonio.[38] There is also a burgeoning R&B scene that includes alumni such as Destiny's Child and Gary Clark, Jr., as well as up-and-comers Leon Bridges, The Suffers, Latasha Lee, Tameca Jones, and Alesia Lani among others.

North Carolina


Around the same time, Ski Beatz (of Greensboro) produced "Dead Presidents" on Jay-Z's album "Reasonable Doubt", which was released in 1996. Also, 9th Wonder (of Winston-Salem) joined a group named Little Brother with fellow members Big Pooh and Phonte (of Durham).(9th Wonder left Little Brother in 2007 to solo produce, becoming one of the top 10 most successful hip hop producers of all time).[citation needed]

North Carolina did not hit the mainstream hip hop map until 2001 with Petey Pablo's "Raise Up". This song was successful and helped highlight the North Carolina's burgeoning rap industry, along with some of its prolific rappers from the state: Rapsody, King Mez, Kooley High, Ignite Mindz, Drique London, SkyBlew, Azon Blaze, Donovan McCray, Lazarus, Thee Tom Hardy, Troop 41, Bryce Snow, Lute, Deniro Farrar, Justus League, Edgar Allen Floe, L.E.G.A.C.Y., Kaze, Banknote Mitch, Khrysis, Keaton, Wells, Tucson, Ghost Dog, & many more.[39]

Another noteworthy rap artist from North Carolina is DaBaby, hailing from Charlotte, though he was born in Cleveland. Although sometimes drawing attention from self-created controversies, his lyrical skills, mixed with his exposure and unique voice, have made him a reckonable force in hip-hop.[citation needed]



Among the four coasts, Southern hip-hop is one of the more recent genres compared to the other three coasts, meaning that the slang used in southern hip-hop is more recent than the slang in other coasts. A lot of the iconic southern slang that was used in hip-hop and rap came from four specific sections of the south: Houston, Memphis, Atlanta, and New Orleans. Of the many slang used in southern hip-hop, the ones that are still being used today are:

Lean, a term used widely in southern hip-hop, is a sprite-codeine-candy mixture that is used like alcohol. The drink originated from Houston in the 1960's, though back in the 60's the word "lean" wasn't used and the drink had multiple names for it like "sizzurp" or "purple drink". It wasn't until the 1980's-90's that the drink was referred to as lean. The song that popularized the slang term "lean" was called "Sippin' Codeine" by DJ Screw and Big Moe, released in 1996 and has the lyric "It makes a southside playa lean" referring to how the sprite-codeine-candy mixture makes you "lean". The slang is still being used today, some of the most notable examples being "Gucci Gang" by Lil Pump, "Look At Me!" by XXXtentacion, and "I" by Kendrick Lamar, all of these songs being relatively recent.[40][41]

Trap House, another widely used slang term in southern hip-hop, is a house where various illegal drugs are made, bought, sold, or used. The primary drugs that are common in trap houses are heroin, meth, cocaine, and fentanyl. The reason why these drug houses are called trap houses is because the consumer of the drug feel "trapped" in the addiction of the drug, hence the name trap house. The slang term trap house originated in Atlanta from the 1980's when drug addiction was at a rise as an escape from the poor conditions of the neighborhoods and cities. "Trap House" itself is a music genre, though usually just referred to as "trap" in the present day, and the music genre has lyrics that show off the hard life and struggle of being a drug dealer, trying to sell drugs, and living in a poor inner city. One of the most recent example of Trap House being used in a song is by YoungBoy Never Broke Again in his song "Trap House" that released in 2018.[42][43]

The term Flossin' derives from the word floss,[citation needed] and means to show off expensive articles of clothing, or items. The term was birthed in Houston around 1990, originally meaning to have money, but the term developed over time into what we know it as today. It was popularized through Southern Rap, being used in songs such as Lil' Flip's Texas Boyz (Screwed) 2002, being used in the following lyrics, "What you know about acting bad, flossin’ prowlers? I got seven DVDs, I’m watchin’ Austin Powers".

The adjective Ratchet means to be crazy, or off the hook. Ever since the late 1990's, rappers from Shreveport, Louisiana have used the term in their songs. It derives off the Louisianan dialect for Wretched, and is used in songs like, Rapper Lil Boosie's 2005 "Do Da Ratchet", Nicki Minaj's 2012 "Right By My Side", and Juicy J's "Bandz a Make Her Dance".

The phrase "Dirty South" was introduced via the 1995 Goodie Mob track "Dirty South" with the chorus repeating the lyrics "What you niggas know about the Dirty South?" [44] The rough and complex lives of the more rural Southern rappers who routinely dealt with the racism and oppression of the areas they lived in compared to the urban and more polished lives of Northerners made the contrast between the two sides even more apparent, forcing the Southern artists to have to prove themselves more to gain respect in the industry. The emergence of the Dirty South as a force in the music industry led to a diverse explosion of different genres and styles not yet explored in hip-hop. The complexity and ruggedness of the South as well as the underestimation of its talents by its peers led to its advancement and growth as a whole.[citation needed]

Southern Fashion


There was an American duo named Kriss Kross. Their names are Chris “Daddy Mac” Smith and Chris “Mac Daddy” Kelly. They are from Atlanta Georgia. Kriss Kross was the youngest hip-hop pair to ever gain such a following. At the ripe age of 12 and 13 years old Kriss Kross made a fashion choice that was not done before in the hip-hip industry. The duo wore their clothes backwards, while performing on stage. This became a trend in the 90s, this fashion choice helped the youthful duo rise to fame.[45]

Migos were an American hip hop trio, stage names are Takeoff, Offset, and Quavo. They are from Atlanta, Georgia. Migos take a lot of pride representing the south. The Migos were the “founders” of drip. They were rappers that used high in fashion. They popularized high in brands in the black community. The Migos have walked the MET Gala carpets. Migos hit mainstream hip-hop with their hit song Versace and their signature sound. Drake then cosigned the group with verse on the remix, that became on the Billboard charts. Not only did a song that introduced the Migos to the world, but the tune also popularized the Versace fashion brand in hip-hop in the Black community.[46]

Travis Scott

Travis Scott (Jacques Bermon Webster ll) is an American Rapper and record producer. Scott is from Houston, Texas. Travis worked with numerous brands, including Dover Street Market, McDonalds, PlayStation, Epic Games, and Byredo. He started his career working as an artist who made sneakers for Nike. He eventually became “a creative consultant” for they company. Christian Dior announced its partnership with Travis Scott as a musical artist for its Spring/Summer ’22 line at Paris Fashion Week, Scott appeared on stage together to introduce there further plans.[47]

Jermaine Lamarr Cole is an American rapper and record producer, from North Carolina. J Cole opened his 4 Your Eyez Only tour by wading through a sea of fans in a full orange prison jumpsuit, printed on the back was “Property of”. They look would end up being a centerpiece of the tour that added a new layer of storytelling in Cole’s performance.[48]



The term crunk is mainly used to denote a musical style that was originated by Three Six Mafia in Memphis, Tennessee, in the mid-to-late 1990s. It was popularized by Atlanta rapper Lil Jon,[49] and gained mainstream popularity in the period 2003–04.[50] A typical crunk track uses a drum machine rhythm, heavy bassline, and shouting vocals, often in call and response manner.[50]

See also



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Further reading