About 10 years ago, I was a die hard southern music fan. The music we now call “crunk music” was in it’s humble beginnings and a fellow by the name of Lil’ John had this high energy, infectious track on the radio featuring hip hop’s favorite pimp Too Short telling the world “You couldn’t be a better playa than me….”. You had “Two Dope Boys in a Cadillac” riding “Elevators”, confusing the world and making people think they were trippin off some weed. The truth is that these “ATLiens” were just inspired by a star formation that we now call “Aquemini” and they were taking us all to a mystical, yet real place called “Stankonia”. And even if you weren’t caught up in the extra terrestrial pimp music and were left “Still Standing” in “The Dirty South”, you could always just look in your “Goodie Bag” and get some “Soul Food”. When it was all said and done, you and your crew could pile up in the car “Front Back Side To Side” go to Greenbriar Mall and try to convince your favorite shawty to “Let Me See It”.
To me, this is what good southern hip hop was all about. Poisoning beats, lyrics full of unique imagery and memorable skits and interludes made each CD worth the $15 you paid at Peppermint Records and Tapes (yeah, I said Tapes). The art work was amazing and you would read the credits cover to cover – just to get to the thank you’s just and get a glimpse of the artist’s personality. The great albums were the ones that you had to buy three or four times because you would play them so much that they would get scratched up and become unreadable by your CD player.
We loved these artists because they all seemed like cool people that you would love to kick it with. They were a group of people that were very expressive, easy to be understood in the music, and very articulate in interview sessions. Representation of themselves and their craft was always above par.
I know that music, like anything else, has to evolve so that it will continue to live. I just don’t know if I’m a fan of the current state of southern hip hop. I stopped listening to the radio for a while and decided to revisit it recently. To my dismay, I heard a lot of music that was just not any good to me. Every track had 808′s in the same place, finger snaps loitering everywhere, 16th notes in every hi hat pattern, and a hook about a dance that took me at least 32 times to understand what the heck they were saying. I would even ask my high school aged cousins what they were saying, and they didn’t even have a clue… but they own almost all of the music by these artists.
I just feel like the quality of music from the south has diminished. Being a musician in a hip hop band, we run into artists all of the time that are making really good music but cannot get a good grip on the industry because of the kinds of music that dominates radio and other media. It’s very easy to see why there are so many musical clones. I don’t have any stats available, but I’m sure that they’ll show that the number of one hit wonders have increased dramatically. It just seems like it’s not about the craft or longevity anymore. It’s just about making money. I could be wrong.
At any rate, check out this video. I haven’t seen a video this great in a minute.