/Backyard of the South
Cincinnati is the backyard of the south. Walk around downtown and you’ll hear down south beats pumping out of big body cars. Rappers and rap crowds in Cincinnati are a mixed bag. A lot of us grew up listening to east coast and midwest underground hip hop, which you hear in our flow. But plenty of rappers in Cincinnati spit with a twang that you’d expect to find in Atlanta or New Orleans.
Playing shows is primarily about facilitating the crowd in having a good time. Part (Most) of that is playing beats people enjoy. I have a wide taste in hip hop which suited me perfectly for playing in front of the mixed crowds in and around Cincinnati. I would rap over a popular underground or east coast hip hop beat, then cut and mix in a popular down south rap beat. Audiences loved it and the variety helped engage everyone at the show/party. One of my favorites was to cut into the Lil Jon remix of Lean Back.
Now I wish I could sound like a savant and claim Underground Kingz was my first exposure to music from the south, but they honestly weren’t a name to me until they were on Big Pimpin’ with Jay-Z. Truth be told, I’d heard UGK long before that on songs from No Limit Records — I just didn’t realize it.
No Limit Records
TRU 2 Da Game was the first No Limit Records release I picked up. The beats and hooks were catchy, the slang was unique, and the simple raps made the songs easy to memorize and recite. I had just started rapping and this seemed like easy mode for getting some practice with flow and breath control. About a year or two later, Master P released Make Em Say Ugh and suddenly everyone was using the slang I’d been listening to for a while (remember being “bout it (bout it)”?).
Third Coast / Ghost Coast
Another guy I programmed with on AOL, who went by Cobra, lived in Texas and would send me all kinds of hip hop from Houston aka the “third coast”. I will sadly admit that aside from a few features, I did not get much exposure to Scarface or Geto Boys. But Cobra introduced me to some other Houston artists long before they ever became famous — rappers like Lil Flip, Paul Wall, and Chamillionaire (who was my favorite out of the list). You might recognize Chamillionaire’s name from the hit Ridin’ Dirty which he made years later. Cobra also introduced me to DJ Screw who created the unique style of “chopped and screwed”. Plenty of unique sounds came out of Texas that helped shape my impressions and tastes in hip hop.
Everyone knows and loves Outkast so I don’t really have anything special to add about them. Each release of theirs was unique and special to me, and it was impossible to admire the levels and variety of artistic creativity that I could never develop. Years later I still listen to Outkast and enjoy the timeless music they created.
Ludacris is probably my favorite rapper of all time from the south. He had such a fresh sound, bold voice, and clever lyrics to boot. The lyrics and his innovative cadences and rhyme schemes were a welcomed anomaly as I had come to mostly associate lazy rhymes and simple hooks from the south by this point. Additionally, Luda had this incredibly fun energy that reminded me of Redman (who was one of my favorites early on).
On top of all that, Ludacris was a DIY artist before the internet facilitated services like iTunes and YouTube. Luda created his own independent label DTP Entertainment and self-published his first album. I was always wary of the record industry, but seeing Luda’s independent success before joining Def Jam South gave me hope that I wouldn’t ever need a label (and we haven’t thus far).
dirty south shaped my perception and experience in hip hop in some pretty profound ways. While we don’t really have any down south tracks on our albums, I still have built my perspective and creativity with hip hop on a foundation which includes the lessons from my exposure with the south, musically and logistically. Also, the Ludacris album Back For The First Time is a classic. His follow-up Word of Mouf is solid as well.