A few weeks ago, I sat down and read a Rolling Stone feature on Rae Sremmurd, a pair of brothers signed to Mike Will who have taken Rap by storm. Two years ago, they flooded the airwaves with what seemed like a legion of hits, making sure their presence in the culture was felt. Although not creating “concious” music, their music has had a lasting and memorable effect on listeners and Hip-Hop culture. Their catchy lyrics paired with Mike Wills phenomenal production skills have made them a powerful “one two punch”. When thinking about the level of success they’ve been able to obtian in what appears to be a short amount of time, it makes me think of the nearly decade long dominance the South has had on Rap music.
Although often regarded to as a negative region in Hip-Hop, the Souths effect on Rap music and culture is undeniable. Going on for more than a decade, the south has had the culture in a chokehold. Releasing their debut album in 1996, Outkast were some of the first artists from the south to prove that they could be just as lyrical as their counterparts from the East. ATLiens served not only as the worlds proper introduction to a duo that would one day be regarded to as legends to the genre, but a reminder to the world that lyricists didn’t only reside in the East. One half of the duo, André 3000 constantly pushed the culture forward with not only his music but his stylistic choices. Just as he’s rembered for his outworldly flows and incridble lyrical ability, he’s remebered for his ability to remain himself in a world that expects black men and more specifically black male rappers to all adopt overly masculine images. He constantly broke down the barrier of what was accepted of black men in pop culture.
Although some of the biggest artists of the 2000’s hailed from the east(Eminem, Jay-Z & 50 Cent), the South would eventually begin to start its reign over Hip-Hop music during this time. Two of the biggest artist from this era were southern and their impact on Rap music is still being felt. A southern spitter from New Orleans and arguably one of the greatest & most influential Rap artist ever, Lil’ Wayne would change how music was consumed. Originally a member of the Hot Boyz, Wayne was never slated to be a star but due to the dismantling of the group, he would be forced to become the face of his label. Although artists released mixtapes before him, he would change the climate of how they were viewed and their importance in the culture. Before Wayne, being viewed as a “mixtape rapper” was something that was looked down upon and was usually stated to refer to someone who wasn’t able to obtain commercial success. Releasing a string of mixtapes in addition to the legion of features he appeared on and the classic Carter series he was creating, his claim as the “best rapper alive” was one that started to be considered fact in Hip-Hop. Currently the solo artist with the most Hot 100 entries and the Hip-Hop artist with the most platinum singles, Waynes domination over the genre should NEVER be questioned.
The opposite of Wayne, Nelly, an MC from St. Louis, Missouri would dominate the genre on the commercial side for the first half of the decade before Wayne rose from underground to commercial stardom. One of the 1st MC’s to bridge Pop & Rap music, Nelly immidatley obtianed crossover appeal. Regarless of the sometimes harsh themes he displayed in his content, his ability to pen an infectious hook set him apart from his counterparts. Although Rap artists like Ja Rule harmonized on tracks, Nelly was one of the first artists since Lauryn Hill to openly and truly encorperate singing with his rapping. His influence on the culture is one that is still currently felt as the most popular figure in Rap is one who uses Pop music to “soften” his image and appeal to audiences who would generally dismiss rap artists due to false stereotypes of the genre.
Currently the two biggest and most impactful artists to come out of NY this decade, one of them being the 2nd most succeful rapper to debut in this time span, have either been heavily influenced by the south or used the south in order to obtain success. A Harlem native, A$AP Rocky is undoubtedly one of the most gifted Rap artists to appear in recent years. His unmatchable flow, undoubablte charisma and southern dripped content sets him apart from his counterparts. Unlike most artists from his region, A$AP embraced his influences from outside states and encouperated them in his music. Although declaring his alligence to “Harlem world”, upon the first listen of his debut mixtape Live.Love.A$AP, most fans would assume he was raised on nothing but “chop & screwed” music and Pimp C. Although something most artists are frowned down upon for, Rocky used this to his advantage and was able to appeal to a larger crowd and shake the curse that most New York artist have been plagued with for the better part of this era. His rise from the birth of Hip-Hop using influenes from the condemmed region within it is telling of Hip-Hops current state.
Although already establishing a cult like following in New York, Nicki Minaj(the highest selling female rapper of ALL TIME) moved to Atlanata before relasing her third and final mixtape in order to help build a frenzy around her name. With the help of one of Hip-Hop’s greatest A&R’s, Gucci Mane, she was able to establish herself as Raps next big artist. Although not incorperating any Southern influenes in her sound, she used the souths market in order to catapult herself onto a nationwide platform. With the help of southern & now global superstar Lil’ Wayne, she exceeded all expectations and has had the culture in a chokehold since. Although extremley talented, both Nicki & A$AP used the south in order to gain national attention. Other East coasts artists like Fetty Wap & Desiigner have followed their blueprint and used Hip-Hops fascination with the south in order to advance their careers. Although sometimes regarded to as the region of “ringtone rappers”, “turn up music” & “jellybeans”, the South’s ability to produce legends to the genre and its domination over the Hip-Hop for the past decade is undebatable. Producing legends like T.I. & Young Jeezy, influencing “overnight successes” like Desiigner & Fetty Wap, creating succesful A&R’s like Lil’ Wayne, Rick Ross & and Gucci Mane and breaking/discovering sensations like Drake & Nicki Minaj, the South is proving to be almost as influential to the culture as the place where it all started.