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Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet: Classic Dirty South

by Mosi Reeves

Cheat Sheet: Classic Dirty South


Just as the East Coast hip-hop industry experienced its renaissance in the mid-'90s, so did the South's. The latter wasn't a musical revolution, at least in terms of beats. Southern artists still took their cues from the West Coast and producers like Dr. Dre, Ant Banks and DJ Pooh. A new breed of musicians, including Organized Noize, Jazze Pha and Pimp C, re-interpreted the G-funk sound into lush, bluesy soul, from Outkast's "Players Ball" to 8Ball and MJG's "Space Age Pimpin'."

The Dirty South era lasted roughly from 1994, when Outkast's seminal Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was released, to 1996. This was when some of the region's greatest voices outgrew its reliance on the bloody gangster tales pioneered by the Geto Boys, looked past the silly booty bass novelty of Luke's 2 Live Crew, and emerged as a reputable area of hip-hop expression. And that's not a dis against booty bass, a subgenre that must be saved for a future article. Actually, it was the evolution of booty bass into New Orleans bounce, as heard on Master P's Ghetto D and B.G.'s Chopper City, as well as crunk and DJ Screw's "screwed and chopped" sound, that effectively ended the Dirty South era. Everywhere, hip-hop shifted its focus from the streets to the clubs although, then and now, the urban experience remained the genre's backbone.

Hip-hop fans often celebrate the East Coast and, to a lesser extent, West Coast classics of the mid-'90s, but we sometimes overlook the South's contribution, save for undisputed legends Outkast, Scarface and Goodie Mob, whose " Dirty South" single gave the era its name. This cheat sheet doesn't cover every classic album from those years, but it may help you dig deeper.