Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Ya'll Know About the Dirty South? Seriously, VH1.

From the second that I got wind of the "Dirty South Hip Hop Honors" VH1 is doing a couple of months ago, I felt a certain type of way about it. I'm not even from the south, but I've always been passionate about people, entities, etc. who are misrepresented and treated unfairly. Folks whose contributions are always marginalized or overlooked southern rap artists.

I grew up listening to southern rappers. Of course, at the time, Cool Breeze hadn't yet coined the term "dirty south" so to me, they were just rappers who happened to be from TX or Memphis, or wherever. On Top of the World, Piece of Mind, Ridin Dirty, The Resurrection, The Untouchable, The Dude, The Diary, Anotha Day Anotha Balla, Supertight...these are all albums that not only became soundtracks to my life (and even taught me a thing or two with their raw perception) but in my opinion, are among the best hip-hop albums ever made.

So, when I read Scarface's statement about the awards this morning, I was totally not surprised. For one thing, Face has never had an issue speaking his mind. I remember the McCain interview he gave me in NY, ironically while preparing for his performance at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors in '08. Reading his statement, in all honesty, pissed me off. I know that a lot of legendary west coast artists feel slighted in the same way.

I come from the era when New York and L.A. had the only Hip Hop, and they weren’t fuckin’ with us, at all. If you think I’m lyin’, check the history of Hip Hop. Try to pull up some footage from the 1989/1990 New Music Seminar. That’s what I base my whole fuckin’ life on: the New Music Seminar 1989/1990. They was NOT fuckin’ with us. We sold records all over the fuckin’ country and New York made a mockery of it. They fuckin’ booed the Geto Boys in New York...- Face
Plus, having spent a great deal of my writing career interviewing southern artists, I know that even though they're among the most mainstream/popular now (I define hip hop as "mainstream" by how easily my mom can identify you) they're still not really respected as lyricist or legitimate contributors to the art. Radio-friendly? Yes. Trendy? Yes. Lyricists with a real appreciation for the art? Eh, not so much. It took ages for Face to be recognized as one of the best who's ever done it. Outkast had to sell 10 million records before they were labeled one of the best groups hip-hop ever produced. T.I. had to be dubbed "the Jay-Z" of the south before folks started really respecting his lyrical prowess. Lil Wayne had to drop a song every 30 minutes to be respected. Ball & G still haven't gotten their just due (although this is admitedly partly their fault for putting out shitty albums post 2000) and Bun B and MJG really haven't either.

Aside from the fact that this show trivializes the input of southern rappers and producers who have influenced rappers no matter where they're from: (Scarface--->Beanie Sigel, Jay-Z, Nas, and on and on... T-Mixx & N.O. Joe---> Hi Tek, Just Blaze, Kanye West (yes, I said it)), it also makes it seem as though your music has to sound a certain way to be considered "southern." Like if Zaytoven or Lil Jon, etc didn't produce it, it somehow is no longer from the south--- which again, marginalizes the sound and scope of the south period. As Face continues:

Back when Luke had Skywalker Records and J had Rap-A-Lot Records, they weren’t tryin’ to do no South shit. “It didn’t come from New York, son, so fuck that.” That was their attitude. Just because a TV was made in Japan, is it a Japanese TV? Or is it just a fucking TV? If a lightbulb was made in China is it a Chinese lightbulb?

Like, is Little Brother, who hails from NC (Phonte is from country ass Greensboro for Pete's sake and Pooh is from VA) not 'dirty south'? Is DOC, who is from Dallas, not 'dirty south'? Is Dead Prez (isn't from Florida?) not 'dirty south'? If so, why not?

The entire concept of this show is really, really ridiculously wack and contrived, for all of the aforementioned reasons and many that I probably haven't even thought of yet, but most likely will later. All of the folks on the show deserve to honored with the rest of the pioneers and folks who have been instrumental to creating hip-hop's storyline... not, as Face said, "by making a Southern watered-down version of what the show is supposed to be or what Hip Hop really is..."