When rappers hate on Southern artists like Soulja Boy I am amused. First off, crime has always been an integral part of the music scene anyway; starting up a record label was a way for former criminals to get into the industry ever since the beginning. The only difference between Northerners and Southerners is that Southern artists used the angle of talking about crime to get into the business while Northern artists had a distinctively different approach, and for good reason. If rap was openly built on the foundation of speaking about crime it never would have penetrated mainstream America the way it had in the eighties, and the party would have ended a lot sooner.
Southern artists finished what Northerners started. There is still a lot of room and much love for the authenticity of old hip-hop, and many artists are still working at that. Some are still popular, Midwestern artists like Lupe Fiasco and Common have a lot of love across the board. But there are times when I want a nice bass line, a few keyboards and something simple I can ride to. Sure some East coast producers have that down, most notably Swizz Beats, but if you’re looking for something subtle you can work the expressway with and don’t mind getting stuck in traffic listening to, you need the laid back Southern sound, one that isn’t as confrontational and aggressive.
It has always been this way, long before rap music, southern artists were always coming through with something that wasn’t as polite or, to hear critics tell it, not as definitively sophisticated as Northern music. When the North was working on the Philadelphia sound and the Midwest was turning r&b into pop music through Motown the South was gangster; an ex-con like James Brown was offering up, well whatever you wanted to call it (such was difficult to define) through a serving of irreverent, almost anti-pop beats that didn’t really go together well, in theory, but were always well executed. Listening back on it today (some of his lesser popular work) it is hard to think that he was able to pull it off, but the main draw was that it was different, though critics hated it back then.
This continued well on into the eighties; in fact the only real advantage of hip-hop at the time was that it was different, people from other regions of the country hadn’t figured out what to do with it yet (or hadn’t heard it) so through it’s very nature that original New York sound is what stuck. Ironically, other influences came into play once producers started abusing samplers, but what New York wasn’t betting on was the influence of hungry producers elsewhere, that were taking the different influences they were accustomed to from music in their own regions and interpreting those sounds through rather primitive production values.
It was refreshing because hip-hop was turning into something that was out of reach for most people artistically, hip-hop had their own “Philadelphia Sound” and needed to be stripped of it’s production values yet again to remain new and fresh. Leave it to some producers from the West and the South to do it for them. The real issue isn’t that Soulja Boy is popular or that he is answering his critics; New York rappers and the music critics that love them have hated on Southern rap back in the early nineties when Master P and his No Limit Soldiers were popular, in fact Tim Dog hated NWA, the issue is that some of the same Northern labels who these artists were signed to, are signing these Southern artists and promoting them, effectively, at times even better than their peers down South ever could, and are making superstars out of them.
When Bad Boy signs and promotes artists like Young Joc and Pitbull, more specifically, Boyz n Da Hood and delivers a product that isn’t only as good as that of their New York artists, but often a lot better, that changes the equation a bit, yet that pales in comparison to Def Jam South, who is dominating the Southern scene with artists such as Ludacris, Chingy, Young Jeezy, Shareefa, Mannie Fresh and Scarface. What’s more Def Jam South also has Slip and Slide Records underneath their imprint, which has such acts as Rick Ross and Trina (Trick Daddy is still with Def Jam though).
What about Soulja Boy, yeah he’s on Universal, in fact, pretty much everyone is on Universal, which is part of Vivendi, a French company. So while American artists, specifically, American artists from different regions fight about authenticity and what region of the country has the best music, of any genre because these fights and in-differences reach across music in general not just rap, it’s over nothing really because a French media conglomerate pretty much owns everything. Twenty-five percent of our “music” is being bought, sold, and promoted from an overseas imprint. So I’m amused, because those same record companies whose American headquarters have some of the tallest skyscrapers in New York City have artists who are trying to make a profit arguing that an artist like Soulja Boy, from a city in the South that most look to as not only the future of the coast, but in way in which it has risen again, put forth empty arguments about authenticity. Too many Northern rappers, artists, and entrepreneurs have found a way to become an integral part of the Southern scene, I’m not even from the South myself, but I know when you’re better off getting over it than preaching to the choir …