Earning My Stripes: The Dirty South

Tiger Taylor getting all dark on you lot and talking about that good, sinister, Southern rap.

Born as a reaction to the 1980’s flow of East Coast and West Coast hip hop from New York and LA, the Southern rap genre offered a totally different, grittier and more subversive sound.

With acts like Houston’s Geto Boys making it big in the late eighties and helping to put Southern hip hop on the map, they paved the way for other big names like Outkast and Goodie Mob, Three 6 Mafia and Mike Jones.

With a distinct production style and typically lo-fi recording quality, the music came mainly out of Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Memphis, and Miami.

The lo-fi sound was due to the difficulty that early Southern rappers experienced in trying to score contracts with major labels, so most of the music came off mixtapes.

By the 1990’s, Hypnotise Minds, No Limit Records and Cash Money Records became the most successful Southern labels, meaning that the Memphis and New Orleans style had massive influence on the scene.

I’ve always loved the Southern sound, I find the dark reflective tone and slow rhythmic beats oddly therapeutic.

One of my favourite artists is other Houston legend, DJ Screw, best known for creating the chopped and screwed technique that had a big influence on the music of my next artist, Travis Miller AKA Lil Ugly Mane.

I got to know his music about four years ago, but being quick to judge I kind of dismissed it at first as mindless Horrorcore… little did I know the songs on his intricately layered albums were destined to blow my freakin’ mind!

He is the kind of artist you really have to listen to on your own… preferably in a dark room… to understand the levels of complexity in his music.

He writes, produces and performs all of his own stuff under various different aliases, as well as designing his own album artwork.

The track that first got my attention, “Collapse and Appear” from the 2015 album “Oblivion Access” contains one of the weirdest and most beautifully written verses.

This verse is delivered by a monotonous, animatronic female voice which interjects a sublimely melodic instrumental.

His darkly melancholic poetry explores mental illness through an admittedly pessimistic, but pretty accurate view of the shortcomings of Western society, “Consumed with all the wretchedness/Not optimist or pessimist/My politics are in exodus… They trap you in these systems that are phallic in design/Because they fuck you in the mind/Boy, they fuck you all the time.”

With little backing track to accompany these bars, the poem weaves its way into your consciousness through a meditative tempo culminating in the very poignant couplet, “Smoke in your eyes/The worlds a joke in disguise”.

With its acid green acetate and German Shepherd graphics, the limited edition vinyl of my favourite album, “Mista Thug Isolation” takes pride of place in my collection.

I just love the slowed down, drugged up effect that is characteristic of that good, dark Memphis sound.

While Miller is originally from Richmond, Virginia, his style is heavily influenced by the early Memphis rap scene, with its lo-fi recording quality and distinctive chopped and screwed production.

My top tracks from the album are “Throw Dem Gunz”, “Bitch I’m Lugubrious” and “Breeze Em Out”.

So next time you are feeling sufficiently dark and broody, lock yourself in your room, turn off the lights and listen to “Mista Thug Isolation” start to finish.