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Dirty South
Cover of Dirty South
Dirty South
OutKast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop

Acting as both investigative journalist and irreverent critic, Ben Westhoff journeys across the southern United States in a small Hyundai to document the phenomenon of southern hip-hop. The exclusive interviews with the genre's prominent players take many forms—watching rappers “make it rain" in a Houston strip club, partying with The 2 Live Crew's Luke Campbell, visiting the gritty neighborhoods where T. I. and Lil Wayne grew up, and speaking with DJ Smurf and Ms. Peachez along the way. The celebrated but dark history of Houston's Rap-A-Lot Records, the lethal rivalry between Atlanta's Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy, and the venerable Scarface's memories from time in a mental institution are just a few of the textured and tricky subjects explored.

Acting as both investigative journalist and irreverent critic, Ben Westhoff journeys across the southern United States in a small Hyundai to document the phenomenon of southern hip-hop. The exclusive interviews with the genre's prominent players take many forms—watching rappers “make it rain" in a Houston strip club, partying with The 2 Live Crew's Luke Campbell, visiting the gritty neighborhoods where T. I. and Lil Wayne grew up, and speaking with DJ Smurf and Ms. Peachez along the way. The celebrated but dark history of Houston's Rap-A-Lot Records, the lethal rivalry between Atlanta's Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy, and the venerable Scarface's memories from time in a mental institution are just a few of the textured and tricky subjects explored.

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Excerpts-
  • Dirty South

    1
    Luke Campbell

    Bass and Booty

    ONE SPRING evening at the Atlanta airport, I find myself stalking Luke Campbell. This is my first attempt to ambush someone, in a journalistic capacity or otherwise, and I don’t think I’m cut out for it.

    You probably know Luke’s group the 2 Live Crew and their song “Me So Horny,” off the 1989 As Nasty As They Wanna Be album, which local authorities deemed obscene. The subsequent free-speech battle went all the way to the Supreme Court.

    Luke’s a polarizing figure, and you may find him contemptible, what with his porn company, lewd stage shows, and songs like, “Head, Head, and More Head.” Still, he’s the undisputed godfather of southern rap music, and I’ve long been trying to talk to him. Tonight he’s slated to perform at a Mexican restaurant in Athens— seventy miles east—and I plan to be there. On the trip over, I’m hoping we can knock out an interview.

    The only problem is that I don’t exactly have a scheduled appointment. A couple of months back he said he’d talk to me, but then stopped taking my phone calls. I’ve since gotten in touch with his booking agent, who said Luke should be able to meet up with me here in Georgia. But after informing me that Luke’s Fort Lauderdale flight lands at 7:30, the booking agent dropped off the face as well.

    Let me tell you: stalking isn’t as easy as it sounds. For one thing, two Fort Lauderdale planes land at 7:30, one Delta and one AirTran, and each deposits into a different terminal. And so I decide to plant myself near the baggage claim, next to a set of escalators where most passengers arrive.

    I send a text message to Luke to say I’m here, but, naturally, don’t hear back. I pace. I sweat. I weigh my pros and cons.

    On one hand, if I don’t talk to this guy I don’t really have a book. On the other hand, his bodyguard may tackle me.

    I continue waiting. It’s about 7:40 now. I’ve rented a car here in Atlanta, but in hopes he’ll invite me to ride along with him, I’ve stashed it. For the same reason, my oversized travel bag is with me too.

    Most likely, I will recognize him. In his solo videos from the 1990s, he usually wears a mischievous smile, flashing the gap in his front teeth while making filthy promises to his harem of bouncing dancers. In his 2008 VH1 reality show, Luke’s Parental Advisory, he wears a more sober expression; balancing his line of work with family is not easy, you see. Lucky for him, his wife “understands that I’m like a gynecologist. If I don’t see pussy every day, something’s wrong,” he notes.

    At 7:45 he emerges, flanked by a sturdy-looking accomplice. Luke wears a small mustache and some scruff on his chin, and is clad in Adidas track pants and a University of Central Florida shirt. A middle-aged former football player, he looks and moves like an athlete, and quickly darts left toward the food court. Slinging my bag over my shoulder, I take off after him, dodging between folks approaching baggage carousels.

    “Luke,” I say softly, and then again, more loudly. “Luke!”

    He turns. I introduce myself as the guy writing the book on southern rap he talked to a while back. “Sorry for stalking you,” I say, with a half-giggle, noting that his booking agent green-lit this meeting, which is sort of true.

    “He didn’t tell me anything about that,” Luke says, turning back around.

About the Author-
  • Ben Westhoff is a former staff writer for St. Louis' Riverfront Times. His work has also appeared in Creative Loafing, Pitchfork, Spin, and the Village Voice. He lives in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    February 14, 2011
    Journalist and hip-hop enthusiast Westhoff delivers a fascinating exploration of the musical and personal terrain of what has come to be known as the Southern sound of rap by such artists as Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, and Ludacris. Westhoff convincingly details how Southern rap music—"party music, full of hypnotic hooks and sing-along choruses"—took over from dominant East Coast and West Coast rap styles by replacing "ormal rap structures and metaphor-heavy rhymes... in favor of chants, grunts and shouts." In fact, the beauty of Westhoff's descriptions of the genre as a whole and various songs in particular will make old fans as well as newbies want to search out and play classic CDs such as OutKast's "Aquemini" and "Kings of Crunk" by Lil Jon. And Westhoff's personal trips to the home bases of each artist he presents show how the personalities of the artists reinforce their music, which leads to scenes such as Lil Wayne's equally impassioned and hilarious defense of his fast-paced, workaholic lifestyle: "What am I supposed to do, take a vacation? This is the vacation right here."

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2011

    Journalist Westhoff offers an excellent introduction to hip-hop in the South that will be informative and enjoyable for both newbies and those familiar with Southern hip-hop. He includes chapters on the most influential and successful Southern artists, from Luke Campbell (who later joined 2 Live Crew) up to Gucci Mane and Soulja Boy. While the author is clearly a fan of Southern hip-hop and defends it against criticism and mockery, he is also critical of some of the music and of those who make it. Westhoff makes no attempt to hide the warts on the personalities he profiles. He also deserves credit for including not only the obvious choices like T.I. and Lil Wayne, but the less-well-known DJ Drama and DJ Smurf. Westhoff describes his experiences meeting and interviewing the book's subjects without emphasizing himself over his topic. VERDICT A great introduction to Southern hip-hop, and a fun book for those familiar with the genre and its artists. A good, potentially more approachable companion to Roni Sarig's exhaustive Third Coast.--Craig Shufelt, Fort McMurray P.L., Alta.

    Copyright 2011 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publishers Weekly "A fascinating exploration of the musical and personal terrain of what has come to be known as the Southern sound of rap."
  • Library Journal "Westhoff offers an excellent introduction to hip-hop in the South that will be informative and enjoyable for both newbies and those familiar with Southern hip-hop...A great introduction to Southern hip-hop, and a fun book for those familiar with the genre and its artists."
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Dirty South
Dirty South
OutKast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop
Ben Westhoff
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