South vs. North: Why Is Southern Hip-Hop On Top?
I had a conversation with a group of young hip-hoppers recently. The subject was why does it seem like the south is dominating mainstream hip-hop? From radio airplay, album sales to simply the trends: the grills, the dances, the oversized tees, can we truly pinpoint what it is that is keeping the dirty south on top?
Based on the stats from Billboard.com, only one northern artist is on the list with a hot single or album at the moment: Mims. But the south currently has several southern artists who are holding their region down that includes Unk, Rich Boy, T.I., Young Buck, and Young Jeezy to name a few. Again I ask; why there aren’t more artists from the north listed? The first names that come to mind when I think of mainstream cats from the north are Jay Z, Nas, 50 Cent, and Eminem; but in comparison to the south, you hear and see more of southern artists than that of their northern counterparts.
As a Maryland resident, technically I am from the south, just not the deep south. Any state below the Mason-Dixon is a southern state legally. So for some of us here, it is easy to attach ourselves to northern hip-hop, others favor dirty south hip-hop and for people like me, we create and love a variety of it all. (I guess because Maryland is in the middle). So, I pretty much gravitate to what I think is real and what I think is hot. Despite my personal views on what I believe real hip-hop is, I still listen and analyze all of it.
So on any given day I may be rotating something from the south in my MP3 player or from the north; but as I reflect on 2007 in comparison to 1997, the big difference is evident; northern hip-hop is not as prevalent. Is it the lack of northern dance songs, the lack of northern trends? Or is simply that mainstream radio is not spinning northern artists like the southern? Could it simply mean that hip-hop is changing? Well, change is evident, but will this change kill or revive mainstream hip-hop, hip-hop in general? Or could it be like my boy says, “…it’s simply the south’s time to shine.”
Whatever the case, what I find common about almost every southern hip-hop song is the rhythm, style of drum and message. Almost everyone one of the songs rotated has a similar sound and beat; that trademark southern flavor. Beats that push you to participate in the various dances the south has coined; getting “crunk” in the club. The north has a unique sound as well; but there haven’t been many songs in the past few years that get the people “amped” up like those from the south. There really hasn’t been many that even make me say “oh sh*t!” when I hear them on the radio.
Could it just be me? Could it be that there are plenty of hot northern tracks on the radio and I am just not feeling them personally, possibly? Or could this pattern I speak of be the truth and agreed upon by the masses? Whether some agree or not, there is a southern dominance present, causing an imbalance in the music we hear. I personal feel there is a lack of creativity and soulfulness in both regions but the beat and rhythm is what is keeping many afloat. I believe the south has become more appealing to our youth, the main reason why they have been consistently at the top of the charts. What I have come to realize is young people buy CD’s and MP3 downloads more than those of my age range, so if you can appeal to the young audience, you will do well.