Updated: Feb 9, 2020
Southern hip-hop, even after Andre 3000's brash "The South Got Something To Say" statement in 1995, has never had the same respect as other regions. Part of this is the perceived talent perceived talent gaps and competitions since the the beginnings of hip-hop. The east coast, led by New York City, ran 1980s with Run-DMC, Eric B. and Rakim, and LL Cool J. Los Angeles and the rest of the west coast, led by NWA and the resulting solo projects in addition to 2Pac and Snoop Dogg, took over in the 1990s even as the east coast-west coast rivalry raged. After the deaths of Notorious BIG and 2Pac essentially ended the war between not only the coasts, but LA's Death Row and NYC's Bad Boy record companies , the top spot was left up for grabs. Detroit's Eminem released "The Eminem Show" and "Encore" in 2003 and 2004, respectively. Eminem's protegé, New York's 50 Cent, released "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'" in 2003, as well as "The Massacre" in 2005. New York's Jay Z released "The Blueprint" in 2001, "The Blueprint 2" in 2002, and "The Black Album" in 2003. Chicago's Kanye West, Jay Z's affiliate, released "The College Dropout" in 2004 and "Late Registration" in 2005. As the millennium turned, no region really had control over hip-hop the way they did in eras past. Besides these, a number of artists from below the Mason-Dixon line were developing their own unique sounds, often making landmarks in the process. New Orleans' Lil Wayne released "Tha Carter" and "Tha Carter 2" in 2004 and 2005. Atlanta dominated the early to mid-2000s, as Andre 3000's prophetic statement a decade earlier rang true. Outkast released "Stankonia" in 2000 and "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" in 2003. Ludacris released "Word Of Mouf" in 2001 as well as "Chicken-N-Beer" in 2003 and "The Red Light District" in 2004. TI released "Trap Muzik" in 2003 and "Urban Legend" in 2004. The south rose in a similar way to the rise of New York in the 80s, with a foundation of the party scene being bolstered by some of the best lyricists of their era.
The Dirty South sound is based around nightclubs and strip clubs. Atlanta's Magic City strip club has been documented as a proving ground for bangers is the post-internet era. This is because of the crunk sound developed in the ringtone rap generation. Lil Jon and Soulja Boy became cultural phenomenons by harnessing burgeoning technology and going 'viral' before viral was a thing. With southern hip-hop entering the mainstream, the humorous wordplay of Lil Wayne and Ludacris became influential, especially as the decade turned in 2010. The south has used technology expertly, from ringtones in the 2000s to social media in the 2010s. This is where Migos shines.
In the internet age, there's so much availability of music,we see the influences of the biggest acts in the world. Sometimes, we see the reincarnations of past stars. A lot of the time it's easy to see parallel: Kendrick Lamar to 2Pac, J. Cole to Nas, Drake to Jay Z; but watching Migos, there's two aesthetic choices that jump out right away: the gold draped around their necks conjures images of Slick Rick, the ostentatious prints of European luxury brands do the same of Notorious BIG. But stylistically and sonically is where the most interesting choices Migos makes are. Quavo, Offset and Takeoff sound like a rebooted version of Das EFX in a new location, almost like the differences between BBC's version of The Office and NBC's version of The Office. The rapid-fire, reference-heavy, slang-slathered flow are unique and perfectly tailored to tge age of Instagram. With bite-sized verses due to the speed of delivery and a sound made for the clubs, Migos has put themselves in the positions to be the kings of social media, the same way Lil Jon put himself to be the king of ringtones.
Migos' latest album is called "Culture" and was released this week. The Dirty South and its lifestyle and influence reverberates to this day, evolving the party rap sound from DJs and turntables to call-and-response radio hits. The simple hooks are easy to get hype to and that tradition has evolved from crunk to trap. Trap has changed mainstream hip-hop. Even on the east coast, Drake and Fetty Wap can be found on trap beats. But Migos, even with their trap house and strip club lyrics, are making it in Hollywood, performing at award shows and being shouted out at the Golden Globes. They've recaptured America's fascination with drugs and money, first seen in Scarface and even now in Grand Theft Auto: Online. They've glamorized being hood rich in a way that encapsulates millennial dreams of crime and wealth, the flagbearers of the new hip-hop #lifestyle that dominates Twitter and Instagram. In this way, Migos isn't arrogant, but accurate in the title of their newest album.