sweet as the scratch

down south blues

I was listening to a Boosie song a few weeks ago when I decided that he was my favorite contemporary blues artist. I said it as a half-joke, referring to the pain notable in Boosie’s voice as he raps. But as I began to think about some of my favorite rappers from the South as well as my favorite blues artists, I realized the styles are intrinsically linked.

Like the blues, blues-influenced rap styles migrated north as black people migrated north, spurring great blues-rap across the Midwest, but today I'm going to stick to music from the South (maybe the Midwest blues-rap will be a post in the future).

Lyrically, blues and rap share many similarities. The themes common in blues music are now common in rap music, probably because Black people in the South are still facing many of the same disadvantages and issues that Black people in the South have always faced. As long as there is rampant discrimination and a lack of infrastructure to provide Black people in the South with equal opportunity for advancement, there will be upset people who turn to music to relay their stories and indulge in their vices.

The dirty humor, the brags, the violence, it’s all there. Stylistically, call-and-response and improvisation are two of the more obvious connections between the two. Both blues and rap also take the spiritual pleas and gospel music influences and sinfully twist them to create a strong sense of the perilous nature of the African-American condition in the South. Blues and lots of southern rap both have the simple yet difficult-to-attain purpose of celebrating the humanity of Black people in the South.

Due to the way blues and rap have both been ingrained in Black southern culture throughout time, the music forms share another similarity. Because blues and rap artists often pull no punches when it comes to sex and drugs, White people and conservative Black people look at those forms of music as dangerous. In response to that, the music became fetishized by young people, Black and White, looking to rebel. While this happened all over, due to the racist past and present of the South, it may be strongest in the South.

Many blues musicians worked their entire lives while also recording music, never making much money off music sales. Careers derailed by prison stints, wild popularity in the South and its migratory paths, but inability to catch on outside of those regions are hallmarks of both rap and blues.

As racial relationships evolve, there will always still be room for the blues and southern rap, because there will always be a need to display the humanity, good and bad, of people in the South.

Here’s a playlist of 20 southern rap songs that wouldn’t be possible without their blues forefathers:

0:00 "When I’m Gone" - The Last Mr. Bigg- The Mask Is Off (2003)
4:28 "My Buddy (feat. Fila Phil and Tre-8)" - Mia X- Mommie Dearest (1995)
9:15 "Tales From Tha Southside" - Still Scandalous Posse- Tales From Tha Southside (1996)
13:26 "That River" - Lil Boosie- Thug Passion (2009)
18:06 "Pain" - Jack-D- America's Painkillers (1996)
24:25 "Slow Down Low Down" - Treez 4 Life- Slow Down Low Down (1997)
29:24 "Gonna Get Easier" - Z-Ro- Z-Ro vs. The World (2000)
33:43 "Walking Thru Graveyards" - Deep South Syndicate- Potent (1998)
38:40 "Keep It Real (feat. E. Vicious)" - Young Goldie- Move For The Money (2015)
43:04 "The Trill Connection (feat. Pimp C)" - DJ DMD
47:19 "Jocen In The Parish" - Ceaser- The Life And Times, Vol. 1 (1996)
50:18 "Guess Who" - Goodie Mob- Soul Food (1995)
54:57 "Pray For Me" - E. Vicious- I Ball Like Kobe (2002)
58:54 "Ghetto Blues" - Mississippi Mafia- Southern Funk III (1996)
1:04:20 "We All Gotta Die" - Wood Street Playaz- Turning-N-Burning (1997)
1:09:06 "Brother's Keeper (feat. Recon)" - South Coast Shorty- The Hot Girl (1997)
1:14:20 "Mississippi" - David Banner- Mississippi: The Album (2003)
1:19:25 "Save Me (prod. By David Faulk)" - J-Dawg (2004)
1:23:45 "How Much Can One Man Take" - Legion Of Da Lost- Southern Destruction (1996)
1:29:00 "O Lord" - Lil Boosie- Life After Deathrow (2014)

-- bert

If you enjoyed this playlist and want to explore more rare southern rap, much of which was influenced by the blues, check out these blogs and youtube channels:

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