Featuring Scarface, 8 Ball & MJG, Juvenile, Trick Daddy, Bun B, Mystikal and Pastor Troy, this bill is a showcase of the south’s most formidable emcees who helped spread the terms crunk, trap and bounce and proved, on a global level, that the best hip hop isn’t necessarily born in New York or Los Angeles.
In the late 1980s and into the 1990s, East Coast and West Coast hip hop dominated the airwaves. 2Pac turned out “California Love” and Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre introduced us to “The Chronic,” while Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z were laying down saintly lyrics in “New York,” building a bedrock for the entire genre.
Deep in the south, though, something was brewing. While southern artists struggled to garner major-label contracts, the south’s hottest rappers kept plugging away, making mix-tapes and releasing their own work. As the 1990s waned, groups like Houston’s Geto Boys started to reshape the culture behind legendary hip hop albums like the 1990 Rick Rubin-produced “The Geto Boys.”
Cities all over the south, from Miami (2 Live Crew) to Memphis (Three 6 Mafia) started producing world-renowned acts. The Atlanta duo OutKast, with Savannah-born Big Boi, help put both Georgia and the dirty south on the hip hop radar. By the early 2000s, Southern hip hop dominated the charts the world over. In 2009, the New York Times called Atlanta “hip hop’s center of gravity.”
Scarface began his career as DJ Akshen in Houston. He joined Geto Boys after their debut album and appeared on the second album, “Grip It! On That Other Level” in 1989. Taking his stage name from the film of the same name, Scarface has been the unseen hand in southern hip hop for decades, despite limited commercial appeal.
Described often as “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper” he’s been president of Def Jam South since 2000, spurring the careers of famous commercial acts like Ludacris. He’s worked with some of the biggest names to come out of the industry, appearing on or producing work with Ice Cube, Akon and Drake. He’s released 10 solo studio albums and appeared on six Geto Boys records.
The duo of 8Ball & MJK released eight studio albums between 1993 and 2010, helping make the Memphis hip hop sound a national hit. In 2005, they reached their commercial peak, appearing on fellow Memphis group Three 6 Mafia’s hit song “Stay Fly,” which peaked at No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100. Highly prolific as both duo and solo artists, 8Ball has released eight solo studio albums and MJG has five of his own.
Hailing from New Orleans, Juvenile reached fame behind his 1999 hit single, “Back That Thang Up.” A member of the The Hot Boys (Lil Wayne, B.G., Turk), Juevenile has released several albums on Cash Money Records and has signed major-label deals with Atlantic and Universal Records. The New Orleans-based Cash Money Records played an important role in southern hip hop as an independent label. They’ve become one of the most successful hip hop labels to date behind acts like Drake, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj.
During the rise of southern hip hop, Miami began producing its own unique sound, dubbed Miami bass. Built on drum machines, a Latin feel and heavy bass, often with rock ’n’ roll song samples, the Miami bass sound has penetrated a host of hip hop albums in the last decade. Helping to lead that charge was Trick Daddy. The Miami native has turned out eight studio albums since 1997, with hits like “Let’s Go,” which sampled Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” and featured Twista and Lil Jon.
Equally important to the emergence and continuing impact of southern hip hop, Houston’s Bun B, New Orleans’ Mystikal and Augusta’s Pastor Troy round out the lineup in Savannah, giving true fans of southern rap a chance to see some of the greatest emcees in the game.
IF YOU GO
What: Legends of Southern Hip Hop
When: 8 p.m. April 8
Where: Savannah Civic Center, 301 W. Oglethorpe Ave.