I love black music on a daily basis.
I remember Saturday mornings cleaning up and dancing to “Hole in the Wall” with my Paw Paw and turning off the TV and listening to the Old Skool throwback sessions on the radio with my daddy on Saturday nights. Black folk music is synonymous with two things: nostalgia and catharsis. I see myself being most connected to African American music because of the memories and people attached to them.
While I have a deep appreciation for Frankie Beverly and Maze, Cameo, Gap and S.O.S. Bands, Muddy Waters, the Isley Brothers, Stevie Wonder, and the list goes on and on, it is those memories of hearing these songs with my family or listening to this music through a dark moment in my life that makes them so invaluable.
And the same goes for my love of southern rap music. The south entered my soul full throttle back in 1998 when I was a fresh transplant out of the Chocolate City, Washington, D.C. I was in my awkward early teen years, about to start high school, and trying to fit in with my new peers. The only music I knew was Old Skool, dancing in the water, and looking out for body snatchers (to this day, I’m still a Go-Go fiend). At the end of the year dance, I tried to show my new kinfolk how we do up north. I got shot down. Quickly and effortlessly.
“Guhl, what that is? You moving too fast!”
“Please stop before I piss myself! I see why them boys lookin’ at you crazy, shawty!”
I wanted to run out the gym. But as soon as my white Keds pointed to the door, a bass line dropped. A surge of electric excitement went through my body. As my Nana boo says, “I felt it in my spirit.” The mix of bass music and the Dungeon Family surged through the top of my head to the tips of my fingers. I wanted to yell. I wanted to nod my head. I wanted to relate to the stories of SWATS and those of my classmates from the projects across the street from my school. I wanted to be down. I wanted to be southern. I wanted to be…a shawty. Well, to make a long story short, I let my southern roots take over and the booty shake consume me. I haven’t looked back since.
I became a Georgia girl at a great time. No Limit, Pastor Troy, OutKast, Goodie Mob, Field Mob, Cool Breeze, DJ Smurf, DJ Taz, YoungBloodz, 8Ball and MJG, and some young cat rapping on the remix of my favorite song “Roll With Me” by Co-Ed by the name T.I.P. flooded Albany’s airwaves. I was a Down South Georgia Girl. We don’t die.
Fastforward to my early scholarship days. I often found myself offended that southern rap was discredited as a fad, an insult to the essentialist perspectives of Hip Hop Culture, or intentionally snubbed and avoided at all in any type of (non) academic conversation. Did they not see how fabulous many southern rappers are? The play with words, the satirism, the passion, the will to overcome obstacles, the connections to oral traditions and slavery, and the need for a voice that spoke to the southern black experience? I made it my mission in all of my academic endeavors to give the south a contemporary, “hate free” voice in the Academy. All while the bass dropped deep into my soul through my headphones.
Shake your pants, shawty.