London Crunking: My Path to Southern Hip Hop

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Ten years ago I was living in London and became part of what I like to look back on fondly as a special secret Southern rap club. At the time, regional rap from the nether states was starting to make its wide-scale break-through, but there was almost total resistance and cheap jokes at its expense in the United Kingdom from die-hard fans raised on staunch east coast rap values and jaded industry types.

Once a week though, a small group of us would congregate at a record store, buy up the latest vinyl promos, and then retreat to a grubby pub to talk about the music. Southern hip-hop of course took over the commercial rap world, but back then listening to this regional fare that no one else around us seemed bothered about became an exotic obsession. Two records recently released: Chamillionaire’s Reignfall and Pastor Troy’s Streets Need You, took me back to this brief but memorable spell.

The gateway records to my short Southern rap fixation came from names like the Youngbloodz, Lil Flip, Bone Crusher, Pastor Troy, and T.I. around the time when his infectious “Rubberband Man” song was buzzing. There were curios like the presumably-now-A.W.O.L. Native, who released the monstrous fight-club-music “Put It Down,” and Fresh, a guy who had a ridiculously hypnotic song called “Hey Fuckboy” that was flipped into “Hey Cakeboy” for the radio edit. A colleague who at the time deejayed as R Breezy and was something of the instigator of the Southern rap club curated a mixtape with another DJ, Superix, that rounded up what became our personal playlist for a few months. It was titled Lessons In Crunk, although the mix swung through broader states and styles. For us, it was almost like a southern-focussed equivalent of DJ Premier’s indie-rap primer New York Reality Check 101.

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