Typically, more than half the top rap songs in the country are the work of Southern artists. In a world still stuck in the East/West coast paradigm of the '90s, Southern hip hop has dominated the genre-and defined the culture-for years. And the South's leading lights, most notably OutKast, Timbaland, and more recently, crunk superstars like the Ying Yang Twins and Lil Jon, have expanded the parameters of hip hop. Third Coast is the first book to deal with Southern hip hop as a matter of cultural history, and the first to explain the character and significance of down South rapping to fans as well as outsiders. It tells the story of recent hip hop, marking how far the music has come sonically and culturally since its well-documented New York-centered early years.
Though most casual fans know the story of hip-hop's birth in the ashes of the South Bronx, the story of the South's entry into the modern rap scene remains relatively unknown. Here, author and music writer Sarig (The Secret History of Rock) provides the "Dirty South" its first complete history, an ambitious tale featuring Southern industry luminaries like Pharrell Williams and Jermaine Dupri, as well as the acts mentioned in the subtitle. Sarig's chronicle boasts remarkable depth and breadth, covering every aspect of Southern hip-hop, including dozens-if not hundreds-of acts. Moving away from historical documentation to analysis can lead Sarig to make some questionable generalizations ("it's easy to observe that, today, the blues is almost entirely the province of middle-aged white people"), but his attention to the music itself reaches some dizzying pinnacles-as in deconstructing crunk lyrics to reveal connections to 11th century working-class Saxons. Throughout, Sarig is informative and entertaining, keeping an eye on the big picture while managing this huge swath of uncollected music history; though the necessary surfeit of details may wear out casual readers, Sarig ably connects the stories of record shops, roller discos and street corners from Houston to Miami to Virginia Beach.