Confession, I’ve been listening to Soul Food (Goodie Mob) for weeks, ATLiens, Luda, TI, TLC and all of Cash Money have been in the rotation as well. They have been my motivation and focus when making time and space to write on the importance of Hip Hop in countering hegemony and decentering colonial conditions…..but….i haven’t found the words to write about the specific importance of Southern Hip Hop in my life.
Kiese Laymon in his talk, “Of Freshness and Stank, Grandmama and Outkast” conjures a longing for home, a deference and dignity for the work of our hands, he reminds us how as poor colored folx in the South, we know how to come correct to our spaces of commune (i.e. church, dances, cookouts), how our freshness is central to our reclaiming our humanity. His eloquence and rawness, touched my nerves, those frayed parts of me that I am always frantically attempting to weave back together, those deeply personal intersections are the ones i have the most difficulty writing about. I thought for a long time that all we had to do to leave the South, was to move our bodies through space….but the South is anywhere Black and Brown bodies find themselves, the spaces ytness seeks to bleach, its the expressions of laughter thats a lil too loud, the channeling of the past, and the holding of possibilities in our very flesh. In the colonized world, oriented towards hierarchies, the “north” is anywhere yt and rich, to quote Fanon, “You are rich because you are white, you are white because you are rich”. The consequences of this world and the resistance to its constructs are manifested in our southernness, the south is queer, it is poor and it is unapologetically Black and Brown. I’m slowly relearning and unlearning language, beginning to sit more comfortably in my own southernness. Growing up in rural spaces, the foothills of the appalachian mountains in KY, looking back I realize, that Hip Hop was one the spaces where I fell in love (mostly with myself). I recognize now, how deeply regional my exposure to Hip Hop during the mid-ninties and early 2000s was. The new documentary “The Art of Organized Noize” released on Netflix solidified my nostalgia for the Hip Hip I grew up on…that dank Hip Hop that smells like humidity, sweat and the spaces where bodies collide.
The first cd I ever purchased was TLC’s Crazy Sexy Cool, this was also the first time I vocalized attraction towards women, the faintly masculine swagger of Lisa Left Eye Lopez and the undeniable slink of Chilli were everything for a 9 year old Scz (No shade on T-Boz, I always wanted to cop her style). Around the ages of 8-11 I was constantly transgressing the boundaries of heteronormativity, I had already kissed my first girl and I was too poor to have more than one Ken doll, so often my barbies were romantically involved. Last weekend while in San Diego, I time traveled, explaining to people how Ludacris and to a lesser degree Ginuwine, permanently impacted my grammar and were some of the first times I resisted the standardization of english in its written form, to this day I can’t spell Ludacris correct….(present knowledge and future vision mod def communicate that Luda is a problematic fave, but at the time, “what’s your fantasy” ran through a litany of potential desires, which while positioned in the context of heteronormative interactions, decentralized the idea of male pleasure/completion in these interactions. He spit a femme centered pleasure politic that deeply impacted my ideas of sexuality.) The centering on femme pleasure and the embracing of our alieness (ATLiens), were one of the first times I saw a visible queering of Hip Hop spaces….yes queerness and Hip Hop have been entangled since the beginning, but this was easily identifiable…. you could feel the familiarity of this swag. Andre Benjamin/3000’s assertion “The South’s got something to say” recentered Hip Hop cultural productions to the South and out of spaces that were growing largely stagnant from coloniality’s desire to co-opt the form. Twenty years later, and this declaration has manifested the potency and magic of Southern Hip Hop…..this is where I plan to go in my future writings on Hip Hop, back to my past wit it, to the root, to the South…… peep Layman’s video below and make sure you check out the Art of Organized Noize…..