[Editor's Note: On Thursday night, Ben Westhoff, a frequent contributor to our print edition and a sometime contributor here on DC9, will be stopping by Cliff Notes in Oak Cliff for a reading and signing session to promote his new book, Dirty South: OutKast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop. Immediately following his reading, the Kessler Theater, located right next door to Cliff Notes, will open up its space to host its recurring, hip-hop-heavy Camp Wisdom Series. In advance on this event, we asked Westhoff to tell us what Dallas -- still a young city in the "Dirty South" hip-hop world -- could learn from the cities that have had greater successes.]
Dallas has made important contributions to hip-hop history -- the D.O.C.'s role in the shaping the west coast scene and Erykah Badu's role in shaping Andre 3000, for starters. But my new book on southern rap, Dirty South: OutKast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy, and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop, spends most of its time on the pivotal movements coming out of places like Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Miami.
Did Dallas get the short shrift? Perhaps. But there are things Dallas could certainly do to step its game up. After the jump, check out my five suggestions on how Dallas rappers can get more time in future history books.
- Fuck a record label. Lots of rappers pay lip service to the independent game while secretly pining for a major label deal. But the southern entrepreneurs who truly did it their own way -- like Tony Draper (Suave House), J. Prince (Rap-A-Lot), Luke Campbell (Luke Records), Master P (No Limit) and the Williams Brothers (Cash Money) -- made a lasting mark on hip-hop by starting their own labels.
- Let the haters hate and watch the money pile up. Over the years, the most successful southern rappers learned to stop caring what critics from New York thought about them. New York is the birthplace of hip-hop -- and folks from there will never let you forget it. They will be loathe to get behind you, no matter how solid your game is. So fuck 'em and do you. It's the Pimp C way.
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- Hustle harder. "Hustling" is another concept a lot of rappers pay lip service to; these are the same guys, however, that you can often find lying on the couch and watching Judge Judy. If there's anything the biggest and most respected southern rappers have in common -- from 8Ball & MJG to Ludacris -- it's that they never stopped talking themselves up, selling their wares out the trunk, and networking.
- Don't be a diva. Having talent is just the beginning. Long-term success requires doing downright un-rockstar things -- like returning emails, being modest and staying in touch with your fan base. The biggest stars are often the nicest, most reliable guys. Take Bun B, who is universally known as the best interview in hip-hop because he makes time for reporters and answers questions thoughtfully. He shows up at anything he's invited to, and he jumps on almost anyone's song. The more accessible you are, the more loyal fans and journalists will be to you.
- Innovate. OutKast didn't become the most iconic group in hip-hop history by always attempting to make music that would be hot in the club. They pushed themselves as artists by expressing themselves in new ways, both sonically and lyrically. The same can be said of Geto Boys, T.I. and, whether you hate him or not, Lil Wayne. Don't underestimate the intelligence of your audience. And don't be afraid to be ahead of your time.
Ben Westhoff reads from Dirty South this Thursday, April 28, at Cliff Notes, at 6 pm. A reception follows an hour later next door inside the Kessler/X+ Art Gallery space, then dovetails into the Camp Wisdom Concert Series in the main showroom.