The History Of The Dirty South Rap Game

outkast in new york performing
Leslie Grover-Taylor
February 14, 2024

A single moment changed the East vs. West Coast war raging in hip-hop during the ’90s. At the 1995 Source Awards in Madison Square Garden, Southern duo Outkast won the award for Best New Artist. Then the drama started and led to changes in hip hop history.

When OutKast won the award, East Coast and West Coast fans booed them. It was then that Andre 3000, with Big Boi and rap group Goodie Mob beside him, got on the mic and let the world know that the South had ‘something to say.

 The question was, was anyone listening?

Fans were. And that night they all witnessed the rise of the Dirty South from the dirt floor of an Atlanta-area home studio to hip-hop stardom.

OutKast, Goodie Mob, Organized Noize, and other musical powerhouses were members of the Dungeon Family, a collective of Southern producers and artists that took the ’90s by storm. They showed hip-hop that Southern rappers weren’t a bunch of bumpkins on the mic.

The Dungeon Family situated the South as a place where rappers understood their own history, the power of storytelling as a way to resist oppression, and its role in speaking for communities still impacted by enslavement and the Jim Crow era.

What the South had to say elevated the Third Coast to mainstream hip-hop. And today, the South’s way with words remains unmatched. So does its ability to inspire us to remember our history. How dope is that?

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