Southern Hip-Hop = Fox News?

Both appeal to red-staters, and both are unfairly maligned.

If there's one thing the self-satisfied, liberal, tofu-munching, cappuccino-sipping, in-vitro-fertilization-using coastal elite hate, it's FOX News. The Rupert Murdoch-owned channel even has the audacity to declare itself "fair and balanced," which is approximately as accurate, liberals would argue, as Paul Wall calling himself African-American.

Which brings us to the coastal hip-hop elite's favorite whipping boy: Southern rap. With its focus on stripped-down beats and basic lyricism, it is the spawn of Satan himself, argue the B-boyin', Shaolin-representin', G-funkin', golden-era nostalgintelligentsia. But though FOX News and Southern rap both share anti-intellectual appeal, there's more to the story than that. Rather than simply pandering to the red-state masses, they have tapped into powerful populist sensibilities in areas that didn't previously have a national voice.

By the early part of this decade, the lyricism of New York rap and the gangland stories of L.A. hip-hop had grown out of touch with Midwestern and Southern audiences — particularly with girls who simply wanted to dance. Production techniques had grown vastly more sophisticated, to the point where many celebrated founding-father tracks sounded — I hate to say it — corny. The same is true of the majority of old Snoop Dogg, Warren G., Tupac, and Notorious B.I.G. tracks, which tend to be more conducive to blazing a blunt with your homies than packing a club. And so genres such as crunk and snap music stepped in to fill the void, and hit-makers such as Three 6 Mafia, Paul Wall, Mike Jones, the Cash Money crew, and Lil Jon offered style over substance and big, ridiculous beats to stimulate your ass, if not your mind.

Meanwhile, rather than exercising their famous "tolerance," liberals blew a gasket after FOX News debuted in 1996, and they continue to believe the network is more biased and somehow lesser than CNN or MSNBC. But more likely, FOX just doesn't fit their stereotypes of what a cable news channel should be. Take perky FOX Report host Shepard Smith, perhaps the Soulja Boy of news anchors, who doesn't seem like he could hold an intelligent conversation on Russian politics and appears to wear eyeliner. But, I would argue, the more you watch him, the more you can't help appreciating his silliness and his infectious energy.

Similarly, detractors of Southern rap (including coastal players Ghostface Killah and Nas) contend it's not only different but also worse. Is it really so crass to embrace your dancing shoes over your thinking cap? Should you really need to be an expert in Eastern mysticism to like an album?

And though they can appear simplistic, the best Southern rap songs did not come about easily. Sure, screaming "Yeah!" and "Okay!" at the top of your lungs (or, in the case of DJ Khaled, "We the best!") doesn't seem like it requires much effort. But you're deluded if you think crafting party-starting jams is easy. And let's not forget that the genre's brightest stars (UGK, Lil Wayne, T.I., Scarface, Ludacris, OutKast) can be held up against the coasts' intellectual best.

If you're still not convinced that Southern rap and FOX News are one and the same, consider the countless Southern rap odes to big cars and the wasteful misuse of fossil fuel, an indulgence the global-warming deniers on FOX News certainly endorse.

 
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