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The 30 Best Southern Rap Songs of the ’90s

From Miami to Memphis, Atlanta to Houston, these are the songs that turned the South into the center of hip-hop.

In the early 1990s, as hip-hop mutated and expanded, most ears were focused on the East and West Coasts. After giving birth to the genre two decades earlier, New York entered the ’90s with an emphasis on dusty sample-based beats and gritty realism. California threw its hat in the ring with hardcore gangsta rap before turning the BPM way down and the blunted grooves way up with G-funk. But while the two coasts were battling for supremacy, the South was gearing up to sweep the competition. 

Of course, the South is more than one place, and its rap music is more than just one thing. In Florida, rap mixed with the pounding dancefloor rhythms of bass music. Louisiana had bounce, its own take on bass-heavy dance music, as well as now-legendary labels Cash Money and No Limit, which nurtured local talents into national stars. In Houston and nearby Port Arthur, DJ Screw slowed rap to a syrupy crawl and UGK told introspective tales of street hustling. Smooth player-pimp shit for the streets and clubs took hold in Atlanta and Memphis with groups like OutKast and 8Ball & MJG. 

The South ran off with the hip-hop crown for many reasons: musical ingenuity, Atlanta’s growth as a cultural epicenter, rap’s natural expansion as it entered into its second decade of life. But the biggest reason is its sauce. The swag, the lingo, the soulfulness. Southern hip-hop can make you want to dance, think on life, and love what you have in equal measure. That’s what André 3000 of OutKast was talking about when he said “the South got something to say” onstage at the Source Awards in 1995. And with the South’s continued dominance over the last two decades, it hasn’t stopped being said since.

The following list, presented in alphabetical order by artist, includes all of the Southern rap songs that were featured on our 250 Best Songs of the 1990s list, as well as others that didn’t make that list but are still indispensable to the story of the region’s music. 

Listen to selections from this list on our Spotify playlist and Apple Music playlist.

Read Pitchfork’s list of the best songs of the 1990s here and best albums of the 1990s here, and check out our full ’90s package here.

Relativity / Suave House

8Ball / MJG: “Space Age Pimpin’” [ft. Nina Creque] (1995)

Tennessee kings 8Ball & MJG, who built their careers on stern threats and ghetto politics, aren’t known for love songs. “Space Age Pimpin’” isn’t a mere detour, it’s in an entirely different orbit. Jazzy and slick, it’s full of come-hither stares, romantic declarations, and frank dirty talk. With Nina Creque crooning over horns and guitars, MJG assures his girl he’d kill for her in the right circumstances. “Space Age Pimpin’” is the rare song befitting both strip clubs and wedding receptions. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: 8Ball / MJG, “Space Age Pimpin’” [ft. Nina Creque]

Cash Money / Universal

B.G.: “Bling Bling” [ft. Big Tymers and Hot Boyz] (1999)

There are so, so many rap songs about jewelry: acquiring it, flexing with it, hoarding it, even beating people with it. But in the summer of 1999, six rappers from New Orleans changed the way we’d talk about it forever. Thanks to the proliferation of bounce music and early successes from Juvenile and the Hot Boys, Cash Money Records was already a force in Southern hip-hop when this single from B.G.’s Chopper City in The Ghetto brought the Hot Boys—B.G., Lil Wayne, Juvenile, and Turk—and the Big Tymers—label boss Birdman and house producer Mannie Fresh—together to stunt over fast-paced synthetic horns about watches that cost as much as mansions. Lil Wayne’s hook—“Every time I come around your city, bling bling”—is responsible for birthing one of the most iconic expressions of wealth in rap history. “Bling Bling” spread New Orleans lingo across the world, and prefaced the ’00s ascent of Wayne, one of rap’s greatest talents. –Dylan Green

Listen: B.G., “Bling Bling” [ft. Big Tymers and Hot Boyz]

No Limit

C-Murder: “Akickdoe!” [ft. Bun B, Pimp C, and Master P] (1998)

Each verse of “Akickdoe!” focuses on a different side of robbery. Pimp C and Bun B of UGK highlight the immediate benefits, sneering about revenge and loot as they plan and execute their respective hits. Master P and C-Murder flip the script by homing in on the desperation and anxiety of the crime, with C-Murder opening his verse by contemplating suicide. This double-sided approach—heightened by the Houston-meets-New Orleans aspect of the UGK/No Limit team-up—gives the song all the layered dimensions of a Choose Your Own Adventure book. –Dylan Green   

Listen: C-Murder, “Akickdoe!” [ft. Bun B, Pimp C, and Master P]

Inner Soul

DJ DMD: “25 Lighters” [ft. Lil’ Keke and Fat Pat] (1998)

Port Arthur, Texas, population roughly 56,000, is as tiny as rap hotbeds get. For DJ DMD, living there meant laboring toward rap stardom not only in the shadow of nearby Houston, but also in the shadow of Port Arthur legends UGK. On “25 Lighters,” a bouncy riff on Al B. Sure!’s “Nite & Day,” he bats leadoff, calculating with precision about wants and needs while setting up Houston mainstays Lil’ Keke and Fat Pat’s own smooth, day-in-the-life narratives. The record builds from DMD’s opening refrain and crests around Fat Pat’s rich voice, his verse toying with flows and pockets. Tragically, Pat was shot dead months before “25 Lighters” blew up, a crushing robbery of what could have been. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: DJ DMD, “25 Lighters” [ft. Lil’ Keke and Fat Pat]


DJ Jimi: “Where They At” (1992)

The Triggaman break, a one-bar drum machine and synthesizer loop lifted from the song “Drag Rap” by the Showboys, set the foundation for bounce music, an integral part of New Orleans culture for the last several decades. One of the earliest examples of its use is DJ Jimi’s “Where They At,” which starts with the Triggaman break and adds a wall of other samples and DJ scratches. DJ Jimi didn’t invent bounce music, but “Where They At” helped popularize it and establish its fundamentals: call-and-response lyrics, breakneck tempo, and the kind of sweaty, joyous energy that only throwing ass can provide. –Dylan Green

Listen: DJ Jimi, “Where They At”

Screwed Up

DJ Screw: “June 27” (1996)

By 1996, DJ Screw and his syrupy, dragged-out mixes were the sound of Houston’s ever-evolving car culture. Time bent to his will when he stood behind the turntables. Based on a chopped-and-screwed version of Kriss Kross’s “Da Streets Ain’t Right,” “June 27”  is a 35-minute odyssey of slick and ridiculous braggadocio, with enough Houston voices to leave the room thick with their drawls. There’s Big Moe, introducing every rapper with a hearty sing-song, plus the nasally Yungstar, and the pavement-low baritone of Big Pokey, among many others. The “June 27” freestyle transformed them from neighborhood stars to city-wide legends, further galvanizing Houston up-and-comers to reach the grail moment of rapping on a Screw tape.  –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: DJ Screw, “June 27”

Hypnotize Minds / Relativity

Gangsta Boo: “Where Dem Dollas At?” [ft. Juicy J and DJ Paul] (1998)

Gangsta Boo of Three 6 Mafia was only 15 when she contributed to the group’s debut, Mystic Stylez, in 1995, and 19 when she released her own first album, Enquiring Minds, in ’98. If she felt any pressure to stay in the background as a young woman in a male-dominated scene, she blazed through it on “Where Dem Dollas At.” The Enquiring Minds single deviates from the gothic textures of early Three 6, letting Boo cut loose over something bubblier, her talk of blowing money nestled smoothly into the track’s cavernous bass. Even with verses from Mafia founders Juicy J and DJ Paul on the back end of “Where Dem Dollas At,” Gangsta Boo’s aggressive nonchalance absorbed all attention, further carving out a space for women in Southern hip-hop and beyond. –Dylan Green 

Listen: Gangsta Boo, “Where Dem Dollas At?” [ft. Juicy J and DJ Paul]

Rap-A-Lot / Priority

Geto Boys: “Mind Playing Tricks on Me” (1991)

Among the most haunting street-life narratives ever recorded, this masterpiece by Houston’s Geto Boys rewired hip-hop’s supposed binaries—between East Coast and West, conscious poets and amoral journalists—unpacking drug game paranoia over a plaintive loop of Isaac Hayes’ “Hung Up on My Baby.” The ghostly, pitched-down guitar figure sets up some ironic distance from the grim narration while also telegraphing cartoon violence by way of the Blaxploitation classic Three Tough Guys, which starred Hayes and featured his song on its soundtrack. Reprising the candles-in-a-dark-room scenario from the band’s horrorcore salvo “Mind of a Lunatic,” Scarface goes deep, evoking Jim Crow nightmares and a present-day vision of himself “sleeping with my finger on the trigger,” as well as contemplating suicide as an escape, rejecting it on his son’s account, and lamenting the love he lost through his callousness. The song became an emo-rap touchstone, referenced by artists from Biggie to OutKast to Kid Cudi, who credited it with inspiring his breakout “Day ’n’ Nite” and called it “his favorite song in the world.” –Will Hermes

Listen: Geto Boys, “Mind Playing Tricks on Me”


Goodie Mob: “Cell Therapy” (1995)

Just because Goodie Mob were paranoid didn’t mean people weren’t following them. While this ad-hoc crew of OutKast affiliates had never recorded a song together before the sessions that would become 1995’s Soul Food, their debut album’s bone-chilling hit laid out a lasting template for how Southern hip-hop could be at once conscious and crunk. “Cell Therapy” was both menacing and menaced, fucked up by conspiracy theories but also the conspiratorial realities of systemic racism. Its gutturally drawled, often-surreal vision of life near the trap would be familiar to Atlanta viewers, let alone EarthGang or Denzel Curry listeners, and its eerie, dub-cavernous production also set a course so irresistible that it was echoed by Gorillaz and sampled by Travis Scott. But the song’s most resonant association is the moment it soundtracks in Barry Jenkins’ classic 2016 film Moonlight: Our now full-grown hero wakes from a nightmare, looking tough as nails, scarred within by trauma that’s deeper than the red Georgia clay. –Marc Hogan

Listen: Goodie Mob, “Cell Therapy”

Cash Money / Universal

Juvenile: “Back That Azz Up” [ft. Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne] (1999)

Not only is “Back That Azz Up” the defining hit of Cash Money, its opening strings are still an alarm call to clear out of the dancefloor if you’re not ready to sweat. There’s Mannie Fresh’s propulsive, funky beat; Juvenile’s direct command to throw ass; the hypnotic flow in his verses have the effect of bounce music; the jolt of adrenaline every time the hook comes back around. It’s all sort of romantic, too, how Juvenile treats a little ass shaking like the blessing that it is. In the future, Cash Money would reach higher commercial peaks, but not much lives on like a twerk anthem. –Alphonse Pierre

Further Reading: 400 Degreez Sunday Review

Listen: Juvenile, “Back That Azz Up” [ft. Mannie Fresh and Lil Wayne]


Kilo Ali: “Love in Ya Mouth” [ft. Big Boi] (1997)

It takes a special kind of talent to sing about getting oral sex to the tune of a Sting interpolation, but that’s the magic of Kilo Ali’s “Love in Ya Mouth.” The Atlanta rapper was mostly known for music that skewed closer to Florida bass; “Love in Ya Mouth,” with its mid-tempo guitars and slightly muffled drums, was an outlier on his otherwise boisterous 1997 album Organized Bass. On the track, Ali and OutKast’s Big Boi spend five-and-a-half minutes warping several different melodies and flows around their shared love of getting head as real as oatmeal in a ’79 Seville, among other questionable quotables. –Dylan Green   

Listen: Kilo Ali, “Love in Ya Mouth” [ft. Big Boi]

Mirror Image

Lil Jon / The Eastside Boyz: “Who U Wit?” (1997)

In the mid-’90s, crunk music was in the early stages of taking over Atlanta, Memphis, and Miami, and Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz were at the forefront of the wave. “Who U Wit?,” a highlight from the group’s 1997 debut album Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album, features one of the earliest uses of the word “crunk” on record and exemplifies the genre’s bass-heavy minimalism. The verses are all gang vocals and commands, engineered to inspire everyone in a 50-foot radius to stomp the ground until it shakes. Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz would have bigger hits—in a half-decade, “Get Low” would push them into the mainstream—but “Who U Wit” was hip-hop’s first sip of crunk juice. –Dylan Green

Listen: Lil Jon / The Eastside Boyz, “Who U Wit?”

Universal / Republic / Short Stop

Lil’ Troy: “Wanna Be a Baller” [ft. Yungstar, Fat Pat, Lil’ Will, Big T, and H.A.W.K.] (1998)

“It’s got to be a better way,” Big T sings on the chorus of Lil’ Troy’s seminal hit “Wanna Be a Baller,” over a slowed-down interpolation of Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.” Troy’s name is on the record, but really it’s a showcase for Houston rap favorites Yungstar, Fat Pat, H.A.W.K. and Lil’ Will. Troy himself plays a DJ Khaled sort of role, giving his collaborators room to wax about their hopes to sell millions of records and make their Ford trucks sound like spaceships. “Wanna Be a Baller” doesn’t ask listeners to dance—just to body rock while coasting up and down the highway, always in search of something greater. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: Lil’ Troy, “Wanna Be a Baller” [ft. Yungstar, Fat Pat, Lil’ Will, Big T, and H.A.W.K.]

Luther Campbell Music

Luke: “Scarred” [ft. Trick Daddy and Verb] (1996)

Before Juvenile had “Back That Azz Up,” “Uncle” Luke Campbell of 2 Live Crew had the South’s go-to “run to the dance floor and wild out” anthem in “Scarred.” With production that riffed on Quad City DJs’ “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train),” the pussy-poppin’ “Scarred” took Luke’s original recipe—jerky and hysterical, with debauchery on 10—and supercharged it. Luke got top billing, but “Scarred” also served as the world’s introduction to Trick Daddy, who delivered a coda of disrespectful one-liners, proving himself as one of few rappers who could match Luke’s over-the-top screeds. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: Uncle Luke, “Scarred” [ft. Trick Daddy and Verb]

Priority / No Limit

Master P: “Make ’Em Say Uhh!” [ft. Fiend, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X, and Mystikal] (1998)

No Limit Records’ symbol was a tank. And if the label’s colonel, Master P, understood anything, it was how to orchestrate an onslaught—of artists, releases, videos, and hooks—in order to overwhelm listeners via brute force and charm. “Make ’Em Say Uhh!” distilled this approach down to a frenzied posse cut featuring four of his strongest soldiers, including the ever charismatic Mia X and the volcanic Mystikal, touting the tank’s might over producer KLC’s collision of rollicking horn blasts and ominous piano. Yet for all its Louisiana bravura, the song also owed a piece of its sonic soul to Harlem, New York, thanks to P’s clever repurposing of the Masterdon Committee’s early-’80s electro hit “Funkbox Party” for the hook. Ever the strategist, Master P well recognized that the time-tested tactic of synthesizing influences and making them new again may be the most potent weapon of all. –Jeff Mao

Listen: Master P, “Make ’Em Say Uhh!” [ft. Fiend, Silkk the Shocker, Mia X, and Mystikal]

No Limit

Mia X: “The Party Don’t Stop” [ft. Master P and Foxy Brown] (1997)

The No Limit tank was at full power when Mia X released Unlady Like, her sophomore album. At a time when relationships between rap stars seemed fractured across the country, “The Party Don’t Stop” marked a rare moment of connection between Southern and East Coast hip-hop, in the form of Mia X and Foxy Brown’s bars about rhyme skills, sex, and status. The skittering drums and silky bass guitar from producers Beats by the Pound make the song feel like a welcoming parade, regardless of what coast listeners called home. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: Mia X, “The Party Don’t Stop” [ft. Master P and Foxy Brown]

Goldmind / Elektra

Missy Elliott: “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)” (1997)

“The Rain” starts with an exhale and a yawn, fitting for a song so playfully trippy it sounds as if it came to Missy and Timbaland in a dream, or maybe after a huge bong hit. Some of the most enduring moments from Supa Dupa Fly—an album that was completed in just two weeks—still sound like studio freestyles, two buddies shooting the shit and making each other giggle in the long spaces between songwriting. The song arrived in the wake of Biggie and Tupac’s murders, when hip-hop needed a lift, and it both positioned Missy and Timbaland as industry lodestars and solidified their sound: so tight, as she raps in the song, that you get their styles tangled. Saying “vroom” and “fricky fricky” over that cricket-propelled, Ann Peebles-sampling beat never sounded too silly; it simply sounded correct. –Emma Carmichael

Listen: Missy Elliott, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”


Mr. Pookie: “Crook for Life” [ft. Remontis, Mr. Lucci, and Juiell] (1999)

At a time when individual style and regional specificity were prized, Dallas rapper Mr. Pookie made certain his rapid-fire flow differed from anyone else around. “Crook for Life,” built around gothic piano stabs and Juiell’s ethereal, threatening chorus, rips forward from the opening line and immediately rolls downhill. The track’s three rappers weave between Dallas street life and their own murder missions without pause or concern. Pookie, through incredible breath control, singles out nameless enemies, offering plenty of gunplay should you ever offend him. Mr. Lucci chokes the beat with a double-time flow that would make Twista blush. And Remontis suggests he killed someone just to keep his dogs fed. A cult classic, “Crook for Life” rang out at graduations, parties, and on local radio, becoming a central influence on later Dallas rap. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: Mr. Pookie, “Crook for Life” [ft. Remontis, Mr. Lucci, and Juiell]


OutKast: “Elevators (Me & You)” (1996)

“Elevators (Me & You),” the lead single from ATLiens, was the moment when OutKast became bona fide stars. The beat is unmistakably cool, built around smooth bass, hi-hat drums, and an echoing wood block; there’s just enough there to make the instrumental distinct, but also keep it uniquely mimnal. André 3000 and Big Boi match the understated poise in their verses, every word rolling off their tongues impeccably while telling the world how they patiently planned their ascent, all skill, no luck and no haste. It’s the ultimate come-up song, a track that recounts André and Big Boi’s rise from “Player’s Ball” to ballers. –Matthew Strauss

Listen: OutKast, “Elevators (Me & You)”


OutKast: “Rosa Parks” (1998)

“Rosa Parks” isn’t the best song on Aquemini (that’s “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”), nor was it OutKast’s biggest to date (that was “Elevators (Me and You)”). But at a moment when labels like No Limit and Cash Money were trying to preserve Southern rap’s regionality while building a national audience, the track’s hollering and harmonica felt like provocations toward listeners who wouldn’t be caught dead in something so country. And while the extraterrestrial imagery connected them to Afrofuturists like Parliament and Jimi Hendrix, it doubled as a joke about how most Americans imagine the rural South as another planet anyway. –Mike Powell

Listen: OutKast, “Rosa Parks”

LaFace / Arista

OutKast: “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” (1998)

If “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” sounds like a fantasy of a night out at the club, that’s because it is. Andre 3000 wrote his verse about a night he almost went to Charles’ Disco as a teenager, but found himself too drunk to walk in the door—“So all the stuff I said after that,” he told an interviewer later, “was made up.” The production has the wooziness of a dream or a memory half recollected from inebriation: humid wah-wah guitar, a reggae-ish rhythm section that ambles along with no particular place to be. And then there’s the horn line, one of the greatest instrumental hooks in pop history, stretching out across eight full bars, both languid and triumphant. Andre and Big Boi deliver their verses like they’re talking to you from across the pool table, more spoken word than rap. In the former’s, revelry erupts suddenly into violence, possibly fatal; in the latter’s, the decision to grind up against a stranger leads eventually to unexpected fatherhood. The club becomes a kind of crucible, not just a venue for drinking and dancing, but a place where the twin possibilities of death and new life lurk in the background of every scene. —Andy Cush

Listen: OutKast, “SpottieOttieDopaliscious”

Atlantic / Big Beat / Quadrasound

Quad City DJ’s: “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train)” (1996)

In the ’90s, bass music was the lifeblood of the Florida dancefloor, and no group outside of 2 Live Crew exemplified those quaking, ass-shaking rhythms better than Quad City DJ’s. Nine months before the Space Jam theme would introduce them to a new generation of NBA fans, they released “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train).” Come for the shuffling, Barry White-sampling beat; stay for the innuendo that eluded even vocalist JeLana LaFleur, who told The Ringer in 2021 that she always thought “The Train” was nothing more than a dance move. –Dylan Green

Listen: Quad City DJ’s, “C’mon N’ Ride It (The Train)”

Rap-A-Lot / Noon Trybe

Scarface: “I Seen a Man Die” (1994)

Scarface’s “I Seen a Man Die” starts out hopeful and gradually unspools into tragedy. A young man just released from prison greets his father and promises to go legit, but ego and the pull of the streets get the best of him: the first verse ends with him robbing and shooting someone, the second with him being robbed and shot, and the third with him dying from his wounds. Scarface tells the story bluntly, its violent details (and the implication that Scarface’s narrator may have been the killer) contrasting with the unnerving smoothness of his delivery and the production’s jazzy harmonies. Scarface’s reputation for storytelling began during his run with the Geto Boys, but “I Seen a Man Die” was his first solo success: a harrowing tale presented as a fact of life. –Dylan Green  

Listen: Scarface, “I Seen a Man Die”

Suave House / Relativity / Epic

Tela: “Sho Nuff” [ft. 8Ball and MJG] (1996)

Few strip-club anthems compare to the effortless Tennessee player energy of “Sho Nuff,” a standout from Memphis rapper Tela’s album Piece of Mind. The production gleams with champagne luster, complimenting Tela and guests 8Ball & MJG’s ass-chasing tales. When Tela and producer-vocalist Jazze Pha sent “Sho Nuff” to 8Ball & MJG, the duo initially turned it down in favor of appearing on “Twisted,” another cut from Piece of Mind. If they’d passed on it completely, they would’ve missed out on a song that redefined what it meant to make music for the club. Where other rappers aimed to tear the club up, “Sho Nuff” plays to the smoother nature of a VIP room, a velvet-lined ode to good drinks and good ass. –Dylan Green

Listen: Tela, “Sho Nuff” [ft. 8Ball and MJG]

RED / Relativity / Hypnotize Minds

Three 6 Mafia: “Tear Da Club Up” (1997)

Three 6 Mafia’s first major-label contract required them to put “Tear Da Club Up” on their next record. In theory, not a huge ask—Chapter 2: World Domination ended up exhuming several hits from the Memphis crew’s previous albums, where Juicy J and DJ Paul continually scraped layers of lo-fi graveyard grime off their horrorcore production style. But they were tired of that particular song. So the ’97 version converts the original’s ambient dread into imminent dread, from the soap-opera piano ostinato to the four-note rising synth figure that chases each verse like Hell’s breaking-news theme. Recent addition Gangsta Boo pops up halfway through to bigfoot the track; it’s no wonder hers is the verse featured in the canny, nu-rock TV ad. Whether or not the song truly was “banned in 17 states,” as that commercial claims, crunk grew from its wreckage. –Brad Shoup

Further Reading: “Juicy J on the Music of His Life

Listen: Three 6 Mafia, “Tear Da Club Up”

Slip-N-Slide / Warlock

Trick Daddy: “Nann” [ft. Trina] (1998)

Trina was studying to become a real estate agent and rapping on the side when Trick Daddy first discovered her music and asked her to hop on “Nann,” the lead single from his second album, Trick’s commanding presence backs his claims that he has more Polo, bodies, and clout—and simply fucks better—than anyone you know. Not one to be shown up, Trina bulldozes the song’s second half with sex talk that makes Trick’s boast about putting his thumb in a woman’s butt seem tame by comparison. “Nann” was a hit for Trick Daddy and a star-making turn for Trina, but it’s also a monument to the rap back-and-forth at its most ratchet. –Dylan Green

Listen: Trick Daddy, “Nann” [ft. Trina]

No Limit

TRU: “I’m Bout It, Bout It” [ft. Mia X] (1995)

“I’m Bout It, Bout It”—released on the third album by TRU, Master P’s trio with his brothers Silkk the Shocker and C-Murder—doesn’t actually feature the latter two rappers. Instead, it’s a tag-team moment for P and Mia X, who routinely found time to steal the show on any posse cut. “Bout It” became the first significant salvo from the No Limit tank, a synth-heavy bounce monstrosity aligning P to two coasts: his adopted home of Richmond, California and his hometown of New Orleans, by then the nation’s murder capital. P details with guttural sarcasm how “Mr. Rogers ain’t got shit on my neighborhood,” and Mia X backs him up by threatening to dunk haters’ heads in piss and beaming with pride about the Crescent City. “Bout It” became the template for plenty of future No Limit hits: city shoutouts, chest-thumping, and the occasional reminder of how shit goes a little differently in New Orleans. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: TRU, “I’m Bout It, Bout It” [ft. Mia X]


UGK: “One Day” (1996)

“Why you let these killas live and take my homeboy son away?” Pimp C asks on UGK’s most significant album, 1996’s Ridin’ Dirty. The moment is a call to God for answers, none of which the man born Chad Butler would ever get. UGK found the darkest piece of the blues over a flip of The Isley Brothers’ “Ain’t I Been Good to You” while charting through nihilism, the loss of friendship, and the finality of death. “One Day” is a solemn funeral procession, where Bun B, Pimp C, and featured rapper Mr. 3-2 understand that being Black can mean your final days come over a “funky-ass dice game,” on the uneven scales of the criminal justice system, or even worse—by an unimaginable act of God. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: UGK, “One Day”


UGK: “Pocket Full of Stones” (1992)

Pimp C and Bun B underscored the other side of rap’s ’90s infatuation with the drug trade. While New York rappers dug into Scarface-style mafioso personas, UGK bluntly detailed the game’s bullshit, and its victims—fiends and dealers alike. The blueprint for dope-boy raps in the South, “Pocket Full of Stones” is a woozy drive of horns, guitar, and moody piano, elevated by the duo’s bruising bravado as they relay a tale of dealing gone wrong. Many would come after UGK, rapping about selling dope from corner to corner. Few did it better. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: UGK, “Pocket Full of Stones”

No limit

Young Bleed: “How Ya Do That” [ft. Master P and C-Loc] (1998)

Before his little cousin Boosie Badazz would help introduce the next generation of Baton Rouge hardheads, Young Bleed owned the space. His calling card was “How Ya Do Dat,” a sinister yet bouncy groove in which Louisiana bonafides become commandments. Though an earlier version—dubbed “A Fool”—was released on an album by C-Loc, it was always Bleed’s moment, his verse offering joyful threats (“Run up if you will and get ya ass whipped blue-black”) atop a gumbo of ’70s funk samples. When Master P tapped the song for the soundtrack to his film I’m Bout It, “A Fool” became “How Ya Do Dat,” with production touched up by Beats by the Pound and a new verse from P. A regional hit turned into something even bigger, with all parties thriving. –Brandon Caldwell

Listen: Young Bleed, “How Ya Do That” [ft. Master P and C-Loc]