“Dirty South” refers to “Southern hip-hop,” a sub-genre of rap and hip-hop music from the Southern States, achieving success mostly from Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Memphis, and Miami. Most people think “Dirty South Music” is characterized by heavy bass and “partying” lyrics (think Lil Jon and “Crunk”) but there's more to the sub-genre than that.
In the 1990s, Southern rap gained mainstream prominence with the success of Outkast and their debut album, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. In 1995, Atlanta's Goodie Mob released their debut album, Soul Food, featuring the track, “Dirty South,” containing Big Boi of Outkast. “Dirty South” possibly got its name from this song.
The most successful Southern independent labels came from Memphis and New Orleans during the mid-to-late '90s. At that time, many artists found mainstream success through No Limit Records and Cash Money Records, based out of New Orleans. Both these labels revolutionized financial strategies for independent Southern rap labels.
In the early-mid 2000s, the South dominated the music scene with artists such as TI, Ludacris and Lil Jon from Atlanta, Lil Wayne and Juvenile from New Orleans, Trick Daddy and Rick Ross from Miami, and Three 6 Mafia from Memphis. In 2002-2004, Southern hip-hop artists were responsible for 50 to 60 percent of the singles on hip-hop music charts. In 2004, Outkast won six Grammys for their album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. In 2006, Three 6 Mafia won an Academy Award for “It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp,” a song off the 2005 film Hustle and Flow, about a fictional Southern artist.
Popular Southern artists from the 2010s include Future, 2 Chains, Gucci Mane, and Lil Yachty. Even non-Southern artists like Asap Rocky and Lil Uzi Vert have established themselves within the hip-hop scene through Southern beats and credit the “Dirty South” for inspiring them.