Kanye Goes South

Chicago native Kanye West is one of midwest hip-hop’s biggest stars, and he made his name producing hits for JAY-Z and other New York rappers. But West has maintained his relevance over the years in part by keeping a finger on the pulse of southern hip-hop, drafting rising stars from Atlanta, Houston, and Miami to appear on his albums and producing hits for Dirty South stars like Ludacris and Jeezy. Most recently, he served as “executive producer” on Atlanta trio Migos’ new album, Culture II, where he co-produced the 21 Savage collaboration “BBO (Bad Bitches Only).”

Kanye West’s track record below the Mason-Dixon line dates back to the late ‘90s and early 2000s, when he was a relatively unknown producer placing tracks with southern trailblazers like Goodie Mob and Scarface. In 2003, he notched his first No. 1 on the Hot 100 producing Ludacris’ club banger “Stand Up,” along with a pair of tracks on an album that would help define the next wave of southern rap, T.I.’s Trap Muzik. Over the next few years, as West became a solo star who bridged many divides in hip-hop, he became the kind of rare stylistic chameleon who could make trap hits with Jeezy or screwed ’n’ chopped grooves with Paul Wall in between his excursions into east-coast boom bap and futuristic EDM.

As the founder of G.O.O.D. Music, Kanye West has signed Atlantans 2 Chainz and CyHi The Prynce, and helped mentor Houston rapper/producer Travis Scott. G.O.O.D.’s 2016 posse cut “Champions” brought together some of the above with Gucci Mane, Yo Gotti, and Quavo. Some of Kanye’s southern collaborations are better off forgotten, like the treacly Future duet “I Won” and the ill-fated Lex Luger-produced Watch The Throne single “H.A.M.” But by and large, Kanye West has been present for moments of greatness in southern rap, from Scarface’s The Fix to Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III.