The crunkification of America

 

After years of grinding it out on the Southern underground, crunk -- Atlanta's very own musical movement -- hit the big time this year. Why 2003? Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz have been earning their Kings of Crunk title since 1996, when they debuted with Get Crunk, Who U Wit: Da Album. But this was the year of more than Lil Jon: For one, Adamsville native Bone Crusher became the first act Jermaine Dupri's So So Def released through its new deal with L.A. Reid's Arista Records. The result was a massive national hit with "Never Scared."

According to Jerry Smokin B, Hot 107.9's Programming Director, believes "Never Scared" gave crunk music as a whole a big boost. "'Never Scared' was that record that took it to a whole 'nother level," he says. "When people came down [to Atlanta] for the All-Star Weekend, that song came on in the club, the crowd just went bananas. ... I got calls from PDs [radio program directors] and stations from all over the place."

So, despite the City of Atlanta's poor planning for the event, the All-Star Weekend helped set the stage for Atlanta's current hip-hop dominance. Part-time resident/Mississippi native David Banner saw his regional hit, "Like a Pimp" featuring Houston native Lil' Flip, become a national one. Also, the Lil Jon-produced "Damn" from Atlanta's YoungBloodz blazed across clubs, airwaves and radios late this summer.

But the crunk's crowning achievement came with Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz's collaboration with Atlanta duo Ying Yang Twins for "Get Low," one of the year's best-loved, most enduring singles. The song, more than other other of his successes this year, turned Lil Jon into a major hip-hop celebrity. There he was, pimp chalice and all, as a presenter at this year's MTV Video Music Awards. And romping around the stage during The Source Awards, leading a cast of Atlanta all stars in an electrifying medley of Dirty South hits (the performance actually occurred early in the show, but television producers moved it back for the broadcast, wanting to save the best for last).

Who knows how far into 2004 crunk's gravy train can extend. But sure 'nuff, 2003 was beyond crunk for Atlanta and the world.

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