Cutting Room Floor: Ben Westhoff's Dirty South

This is an anecdote to talk about a book of anecdotes. Go figure.

When asked how he felt immediately after completing his book, Ben Westhoff, author of Dirty South: Outkast, Lil Wayne, Soulja Boy and the Southern Rappers Who Reinvented Hip-Hop, responded with one word: Elated.

It's an automatic response, but really, it's a good answer. He should feel that way. It is an interesting, academic book wrapped up and packaged neatly in empiricism. In it, Westhoff plays the role of narrator, professor, floppy-haired optimist and, occasionally, Southern rap apothecary.

You will read the book and you will periodically smile and you will learn some things and you will finish it and likely say something like, "That was an enjoyable way to spend some time." We should all aspire to create such things.

That said, we owe Ben Westhoff a punch right in his guts, because he inadvertently altered the trajectory of banal conversation in the Serrano household for all eternity.

As noted in the third chapter, Westhoff spent some time trailing Trae around Houston's nightlife scene, eventually ending up where Trae always seems to end up at the end of a night: a strip club.

Now, for us, that's where things got dicey.

See, while in Houston, Westhoff actually set up base camp at our home. We met on the Internet because all writers are insecure and immediately look up neighboring writers' information if their beats cross paths more than once. An e-friendship grew out of the keyboard dust. We now correspond/brainstorm/shit-talk regularly. Matter of fact, we both belong to a secret message board populated by a handful of other likeminded music writers.

On the message board we talk about writers that haven't been invited to join and we post obscure MP3s and make ridiculous statements like "Gucci Mane's 'Lemonade' is the most pragmatic song he's ever made" and take on silly tasks like trying to list the ways that Diddy has indirectly reshaped American counterculture. We're all very insufferable.

At any rate, after trading messages online a time or two, Westhoff asked if he could stay with us while in town doing research for his book. We asked him if he planned on murdering everyone in their sleep. He said no, so we said sure.

He slept on a mattress that was placed on the living room floor.

Sometimes he made noise in his sleep, sometimes he did not. Sometimes he wore his shoes to sleep, something Wife considered exceptionally interesting -Why's he doing that? Is there something wrong with his feet? Are his toes webbed? Eww, his toes are webbed, aren't they? Why didn't you tell me he had webbed feet? Does he swim faster than normal humans? So on and on.

Whatevs-- the night Westhoff and Trae et al were roaming around, we were in attendance. The original plan did not include designs on strip clubbing it up, so Wife had no qualms about us leaving the house at midnight.

Clubs, clubs, clubs.

When we ended up at the strip club after 2 a.m., there was no uncertain amount of dread in our bones. We got home a little before four.

Having written the nightlife column for three+ years now, we knew, as does Wife, that all of the places to go at night that don't involve women getting naked close at two in the morning. She was going to ask where that last hour and a half went, and she was going to ask knowing full well what the answer was.

The next morning, she did. And we did what any grown man does in that situation: We lied. And we lied badly.

We came up with some ridiculous story about how we stood in the lobby entrance away from the sin while Westhoff and Trae partook in whatever it is that unrealized men do in unrealized places like that. Look at naked women? Yuck. Gross. Something about the sanctity of marriage. Something about being too smart for that sort of debauchery.

The worst part about it, about the situation in general, is that we did not enjoy the experience at all. At best, it felt scientific. At worst, it felt immoral. We could've explained that and likely walked away with little more than deferred ajudication.

No matter. The lies came. The fury followed.

She let us hold onto the lie for about two seconds. Then she flawlessly and efficiently ripped out the guts of our brilliant defense, bringing the cosmos down onto our forehead for lying to her while doing so.

She mentions it to this day just to remind us that she is the tertiary consumer in the household.

Boo, I'm going to the store. Do we need anything for dinner?

"Yeah, pick up some milk. Oh, I mean, that is if you didn't spend all of your money at the strip club already."

Boo, do you know where the remote is?

"Did you try Dreams? Or the Gentlemen's Club? You probably left it there."

Ben Westhoff is an enjoyable person to know, and his book is certainly worth whatever pittance he's charging for it -at the moment, it's less than $9 on Amazon; buy 20 copies--but know that if you invite him into your home, he will warble it.

That web-toed bastard.

See Ben Westhoff online at

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Shea Serrano