David Banner

Besides Atlanta's OutKast and Houston's Scarface, few Southern hip-hop acts can honestly say that they get across-the-board respect from their East Coast (particularly New York) peers. This fact doesn't make Jackson, Mississippi's David Banner too happy. On his latest release, Mississippi: The Album, he has declared an all-out war on arrogant Yankees who continue to point their noses up at music from the South, even as they borrow ideas, concepts and phrases from those below the Mason-Dixon Line. If Banner has his way, Mississippi not only will lead to more respect for music from the South but also will make his home state known for more than being one of the poorest, most racist, most illiterate places in the country.

Ever since producing his former group Crooked Lettaz' debut album back in 1999, Banner has been crisscrossing Dixie, laying down tracks for the likes of Pastor Troy, Lil' Flip, Trick Daddy and Devin. Being a top-notch producer and more-than-capable rhyme spitter allows Banner, who has a business degree from Baton Rouge's Southern University, to paint vivid, clear images of life in a state that still flies the Rebel flag high and proud. "We from a place where you used to come in the summertime / Now you don't mention us in ya' rhyme / We kinfolk," Banner says to his East Coast associates on the album's gloomy title track. Elsewhere, Banner's pain and frustration with the social conditions of his home state and country are presented baldly on "Bush" (as in president): "Man, it's hard times, niggas ain't got shit / Nothing but Billy clubs to they head and they ass kicked."

In true Southern fashion, Banner also knows how to get a party started. Mississippi gets popping right from the start as Banner asks "What It Do" over slapping snares provided by KLC, who, as part of the Beats by the Pound production crew, laid the foundation for Master P's No Limit empire. Lil' Flip joins Banner on the album's lead single and most hypnotizing moment: the stripper theme song of the year, "Like a Pimp."

David Banner shouldn't have to worry about gaining anyone's respect anymore. His ability to easily switch from pimp to poet without ever sounding like a preacher is something that all rappers, no matter where they're from, should acquire.

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David A. Herron