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Atlanta’s 9.17 Family dares to transform hip-hop’s dialectic sound barrier that de-originates the style of most Southern-based groups, tossing them all under the same Dirty South banner. 9.17 Family stands out as a collective of diverse artists whose familial ties explode on each track, unleashing a successful down-home blend of spiraling country grammar over rap, R&B, reggae, Southern dance and drum ’n’ bass beats.

Southern Empire, the collective’s debut, delivers 14 stylistic tracks produced by Eddie “Gypsy” Stokes whose production credits include work with artists Dawn Robinson of Lucy Pearl and Speech of Arrested Development. 9.17 Family featured artists include rap groups Bonafide and Kin, alongside rappers Yagaboo, Zoe and R&B group Backhome.

Potential hits are evident after one listening. Track one, “Space High,” takes you to another place, delving into a futuristic intergalactic realm of twisted rhymes over drum ’n’ bass rhythm, accented with a clever splurge of dancehall reggae. “Choose One” dramatizes everyday temptations of drugs, crime, sex and violence embedded in a street soldier’s mind with a digestible dose of realism. “Whoop Ride” is a straight-up ghetto-car anthem, which draws comparisons to Cash Money Brothers’ “Get Your Roll On,” the song’s infectious hook narrating the whoop-ride fetish.

9.17 Family’s production company launched in Atlanta back in the day while working with diverse artists, including Motown’s hottest protégé, India.Arie. The company’s vision to change the face of Southern hip hop impressed veteran rap producer Shocklee (creator of Public Enemy, former senior VP of black music at MCA). Shocklee warns, “They are the first Southern rap group to mix Southern dance with reggae.” He signed the 9.17 Family production company to Shocklee Entertainment and fostered their distribution deal with Kedar Massenburg at Motown.

Southern Empire succeeds at bringing forth a down-home, funky blend of Southern hospitality.

E-mail Shannon Cook-Davy at letters@metrotimes.com.

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