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Memphis: Pimped Out or Bucked Up? You Make the Call.

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According to music writer Roni Sarig in Third Coast: Outkast, Timbaland, and How Hip Hop Became a Southern Thing, the Mid-South has always been a real devil of a place: from Robert Johnson at the crossroads making a deal to William Bunch borrowing his stage name from the devil's very own mythical son-on-law, "Peetie Wheatstraw."

"Memphis -- Pimped Out or Bucked Up" is what Sarig titles his chapter on the roots of rap in the Bluff City, and "pimped out" is right. According to the author, way before Memphis "got buck," the city was a hotbed of illegal activity, hoods, and moneymakers. It came with the territory — a combination of slavery (pimping as a way to make a living off the white master), geography (Memphis as a longtime distributor of goods — and that includes women), and music (Memphis as crossbreeder of blues, gospel, country, rockabilly, R&B, to today's crunk).

Then Sarig revives the familiar M-E-M-P-H-I-S acronym for "Making Easy Money Pimpin' Hoes in Style." No wonder the author writes that Memphis has long been seen as "home to some of the biggest and baddest hustlers around."

Sarig takes the pimping charge seriously — "that reprehensible exploitation of women for financial gain." But he goes a step further and recasts it: "that pathetic illusion of living large in spite of facts that shout to the contrary."

Memphis rappers Gangsta Pat, the M-Team, Al Kapone, and Eightball & MJG understand that. It's why they're spotlighted by Sarig, here at the crossroads, aka the "third coast." Check it, yo.

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