Atlanta: the Hip Hop Culture Starts Here

Film Photo by Sean Kelly Conway

Film Photo by Sean Kelly Conway

A dungeon full of young kids wanting to make music gave birth to artists like Outkast, Goodie Mob, and TLC; these 90s icons put Atlanta on the map and inspired newcomers such as Future, Childish Gambino, and Migos.  Hip-hop has been a part of African American culture for so long, but these artists have all been part of a modern movement. Outkast’s Andre 3000 said to a displeased New York crowd, “The South has something to say,” while accepting an award for best new rap group in 1995; this line essentially became Outkast’s mission statement, one that the city of Atlanta would eventually adopt. Outkast’s sophomore album ATLiens showed the doubting world that southern hip-hop was here to stay and sure enough, that album topped charts and birthed a new sense of community in the hip-hop duo’s hometown.

Music is received in immense quantities at incomprehensible speeds. Thanks to the internet, you can listen to anything and people can upload at their leisure. Because of this increased accessibility, there is always something new and the subject matter often becomes lost. Atlanta is mentioned in almost every hip-hop song that has become popular in the last decade and while that may go unheard by the masses, creative minds and Atlanta’s citizens alike are hearing the shout outs loud and clear. Knowing that Ludacris and Future grew up on the same streets as you and not only did they make it, but they continuously credit your hometown for their success fosters more than a sense of pride, it creates cultural awareness and adjustment. The people of Atlanta desire that their city feels and look like the city these artists talk about because it preserves the veracity of their lyrics. They will do anything in their power to maintain the greatness of their city; whether that entails hanging out at the trap house or not stopping parties ‘till eight in the morning like Ludacris encouraged. 

The trap, a drug house, quite literally transformed through music. It went from being a dead-end or a “trap” to an escape for people like T.I. and Gucci Mane who would have been grazed over and forgotten about. Gucci and T.I.’s transformation reflected another shift in culture. While the 90’s Dungeon Family symbolized a hope for Atlanta, trap artists symbolized a unique love for what they know Atlanta to already be. The drug trap was an ugly, unsafe environment, but there was room for greatness among the bad. There was no need to pressure the people of Atlanta to do better. Migos and 2 Chainz make it glaringly obvious that they have no intention to leave the drug life behind to do bigger and better things; instead, they simply renovated the trap. The trap is no longer the abandoned home in the back of a low-income neighborhood but is instead your average suburban home in any given middle-class city. The trap is now a breeding ground for young hip-hop artists, many of whom begin their careers on websites like Soundcloud. Trap music has been vital in showing the rest of the world the hustle that the black community has. Future and Young Thug have made it cool by making their music new, fun, and creative.

There is this common belief that hip-hop is the easiest way to success when growing up black however, that is not entirely the case. Success in hip-hop is not something that icons like Gambino and Outkast just stumbled upon; the intellectual ability of these artists is clearly seen in their lyrics. Their pursuit of rap has nothing to do with an inability to do something else, but rather a wholehearted interest in creating art that matters.  Creation is vital to society and making music is such a unique, pure form. Drake said it best in his verse on Migos’ hit song Versace when he said, “Born in Toronto but sometimes I feel like Atlanta adopted us.” Atlanta is not only a breeding ground for creative minds, itching to make music but a haven.