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Atlanta has something to say

Last week, Def Jam artist Trinidad James released a visual for his single, “Def Jam,” which was shot in Brooklyn. That’s bold move considering his, not so friendly, interactions with the Rotten Apple. Toward the end of 2013, the Atlanta rapper said that Atlanta hip-hop runs New York hip-hop.  Yo, Trinidad, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. Not to disrespect anyone or region, but Atlanta’s vibrant hip-hop scene has been in a zone for two decades now.


Former dancer of hip-hop legendary rap group, Whodini, and So So Def CEO, Jermaine Dupri brought us Atlanta natives Kris Kross,  Xscape and multiplatinum selling MC, Da Brat, to name a few. For longer than most of us hip-hop consumers have been alive, JD has been putting on for the city and hip-hop in a major way. But, when equal-part street and intellectuals, Outkast introduced themselves to the world with their 1994 classic Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik album. An album that was released in the midst of the hype of Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter the Wu-Tang 36 Chambers, Tribe Called Quest’s Midnight Maurauders and Nas’ Illmatic.  And, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was just as good, some would argue better, as the former albums. Outkast’s clever metaphors and everyday life-inspired raps over soulful and funk-fueled beats, forced the world to pay attention to southern hip-hop. Yes, Scarface, UGK and Eightball & MJG were dropping superb albums long before Dre 3000 and Big Boi, but their fan-base, for the most part, was limited to the south. It was as if Outkast was UGK, Geto Boys and ‘ball & G all in one, with a speckle of commercial appeal that attracted radio and television.

Not long after Outkast introduced us to East Point and College Park, New Orleans-based labels No Limit and Cash Money basically raped the rap game. Then Houston’s Screwed Up Click and Swisha House record labels found success with their slowed down rap tunes. Miami’s Sip n Slide put on for their city. And, Memphis’ Three 6 Mafia tore the clubs up and won a Grammy in the process. Also, it was during this era that the world finally caught up with Port Arthur, Texas, natives UGK. And, Atlanta rappers were present every step of the way.

Ludacris threw elbows, Youngbloodz made it cool to sip Malt Liquor.  Ying Yang Twins and Field Mob  moved units in the clubs. Then, a short, skinny kid by the name of  T.I. came to us in the form of your local hand-to-hand dope boy. And, when Young Jeezy supplied the streets with his cocaine laced Streets Is Watching and Trap or Die mix-tapes, it really was one of the greatest shows on earth. Of every rapper or group mentioned, only two are still relevant, excluding Scarface and UGK’s Bun B, and that’s Atlanta’s Tip and Jeezy. They’re far from their I’m Serious and Let’s Get It: Thug Motivation 101 days, but their content hasn’t shifted away from the trap that supported them. Also, they’re OGs to many of todays artist. Atlanta’s budding stars such as Rich Homie Quan, Migos and K. Camp, to name a few, were raised on Tip’s and The Snowman’s music. The former were kids scribbling raps in their pads when several ATL artists found a home on the Billboard charts.

Today, one can tune in to the local radio station and hear an unforgettable hook from an ATL artist, specifically Future, 2 Chainz and Rich Homie Quan. Back in 2005, as one-half of Playaz Circle, Chianz (Known then as Tity Boi) had a hit with the Lil’ Wayne-assisted Duffle Bag Boy.” In 2012, Chainz locked down airwaves with the Drake-assisted and RIAA certified platinum, “No Lie” (Based on a T.R.U. Story). Last year, the ATL rapper hit big with Feds Is Watching” and the Juvenile-inspired Used To,” which peaked at No. 2 on the Top R&B/Hip Hop Albums.

Chainz homey, Future recently released his second album, Honest. And with hits such as “Tony Montana,Same Damn Time,”Turn on the Lights,” to the more recent “Honest,” “Karate Chop,” “Shit” and “Move That Dope,” Future has also found a home on the Billboard charts. Also, Jeezy and Rich Homie Quan, were guest on YG’s homeboy anthem and one of the hottest songs of the year, “My nigga.”

Rich Homie Quan isn’t a stranger to hits, either. The newcomer penned 2013’s hater-anthem,Type of Way” (Still Goin In). Also, his Problem-assisted, “Walk Through,” (I Promise I Will Never Stop) made decent noise on airwaves. And, in 2013, Memphis native Yo Gotti recruited Quan to expose the fake boys for the single, I know.” The song peaked at a respectable No. 34 on Billboards US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop and No. 20 on Hot Rap Charts. It’s clear that with Quan’s catchy hooks and storytelling skills that is headed toward hip-hop stardom.

But, it doesn’t stop with Future, 2 Chianz and Quan. One can ride through any given city or small town and you’ll probably hear Atleins like Gucci Mane or Migos blasting from Box Chevys and Monte Carlos. Ride pass a college campus and K. Camp’s memorable weed smoking and playboy themed songs can be heard blasting from Honda Accords or Nissan Altimas.  Or one can go to any club to find eye candies twerking and dope boys bouncing to these rappers music. The South’s dance-inspired music can be traced back to dances like Juba and Ring shout (Popular dances among slaves) and The Charleston, which originated in Charleston, South Carolina, during the 1920s. The Charleston dance was so dope that it became a national phenomenon, even in the Black mecca- at the time- Harlem. So, Migos, Quan, K.Camp, Future and 2 Chainz are only making music that’s rooted in their southern genes, and that’s the sh*** that makes one want to dance. But, twerking and bouncing isn’t all that’s  jumping in the ATL.

Off the dance floor and below the surface, the city has a slew of rappers that keeps the trap thuggin’ such as Young Thug, Que, Young Scooter, Scotty ATL, Dose and Peewee Longway, to name a few. And, have you been paying attention to Soulja Boy? Drake and Nicki Minaj have. Now, one may argue that ATL rappers sound alike. Well, there’s some truth to that. But, their rapid, stop-and-go and sing along flow is the city’s sound right now. When Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Death Row controlled hip-hop, their styles and beat choices were very similar. That was the L.A. sound at that time. When New York ran the rap game, Raekwon, Nas, The Notoriuous B.I.G. and Jay had similar styles of flow and beat selection. That was the New York sound. The same goes for Oakland’s Hyphy scene and up and coming Chicago rappers, it all sounds the same.

Some nostalgic hip-hop fans may argue that Atlanta rappers can’t rap or that’s not hip-hop. But, not every fan connects to a rapper because they are lyrically adept. Fans rock with rappers for different reasons. For instance, Willie D and Bushwick Bill, of the Geto Boyz, weren’t lyrical, but fans loved Wille D’s brash delivery and political content. Bushwick was loved because he brought something different to hip-hop. N.W.A. members Dre. Dre and Eazy E were not what one would call lyrical, but we loved their rawness and ‘F**k  you’ attitude. The same goes for 2 Live Crew, who are considred hip-hop legends. This can also be said for The Fat Boys, Heavy D and the Boyz and Bad Boy CEO Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, to name a few. We connect with them for different reasons and it’s not because of their profound or metaphor laden rhymes.

Unless one is an above average rapper like Nas, Kanye WestJay Z , J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Drake or the caliber of a Scarface, The Lox or UGK, he/she has to find that formula that caters to what the younger generation of hip-hop listeners are interested in. And, Atlanta has had that winning formula for almost twenty years now.

Throw them bows!

Darryl Robertson (@darryl_robertson)