Is Atlanta the strongest region in hip-hop history? Draft your own team in our new Bracket Competition!
The following is the second installment of a new series, The Hip-Hop Olympics Bracket. Throughout the next several weeks, we will be examining several of hip-hop’s most prominent locales. Historical context, musical aesthetic, key players, and prominent themes will be analyzed. Once the series is complete, there will be a vote to decide which region reigns supreme.
We need your involvement for this one. In order to find a winner, we invite our readers weigh in with their ideal roster for each region: six players, two producers, and two coaches. The comments will be tallied, and once the final vote comes to pass, fan-voted teams will be pitted against one another in order to crown a single champion. We've already covered California, New York, and Toronto.
For this week’s installment, we shall be examining Atlanta.
VOTE FOR YOUR IDEAL TEAM IN THE COMMENTS SECTION
Players: Your rappers. The ones you know will murder a track. Maybe it's flow, maybe it's lyrics, maybe it's straight up charisma.
Coaches: Now that you've picked your rappers, you need somebody to keep them in line. To oversee the whole thing. You gotta make sure you've got some OGs holding it down.
Producers: You've got your lineup, but who is going to bless them with the beat?
Week Four: Atlanta
It was the 1995 Source Awards. Tension was already brewing between the myriad camps in attendance, largely driven by the ongoing feud between Bad Boy and Death Row records. The ongoing narrative centered around the ongoing feud between East and West coast, with larger than life figures like Suge Knight, Puff Daddy, The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac Shakur at the helm. Yet something changed, the minute OutKast stepped on stage to collect their “Best New Rap Group” Award. Imagine this; the legendary Andre 3000 and Big Boi, fresh off the drop of debut Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, were met with boos from the crowd.
Andre wasn’t fazed. In one fell swoop, he held it down for the entire South, providing viewers with one of the ceremonies’ definitive moments. “It’s like this,” said Andre. “The South got somethin’ to say.” Eight years later, Outkast made history, becoming the first hip-hop act to win the “Best Album” Grammy Award.
In hindsight, Andre’s proclamation feels undeniably prophetic. It’s no surprise, given his inherent sense of mysticism. What followed was one of hip-hop’s most respected discographies, spawning classics like ATLiens, Aquemeni, Stankonia, and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Outkast became ubiquitous, with songs for the streets and soccer moms alike; “Hey Ya” comes to mind as an anthem for suburban summer barbecues. Yet the duo, no matter how close to ubiquity, never strayed far from home; throughout their extensive career, Outkast consistently blended soulful samples with introspective yet occasionally abstract poetry.
Backed by the production talents of Organized Noize (the combined talents of Rico Wade, Ray Murray and Sleepy Brown),. A collective emerged, stylized after the home-studio base in Rico Wade’s basement, better known as The Dungeon. And thus, the Dungeon Family was born, uniting Organized Noize, Outkast, and Goodie Mobb, which consisted of CeeLo Green, Big Gipp, Khujo, and T-Mo. Together in tandem with Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Goodie Mobb’s Soul Food proved an essential catalyst for bringing Southern hip-hop into the spotlight.
It didn’t take long for Atlanta’s importance to spread, with a new class of key players entering the fold. Iconic artists like Ludacris and Killer Mike built the foundations with Back For The First Time & Monster respectively, while the trifecta of Jeezy, Tip, and Gucci Mane were experiencing their own respective voyages through the Atlanta streets. With the aforementioned three at the helm, a new thematic focus begun to take shape, birthing what would later be widely recognized as “Trap Music.” It begs the question - did any of them know what Trap would one day become?
Those in the know will doubtless recall the recent discourse over Trap’s progenitor, which found man of the people T.I. going tête-à-tête with Gucci Mane for the title. In truth, both men were worthy claimants, and played pivotal roles in shaping one of hip-hop’s most prominent subgenres. Yet the pioneer is hardly as important as the impact, and now, Trap Music reigns as a dominant musical fixture, so much so that “trap drums are the shit that’s hot now,” as per J. Cole.
On that note, it would be remiss to neglect the importance of Atlanta’s producers; from the stalwart presence of Organized Noize to the ongoing dominance of Metro Boomin, Southside, London On Da Track, Mike WiLL Made-It, who have emerged as some of the most sought after beatmakers in the game. The versatility of Atlanta’s production circuit astounds, from Metro’s haunting carnival landscapes, to Zaytoven’s classically-trained piano virtuosity, to Mike WiLL’s minimalistic efficiency; despite the disparate aesthetics, the Atlanta production landscape retains a harmonious sense of unity.
Given the current cultural landscape, it’s almost ludicrous to think of Atlanta as anything other than a hip-hop hub. Yet it took time to build the empire. Even now, the movement continues to grow, with new sounds being honed by an emerging class of new talent. Artists like Future, Young Thug, and Migos have ushered an exciting blend of autotune-laden, melodic trap, which has come to define an entire sonic era. Even legends like Gucci Mane seem to have hit a second wind; since his release from prison in 2016, a clean Guwop has delivered eight projects to the masses. Prolific and efficient. Such is the Atlanta way.
It stands to reason that ATL will continue to flourish. Big Boi, Three Stacks, CeeLo Green, Ludacris, Killer Mike, Tip., Gucci Mane, and Jeezy have grown comfortably into OG status, while Future, Young Thug, and Migos have already begun to emerge as influential mentors. A new wave of talented artists like Trouble, Gunna, and Lil Baby have already lined 2018 with a string of impressive releases, with the former’s Edgewood holding it down as a potential album of the year contender.
Andre 3000 had no idea exactly how right he was. The South indeed had something to say. In fact, they’ve been steering the conversation for over two decades now.
Once again, don't forget to vote for your roster.