Many would agree that Atlanta is one of the hip hop capitals of the world. The city is home to dozens of famous rappers and record labels. Since the 1980s, Atlanta has bred chart-topping musicians and drawn in a variety of music artists itching to make their big break. Home to dozens of record labels and recording studios, it’s a musician’s dream. The city is overflowing with hip hop, which is reflected in nearly every neighborhood. You can’t drive through Atlanta without seeing hip hop music billboards, concert announcements or gatherings. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need to know about hip hop in A-Town.
Famous Atlanta Hip Hop Artists
There are way too many Atlanta hip hop artists to count, but many of these musicians are now household names. Babyface and L.A. Reid founded LaFace Records in Atlanta in the late 1980s, which eventually put artists like Toni Braxton and Ciara on the grid. Artists like Outkast and Lil Jon set the bar high in the 1990s, transforming Atlanta into a music city and drawing in top music executives to establish record label headquarters inside the city limits.
Outkast is widely considered to be a pioneer of hip hop in A-Town. The duo met at Lenox Mall and went to Tri-Cities High School together, where Andre Benjamin (a.k.a. Andre 3000) eventually got kicked out for skipping class to work on his music. They’d perform rap battles during lunchtime and before they knew it, were signed to LaFace Records. In 1995, during an intense east coast versus west coast rivalry, Andre famously accepted an award with “The South got somethin’ to say.” From that point forward, Southern rap music entered stage left and never looked back. Most rappers today credit that acceptance speech and Outkast with paving the way for Southern hip hop.
Platinum-selling, Atlanta-based artists like T.I., Usher and Ludacris dominated the charts in the 2000s. Today, local prodigies like Childish Gambino, Migos, Future and Gucci Mane are dominating the music scene. Hip hop today has a new twist: trap music. Atlanta trap is one of the most-streamed genres across the U.S. Migos coined the phrase “Traplanta,” marking its dominance on the hip hop scene and etching the name in the history books.
Trap is one of the most famous hip hop subgenres sweeping the charts. While first developed in the late 1990s, it didn’t’ truly take hold nationwide until recently. Atlanta trap artists like Migos brought the style to the forefront with Bad and Boujee.
Trap music features subdivided hi-hats, heavy kick drums, muted synthesizers and a dark vibe. The ambience of trap music is intentionally melancholy while the term is an ode to secret locations of drug deals. The style is not cut-and-dry; musicians take their own unique twist on the genre to create newer, fresher beats.
In fact, trap has influenced genres other than hip hop. R&B queen Beyoncé produced trap-like vibes in her hit songs Drunk in Love and Flawless, while pop singer Katy Perry channeled the darkness in her 2013 hit Dark Horse. Trap has even reached across languages. For instance, Latin trap is a new genre of music spearheaded by Puerto Rican sensation Bad Bunny.
The Local Hip Hop Scene
Atlanta is proof that music is more than just music: it’s about the culture and the communities. Atlanta is a cultural epicenter for African Americans for reasons that reach beyond music. However, hip hop has infiltrated many aspects of the urban lifestyle. It’s reached barber shops, food stops and marketplaces. It’s expanded into the underground scene, drawing eager young rappers to battle it out for street fame.
Atlanta’s hip hop culture is everywhere, but no more prominent than Magic City. You’ll hear the name of this iconic Atlanta nightclub on tracks by Drake, Rick Ross, Travis Scott, Snoop Dogg and other artists. If you want to get close to hip hop, Magic City is a must. You might even be graced with a visit by one of Atlanta’s legendary rappers.
Stop by Walter’s for the freshest kicks and clothing on the market. The store is close to Georgia State, and everyone from DJ Khaled to Future have been spotted there shopping for clothes. The store is referenced in a number of songs from acts like Young Jeezy, Outkast and Future.
Lenox Mall has its own hip hop history. It’s the spot where Antwon and Andre of Outkast met for the very first time. It’s also the spot where Atlanta-based T.I. began handing out flyers for his first CDs. Today, you can see stars like Drake, Gucci Mane and others shopping around for some new digs.
Hit up the SWAG Shop for a touch up and you just might bump into Killer Mike. The rapper owns this four-chair barber shop, which just opened inside State Farm Arena. Who wouldn’t want to catch a Hawks game and shape up their fade? Killer Mike is more than a musician – he’s a rights leader and cultural icon across the U.S.