The undisputed capital of hip-hop music.
It's the city that gave the world T.I. Jeezy. Shawty Lo. Gucci.
And for nearly a decade now, all eyes have been on The A.
“The Atlanta hip-hop scene is like the Mecca -- what everybody watch, what everybody follow. What everybody imitates,” said Mr. Zone 6 himself, Gucci Mane.
It’s a city where police zones are represented like a badge, because it verifies street credibility. Rappers claim where they grew up, what they endured and how they made it out of the trap.
“In Atlanta, the trap was always described as a place where illicit business was done. But there were real people in those places that were trying to, really struggling trying to find a way.” That’s from DJ Kawan Prather, also known as KP. The Grammy award-winning producer helped discover one of the biggest names of Atlanta rap, Clifford “T.I.” Harris, Jr.
For KP, Atlanta has one of those unique sounds that sets it apart from other cities, including traditional rival "coasts" of L.A. and New York City. That Atlanta sound -- which arguably wasn't respected until Andre 3000 let everyone at the Source awards that "The South had something to say" -- often comes with heavy bass, 808s and hi-hats and repetitive hooks.
“The definition of Atlanta hip-hop is celebratory, unapologetically black. And unapologetically yourself,” KP said. If you can make it in the Atlanta scene, he said, you can make it anywhere.
And everyone we interviewed seemed to agree: “Atlanta is music,” said Quiktrip, a local rapper part of the same label as slain rapper Bankroll Fresh. “We music right now.”
For many up-and-coming artists, they’re willing to risk it all because the rap game is an escape. A way out of poverty. And a way to live a lifestyle quite opposite of what they’re used to.
The self-proclaimed trap originators – Gucci Mane, Jeezy and T.I. – have set a standard of success: going from the trap to living in mansions and rocketing past thousands of others to reach for that rag-to-riches dream.
And when you come from neighborhoods like Bankhead or low income housing communities in South Atlanta, the limelight, nice cars, houses and the bankroll looks appealing.
“It’s definitely hard to make it to the top. And a lot of people do give up,” said aspiring rapper J. Young, who also wrote the intro for 11Alive. “But I know, as far as me, I’m built for this.”
And so does KD Gotti from Clayton County. “Being in the city, everybody trying to make it,” Gotti said. “That’s the biggest challenge out of everything, because you have crabs in a bucket.”
And that’s the catch.
It’s one thing to want to be a rapper. It’s another thing entirely to achieve success in the rap game. Because, well...not every catchy, repetitive hook becomes a hit single. It takes more than a heavy bass and clever lyrics to create a hot record.
“There’s a lot that goes into it,” said V-103 DJ Greg Street.
Greg has been an influential mentor and successful radio DJ in Atlanta for decades. He’s watched his fair share of artists come and go…and has a strong message for those wanting the limelight.
That’s where the next part of this story comes in…
#ThirdCoastATL EP. 2 | Formula for success
HOME | #ThirdCoastATL
WATCH NOW | #ThirdCoastATL