The hip-hop industry is a multi-billion dollar industry with Atlanta at the focal point.

For more than a decade, Atlanta has been the mecca of the genre, beating out traditional rap coasts based in the east and the west to become its very own "Third Coast" of hip-hop music.

Much of that is thanks to home-grown artists like Outkast, Goodie Mob, Ludacris, T.I., Jermaine Dupri, Lil Jon, Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane. Through the years, both the artists and producers have churned out hundreds of hits produced right here in The A, and generated mad cash to go with it.

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According to Forbes, five current artists alone are worth more than $2 billion in total. On top of that, the 20 top-earning hip-hop acts combined made roughly $450 million pre-tax last year.

If the money alone wasn't enough to draw aspiring artists to the city, the hip-hop culture, born from the established artists who continue to call Atlanta home, will keep them. Making both the city and the genre synonymous.

Atlanta is hip-hop. Hip-hop is Atlanta.

And of course, as new artists rise to stardom, hundreds more have the hunger to be the next big act. But what does it take to make it? And will Atlanta continue to remain at the forefront of the hip-hop movement?

In this five-part series, 11Alive's Neima Abdulahi will explore those questions, looking at everything from what it takes to make a hit record, to the dangers that come with trying to rise to success from the streets.


The limelight. Gold chains. Bankrolls. Brand new whips with big rims. Making it rain endlessly.

This is a lifestyle typically quite opposite from an aspiring rap artists’ humble upbringing. For many, rapping and making it big is an escape and a way out of poverty.

Stardom becomes a goal when other locals rise to the top. From Zone 1’s Bankhead representer, T.I., to Zone 6’s Gucci Mane, the rap game becomes spellbinding for aspiring artists and the hunger to make it becomes a constant grind.


What does it take to make it?

Making it in the hip-hop industry involves having successful radio singles, one that has catchy repetitive hooks and an ATL-influenced instrumentals. But it's more than that.

Top local radio DJs describe what the litmus test is to create a successful record, and we explore the oddly important role Atlanta's club scene plays in decided which songs become hits. On top of that, social media campaigns and music videos help push the artists brand. But what is that brand? Is it original?

Most successful Atlanta artists have two things in common -- authenticity and street credibility. And if you don't have them both, chances are, you won't make it very far. Through the eyes of industry insiders, we break down how artists can break in to the rap game.


He's one of the most recognizable names in Atlanta's rap scene: Gucci Mane.

When you're a high-profile artist like him, all eyes are on you at all times -- from your successes to your run-ins with the law.

In this exclusive interview, Gucci talks openly about how life changes once you make it big, and the challenges you face. Hear him talk about his humble beginnings, his arrests and how he now claims to be a brand new man and artist.


When you're an Atlanta rapper, part of your credibility rests on you being “from the streets.” It's all talk unless you can back it up. Whether from the Bluff, Bouldercrest, Bowen Homes or the SWATS, being from the streets and being “bout that life” is a badge of honor.

But sometimes that lifestyle can come with the dangerous territory of drugs, guns, gangs and violence, and the fatal shooting of Bankroll Fresh was a wake-up call for some in the industry in Atlanta.

We talk to his childhood friend about the losing someone he loves and how that just comes with the territory of being in the rap game. Hear also from, Fresh's 6-year-old nephew Bankroll PJ, who has his eyes set on becoming a big time-rapper despite losing several family members to the street life.


It's clear that Atlanta has played a key role in shaping the rap and hip-hop landscape over the last few decades, and there's even evidence of its influence trickling down into other aspects of music and television.

But will the Third Coast always have the spotlight?

As radio DJ Hurricane Dave said, Atlanta is "feeding the hip-hop universe" from right here, and future artists feel like they have a responsibility to keep it that way.

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Special thanks to Luke Carter, Jeff Reid and David Brooks on this project.