ATLANTA - The Heartbeat of Pop Culture
In recent years, no city has contributed more to popular culture than Atlanta.
In 2010, trap music, Atlanta’s signature sound, was largely invisible outside of its birthplace. Pioneers such as T.I., Jeezy, Gucci Mane and Waka Flaka had garnished national awareness through solid releases and features on the projects of established artists. Few in the trap sub-genre had the polish to chart and, frankly, radio wasn’t supporting it. But the internet allowed trap music to spread - slowly seeping into other urban centers of America via an underground railroad of digital platforms that hosted mixtapes from then-emerging artists such as Future, Migos, and 2 Chainz. In 2012 the sonic landscape started to change as three of the top 25 selling rap albums of that year were trap music and, in the years since, that trend has continued. As radio’s importance in validating music declined, nightclubs quietly assumed that role and within that space, trap music found a comfortable habitat. At the same time, Millennials were coming of age and seeking places to turn up. But in Atlanta, nightclubs weren’t the primary proving ground for new music. In a city known for alternative nightlife options, strip clubs reign supreme, and it is here that rappers test new music amongst who they feel are their toughest critics – the dancers. The logic being, if a song works there, it will work everywhere. Trap music and its associated artists delivered Atlanta’s strip club culture to the mainstream – asserting itself as a leading force in hip hop and transforming society in so many ways. Turn on the radio and it’s nearly impossible to avoid hearing a song by Migos or an artist who hasn’t been influenced by trap’s hypnotic, staccato-like triplet flow. Google trending hairstyles and you’ll likely see braids, cornrows, dreads, and extravagant multi-colored dyes – styles that have existed in different markets and times over the last decades but were popularized in recent years by artists from Atlanta. Venture into a popular nightclub and you’ll come across a trap-laden soundtrack, hookahs, and bottle servers dressed in body suits – staples of Atlanta nightlife. Check Millennial vernacular and you’ll find an abundance of slang with roots in the “A.” Turn on the TV and there’s the critically acclaimed, award-winning show Atlanta, starring, written, and directed by Stone Mountain’s own, Donald Glover. Now home to a critical mass of successful actors, rappers, and entertainment executives few would argue Atlanta’s position as the epicenter of the black glitterati.
Trap music is just the latest conduit of cultural contribution coming out of Atlanta. Since the 90’s, Atlanta has been a powerful force reshaping the cultural landscape of America and laying the foundation for its dominance today. In 1989, Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds founded LaFace Records, which was followed by the establishment of So So Def Records by Jermaine Dupri in 1993. Combined, these two labels would dominate 90’s R&B and put a unique stamp on hip-hop, launching groundbreaking and critically acclaimed artists such as Toni Braxton, Usher, Donell Jones, Goodie Mob, Shanice, Da Brat, Xscape, Kriss Kross, Jagged Edge, TLC and Outkast. Through their music and accompanying imagery, these artists shined a spotlight not only on Atlanta, but a facet of African American culture that had long been ignored by mainstream media. In the years to follow, Atlanta’s sound, style and attitude would impact music and culture from coast to coast. There’s no bigger example of its influence than The Carters most recent release, Apes**t. Jay-Z and Beyonce, arguably the two biggest artists in the world, not only chose to feature the Atlanta born Migos, but also adopted their trademark flow for the single that would announce their surprise joint project and expose a segment of Atlanta culture to the world.