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Music History of Georgia Part 2: Hip Hop to Traplanta

atlantan rap artist migos in blue hoodie

Since its beginnings, Hip Hop has played a significant role in black culture and creative expression. Rising in popularity during the 1990s, the genre was a way for Black and Latino youth to express their lived experiences and showcase the street culture that had existed for some time but hadn’t been represented anywhere else, let alone in the mainstream. Prior to the 90s, much of the music industry was found in either New York City or Los Angeles where the two-coast split started. So how did Atlanta become Hip Hop’s current “center of gravity”?


The Early Nineties

Most attribute the start of Atlantan Hip Hop to LaFace Records who signed TLC and Kriss Kross, both receiving wild success from their debut releases in 1992. Jermaine Dupri, of LaFace, went on to set up So So Def Records, with both labels incubating some of the most successful artists in not only the country but the world. Around the same time, OutKast – considered to be one of the most successful Hip Hop groups of all time – placed Atlanta firmly on the map when they “controversially” won Best New Rap Group at the Source Awards in NYC. Despite being booed at the ceremony, André 3000 responded with “the South got something to say,” and six Grammy Awards later it was clear that people were listening. Another notable artist of this era is Goodie Mob, who’s debut album Soul Food in 1995, became certified gold. The Atlanta sound was distinct from the bi-coastal gangsta rap of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., perfecting a mix of funky and soulful Hip Hop that allowed the Dirty South to reach unseen success.


The Late Nineties & Naughties

Towards the end of the 90s and the start of the new millennium, Atlanta began to boom as a music hub for black artists, having been the Black Mecca of the US since the 70s. Hip Hop music allowed creatives to express a different side of the “city of black success,” discussing the inequality and poverty that were affecting many. The mix of Hip Hop, R&B, and Pop that began in the 90s paved the way for artists like Usher, Ludacris, Ciara, Shop Boyz, and Toni Braxton to emerge as Atlanta icons, each gaining major popular success. OutKast’s legendary 2003 double-album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below affirmed the popularity of weaving between genres of funk, R&B, and gospel as Atlanta Hip Hop became mainstream. At the same time, Lil John and East Side Boys kicked off the naughties with crunk, getting the whole nation dancing to up-tempo and party music. This shift in popular styling alongside the spread of the internet allowed artists like Soulja Boy with Crank That (Soulja Boy) to become viral hit sensations overnight. It was around this time in 2009 that the New York Times claimed that Atlanta had become “Hip Hop’s center of gravity”.



Since the shift in the naughties, the Hip Hop industry has changed dramatically. The genre moved away from street culture exposés to expressions of wealth and displays of luxury but it’s the ability of Atlanta artists being able to move so freely between sounds that has allowed the city to continue its success. This freedom has allowed today’s rappers and artists to extend the evolution, developing Trap. Artists like Gucci Mane, Migos, Lil Yachty, Childish Gambino, Future, Young Thug, 21 Savage, Lil Baby, and 2 Chainz, have cornered a niche for themselves with iconic droning lyrics, triplet flows, and their use of autotune. Today, Traplanta boasts over 300 recording studios and 60 music venues, continuing to nurture emerging talent not just of Trap but of all styles of music.

The history of music in Georgia may have seen many evolutions but it has always played a vital role in the expression of black culture and heritage. The early days of Gospel are still drawn on as inspiration for current tracks and pay homage to the rights that were fought for by icons of the past. The culture developed in the past has meant that Atlanta music continues to thrive today. To find out more about the rich cultural and political history of Atlanta, get in touch with us today, or check out our Black History & Civil Rights tour for your own first-hand experience!

– your Roundabout Atlanta team
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