Hip Hop is one of Atlanta’s greatest exports; so why isn’t it embraced like it?

 

The 2 Chainz Pink Trap House at night, June 2017
Photo by King Williams

By King Williams

 

When it opened in June 2017, the Pink Trap House became an instant phenomenon, not only in Atlanta, but in the United States and the global Hip Hop community.

In a few short weeks, the Pink Trap House became the actual artistic, cultural and community gathering spot that so many gentrified real estate projects in Atlanta attempt to be.

By offering a mix of painting classes, church services, yoga, HIV-test screenings and an actual “third place” to hang for young people. The Pink Trap House was the ‘Statue of Liberty’ for Atlanta as 2 Chainz puts it, was the most culturally relevant idea to come out of Atlanta in some time, which garnered national attention.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VCI9bloGGs&w=560&h=315]

This man drove from Philadelphia to see this, no one is coming that far the current nightlife amenities being built.

What was intended to be a marketing maneuver for Atlanta rapper 2 Chainz’s 4th album, ‘Pretty Girls Like Trap Music,’ became a bona-fide cultural and commercial signifier sorely needed for Atlanta.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gt9nmpk27k&w=560&h=315]

This marketing maneuver led to a career reinvention for the rapper, and it changed the trajectory of many music releases since then. The Pink Trap House signaled for many the cool of Atlanta that can’t be replicated, that cool being immersed within Hip Hop and R&B.

 

Atlanta is pop

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QYh6mYIJG2Y&w=560&h=315]

In January 2019, the Pink Trap House aesthetic returned in grand fashion, this time with pop superstar Ariana Grande. The video for “7 rings”, led to charges of appropriation regarding Ariana Grande’s rap flow stylings of 2 Chainz as well as Atlanta rapper Soulja Boy.

Ariana Grande over the last six to eight months has been shifting her model of releases from the standard pop music rollout into the model pioneered by rappers, including 2 Chainz. This shift in releasing her music like a rapper, has led to the most successful stretch of her entire career – but there is a precedent for this. 

The torchbearer for how all music artists interact with fans and utilize the internet for music success is Soulja Boy. Soulja Boy, digital music pioneer of the late 2000’s-mid 2010’s, who’s had his breakout and biggest career success while living in Atlanta.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c1zyq58asrg&w=560&h=315]

The Trap hasn’t left Atlanta, it’s now home on the pop charts

Since 2000, Atlanta’s international music influence has grown by leaps and bounds. Atlanta’s thriving music ecosystem has been harnessing old media (radio/cable television), embracing newer technology (YouTube/social media/cellphones) and constantly changing consumption patterns of music (ringtones/physical -to-digital mixtapes, free albums.)

All while continually embracing youth subcultures, cross cultural collaborations and constantly churning out new artists.

In 2019, the most influential sound through-line of nearly every successful artist is Trap Music, a sub-genre of rap that started in Atlanta.

Whether it be well known US artists like Ariana Grande, Maroon 5 or Taylor Swift, who’s last album, 2017’s “Reputation,” which sold 1.2 million copies in its first week – featuring elements of “Trap” music as well as Atlanta, including Atlanta Trap rapper Future. 

Atlanta is Hip Hop; Hip Hop is global – embrace it

Trap Music has also  created two completely new international genres of music, like Trap EDM, which has a foothold in the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) scenes, and Latin Trap, which has become a borderless staple amongst Latinx youth.

Both genres of Trap music have become their own ecosystems – containing thousands of artists, millions of sales and billions of streams.

And then there’s Saudi Arabia, where Trap Music becomes the celebration of women being able to drive for the first time in decades. 

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFVY5gmWPpw&w=560&h=315]

The sounds, vernacular and delivery of the genre of ‘ Trap Music can be found in songs as far as Korea, with K-pop groups such as BTS; Indonesia with Rich Brian; as well as Japan and China where Trap music is becoming its own genre to itself.

One of the biggest music artists on the planet, Cardi B, is managed by Atlanta-based Quality Control Music. Cardi B’s place as a bilingual rapper/singer and social media star is positioning Atlanta as a place we haven’t seen before.

This includes other Atlanta music labels such as Reach Records, in Christian music  or LVRN (Love Renaissance) in R&B, are also building bridges well beyond the borders I-285.

Hip Hop has a greater output than Nashville but no where near the same amount of support

We should be building or supporting the next Tidal, Spotify SoundCloud and TuneCore here. Rather than using tax breaks to lure companies with no real vested interest in Atlanta, why don’t we actually develop an entire media and tech scene that supports homegrown music.

Outside of The Pink Trap House on Howell Mill Road for rapper 2 Chainz 2017 album ‘Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.’
Photo by King Williams

For many, Hip Hop is still mired in antiquated notions of violence and rowdiness. But that does not reflect how much it has grown since the dawn of the new millennium.

But only recently has the newly-gentrified Atlanta embraced what has been happening –  but only at an arm’s distance.

Everyone loves to quote “the South’s got something to say,” but only if it is commodified and stripped of its blackness. Hip Hop is rebellious, and it moves to its own drum. More specifically, it does not reflect the beat of the good-ole-boy system that still governs Georgia.

At the city level of politics, Atlanta’s Hip Hop connections really depends on who is Mayor currently, which corresponds to the level of engagement and on the state level, Hip Hop doesn’t exist.

It would behoove politicos and the business community to measure the economic and cultural impact of Atlanta’s Hip Hop and R&B music in the United States and across the world. Atlanta is the trend and the sound is everywhere…everywhere.

But there is some hope in some parts of the business community. Local tech entrepreneur Paul Judge, as well as The Gathering Spot owners – Ryan Wilson and T.K. Petersen – have recently purchased the All Three Coasts conference – A3C.  

A3C is the SXSW of Hip Hop, it routinely draws north of 30,000 attendees and is one of the fastest-growing festivals in the country. It could be the flagship opportunity Atlanta needs.

The festival, which drew tens of thousands of attendees this year, had to move from Edgewood community because residents complained of the noise – despite its natural fit as a SXSW comparable event district.

If local leaders can learn from how the Atlanta United soccer franchise has embraced Hip Hop, I see no limit to how high Atlanta’s musical influence can grow.

King Williams is a multimedia documentary film director and author based in Atlanta, Georgia. King’s documentary “The Atlanta Way: A Documentary on Gentrification” will be released this Summer. He is an associate producer on the upcoming Sara Burns (daughter of documentarian Ken Burns)/Dave McMahon’s 2019 documentary – ‘East Lake’ – on the former East Lake Meadows housing project. King can be reached at [email protected] or @iamkingwilliams on Instagram and Twitter. His number is: 470-310-1795.

6 replies
  1. Avatar
    Paula Kupersmith says:

    Hey King, great question.

    Is it possible that this piece mixes whether we embrace a musical genre with whether we care about supplying resources to support it?

    Using myself as an example: I’m an Atlantan and Hip Hop fan. I also live across the street from 2 Chainz’s local nightclub. Despite the fact that I’m not into Trap or 2-Chainz’s lyrics and style, I respect him as a neighborhood business owner. That said, neighbors who are affected by the noise levels from his business have complained about lack of City noise ordinance enforcement – not Trap noise, just noise. I don’t hear the noise – Hip Hop, Trap, or otherwise – so despite the fact that no resolution for a business and its surrounding neighbors has been achieved, it is not my concern.

    What does concern me is that my part of a neighborhood, well known and frequented for its music and arts scene, has broken sidewalks strewn with overflowing public trash bins, is clogged by illegal parking lots, is absent of ATL Plus to provide fair access to street parking, tolerates visitors being ripped off by illegal gypsy parkers gouging them for astronomical parking fees, and is consistently subject to dangerous traffic issues at historic intersections originally meant for horses and buggies. For me, all of these things are solvable through our existing resources: waste management, policing, code enforcement, planning and zoning, transportation, public safety, neighborhood engagement – not whether I embrace Trap.

    I love living in one of Atlanta’s biggest artistic export neighborhoods – and I’m frustrated by the fact that my street feels, looks, and acts like a dumping ground unfit to walk or drive through. Still, I believe I could be extremely proud of its role in the Trap scene – once our city leaders choose to devote the basic resources to support it.Report

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    atlman says:

    I don’t agree with Johnston’s politics but he is nonetheless right. While I admit that a lot of the country music content is problematic, there are lots of people who won’t embrace rap music because of its content. And considering how important Atlanta is to black entreprenuers, educators, professionals, (fine and classical) artists and religious people, lots of them would be extremely offended at the claims that rap songs which glorify drug dealing, murder, strip clubs etc. have anything to do with “blackness.” Your statement about rap music’s global reach … is that a good thing? Thanks to streaming services lately I have been watching a lot of Asian media and let me challenge you as to whether having rap music and videos represent black people in those countries is a good thing. With country and rock music it isn’t the same because people in those countries regularly see Hollywood blockbusters – as well as accomplished white people outside of entertainment – routinely to create a totally different image. But if trap music videos are the only image of black America that South Korea sees why would a person from that country hire a black woman to work for his company, be a host family for a black man studying internationally, or open a branch office in downtown Atlanta and staff it with Spelman and Morehouse grads?

    There are fascinating blogs by black Americans living, working and studying overseas in areas outside the Americas and the EU and as such have very tiny black populations. (Amazingly, the mainstream media totally ignores such blogs.) The writer of this piece should consult those blogs to see if such women appreciate being represented in our media by Cardi B and Nicki Minaj when they attempt to socialize or their male counterparts by Young Thug and T.I. when they are confronted by police. Such as this fellow who says he no longer wears hoodies even when it is cold:

    https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2017/01/22/our-lives/meet-man-gets-frisked-tokyo-police-five-times-year/#.XH5jQ8BKhYk

    Think about those people the next time you proclaim that hip-hop should be linked with Atlanta and blackness. And if this is what the likes of Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jamelle Bouie deride as “respectability politics” then so be it. Just know that the global community that young black people are growing up in today isn’t obliged to accept America’s racial politics or narrative as its own and for that reason America’s black community needs to be mindful of the image that it is being sent to the rest of the world.Report

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Greg Hodges says:

    Why isn’t it widely embraced ? Well, for starters, the “thug/gangsta’ mentality is not appreciated by everyone. Was this element incorporated by old school musical artists and acts such as Otis Redding, The Supremes, Barry White, The Temptations, Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, etc.? While that era of performers might have had some issues (I do recall Marvin Gaye being killed by his own father), by and large, the violence and carnage plaguing the rap/hip hop generation is unprecedented in American music. Since 1990 at least 40 rap and hip-hop artist have died violently (!)…….from Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur, ……..to Lil Phat and Bankroll Fresh right here in Atlanta.
    And we won’t even go into the widespread use of filthy and profane lyrics and song titles….not to mention the frequent use of an ugly, racist term that some people use to describe a black person with. What a very distressing example all of this sets for a generation of very impressionable young people .
    As the talented Marvin Gaye once sang………”What’s going on ?”Report

    Reply

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