| Detric Fox-Quinlan |
You cannot think of music and not mention the artistic talent, creativity, and uniqueness that reside within the 132.4 square miles that is the City of Atlanta. When speaking on music that is relative to the hip hop generation, it’s the “DIRRTY” that allowed one to connect with the south and soul that every lyric and note these artists let flow from their lips encompassed. It was that introduction to the (404) and its infused southern flavor that changed one’s interpretation of hip-hop and tapped into the Neo-Soul vibe in a small café called the Ying Yang on 3rd. There is no denying that Atlanta has affirmed its place in the history of music, but is it a Mecca of music as so many people tend to label it?
The answer to that question would depend on who you ask. It is true that artists from around the country flock to Atlanta to work with some of the industry’s greatest producers. The city hosts an array of events including the Atlanta Jazz Festival, BET’s Hip Hop Music Awards, and the AC3 Heineken Hip Hop Festival, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg as it relates to music in Atlanta. Ask anyone here and they will tell you that Atlanta is alive with the sound of music.
So why is that the case? “This is where black people have migrated. It’s where young black people went to college, followed their parents, started careers, and could be fly on a budget,” says radio host Malik Rhasaan. Our brief conversation on the subject matter covered the midnight train, and why chicken and waffles are relevant to the culture of music here in Atlanta.
Close your eyes for a minute and take a virtual stroll with me through Little Five Points to take in the artistic flair and original music that fills the air from an up and coming musician. Hold my hand as we jet across town to take in the sounds of a young band just as their soulful lead singer takes center stage in a restaurant on Peters Street. Our final destination showcases Asian independent hip-hop artist Mike Barz, who flows lyrics like running water atop a rooftop deck with the Atlanta skyline behind him sharing lyrically how Atlanta raised him from a baby to man. It’s that diversity that makes Atlanta a music Mecca, not in competition with New York City, but definitely defined in its own right by its own mega stars who remain babies in the world of music.
I asked a young friend of mine to chat over coffee to discuss her take on the music scene in Atlanta. Barely in her 30s, she’s an Atlanta original, which I must say is hard to come by in this town of many people from many lands. What she told me was that at every significant point in her life there was a hit song that came out of Atlanta that helped make that time memorable. How many people can say that, she asked? She went on to say that a lot of music that comes out of Atlanta today seems trendy, but the “greats,” at least the greats in her mind (The Dungeon Family, Usher, Outkast, etc.) would continue to define good music. “Andre 3000 would be an artist that you can count on to be relevant twenty years from now,” she said. I agree with that.
Having the same discussion with someone from a different “era” would net a different answer. The older generation folks are definitely more “old school” when it comes to their taste in music and what they believe will forever be the best music of “their time.” If you ask them who the “greats” are, they immediately start rattling off names like Gladys Knight & The Pips, and the S.O.S. Band, while they almost instinctively begin singing a few melodies, snapping their fingers, and showing off a few quick reminiscent dance movements. “Yeah, those were the days!”
No matter who you ask, there’s no denying that many of the “greats” have come out of Atlanta, and set the stage for future generations to come. There is just something about this small city filled with individuals chasing dreams and desires, all aspiring to be great. Atlanta continues to inspire and bring life to great music through incredibly amazing artists. For the love of black music, the destination is absolutely Atlanta, which is a Mecca indeed, as there is no denying it is a place that attracts lots of visitors. Without a doubt this is why The Black Music Association & Academy of America (BMA) is presenting the first ever “Atlanta Black Music Awards Show” on Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, at Center Stage Theatre. The event will honor past, present and future icons in the music industry and shouldn’t be missed.