Nov 3, 2023 - News

Hip-hop influencers discuss Atlanta's creative impact

From left to right, journalist Jacinta Howard, Jordan "Silk" Victoria From the Silk Tymes Leather, Atlantic Records marketing director Cannon Kent, and music executive Shanti Das at Center Stage. Photo: Axios/Wilborn Nobles

Several hip-hop influencers filled Atlanta's Center Stage on Thursday to reflect on the city's impact on the genre and the world at large.

Why it matters: The rise of Atlanta hip-hop mirrors the Black community's experience as the city transformed into an international hub for culture.

  • FunkJazz Kafé CEO and musicologist Jason Orr put it like this: "It's the community that builds and makes movements," which includes the culture writers, fashion designers, and visual artists that uplift our musicians.

What they're saying: "Swag Surfin' should be the national anthem," said Earthgang's Olu "Johnny Venus" Fann.

  • "We have some of the best and most dominant artists in the space right now," said local rapper Deante' Hitchcock.
  • Bem Joiner, co-owner of the "Atlanta Influences Everything" apparel brand, said Atlanta's hip-hop culture is beloved in foreign regions like Sweden.
  • Phillana Williams, the director of the mayor's office of film, entertainment and nightlife, said she encountered young people in Japan wearing "afros" and clothing inspired by Atlanta.

Yes, but: They also addressed hip-hop's blindspots: "In the '90s decade, Atlanta in particular missed the mark in opportunities to really put out more female rappers," said music executive Shanti Das.

  • Atlantic Records marketing director Cannon Kent said female artists like NYC's Cardi B and Nicki Minaj have become marketing powerhouses. She said we won't have that energy in the city "until we start investing and finding investors to build here in Atlanta."
  • However, Kent acknowledges the dual problem of audiences and record labels seeking oversexualized music from women: "I would like to see a 2024 version of a Lauryn Hill," she said. "We definitely need this type of artist to give some balance."

The hottest random take: "We all went to a Falcons game in person. Those games are boring as hell," said writer Maurice Garland.

The bottom line: Music journalist Jewel Wicker and Rachel Jackson, YouTube's artist and livestream partnerships manager, said the city's arts culture is undergoing a renaissance amid several highs and lows.

  • "We're very unbreakable in this space. We still have things to say," Jackson said, adding moments later during the panel that "We ain't got nothing to worry about."

That said, "If you want to build this city up, stop talking about it," said Atlanta native and multimedia personality Rashan Ali. "Do what you can to make it better."


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