This week, OutKast made history as their album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below became the best-selling rap album of all-time. The Atlanta-based duo was certified 13x platinum (13 million units sold), overtaking Eminem’s 2002 The Eminem Show which went sold 12 million.
With hip-hop celebrating 50 years, OutKast’s achievement is another example of why Atlanta is the most important city when it comes to rap.
However, in the earlier days of hip-hop, OutKast and the city of Atlanta was often viewed as an afterthought in terms of impact. Rap was dominated in the 1980s and early ’90s by artists from the genre’s birthplace, New York, and California artists such as N.W.A. and M.C. Hammer who became national figures.
OutKast and, other rap music from Atlanta, was often viewed as “country” or too slow. In 1994, OutKast faced boos at the infamous Source Awards after winning the award for “Best New Rap Group” at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Angered by the overt disrespect from the raucous New York audience, Andre 3000 of OutKast declared “The South got something to say.”
That phrase became a battle cry for Atlanta artists and producers who would eventually create music that would resonate globally. For nearly three decades, Atlanta has dominated hip-hop.
This past summer, Complex named Atlanta the top city for rap.
“Atlanta has long commanded attention and pushed boundaries in rap,” the article states. “In the ‘90s, pioneering acts like OutKast and Goodie Mob set the foundation for Atlanta’s takeover…A-town dethroned established regions like New York and Los Angeles, solidifying its position as the mecca of rap.”
And Drake, during his tour stop in Atlanta, told the audience at State Farm Arena that Atlanta is the most important city when it comes to rap.
But beyond bragging rights, Atlanta’s music scene has a major impact to the city and state’s economy. With a thriving music industry, multiple jobs are created. According to Georgia Music Partners (GMP), in partnership with Fulton County, Fulton County’s music industry grew by 110% from 2001 to 2018 – six times the growth rate of Fulton County’s economy as a whole.
Recording studios have played a major role in helping the economy’s growth. The study reveals that Fulton County ranks sixth among U.S. counties with registered sound recording industry establishments, with 1.4% of the total recording industry establishments in the U.S.
Furthermore, one-third of Georgia’s music industry is located within Fulton County, with more than 130 recording studios, as well as rehearsal spaces, music performance venues, industry organizations and more.
To help the music scene grow similar to the growth of the film industry, Georgia Music Partners introduced an amendment, HB-347, to the Georgia Music Investment Act. The amendment makes “the music tax credit transferable and sellable, and increase it to 30% while reducing some of the thresholds so that everybody recording and rehearsing here would get the same benefit that Hollywood is getting [in Georgia].”
Atlanta’s hip-hop scene has witnessed several eras throughout its 30-year run. Starting with OutKast and the Dungeon Family, and So So Def in the 1990s, the torch would be passed to Lil Jon and the crunk music era in the early 2000s. The snap music era would have a run in the early 2000s before the Trap music scene would takeover and stand for years.
However, the city’s rap scene could be in influx with the YSL RICO case and several beefs that have gone beyond wax. The passing of Takeoff also proved to be a major blow.
But overall, the city music scene remains strong today with artists such as Latto, Lil Baby, Killer Mike, and Gunna all remaining at the top of their game.
More importantly, jobs created by the music industry continues to thrive.