As the National Museum of African American Music opens its doors, journalists from the USA TODAY Network explore the stories, places and people who helped make music what it is today in our expansive series, Hallowed Sound.
After years of disrespect from the East and West coast music scenes, Atlanta’s rap and hip-hop artists broke out in the mid-1990s. In the years that followed, the city’s music scene grew and evolved, developing crunk and trap styles that remain wildly popular today. Dig the top 30 classic songs that bumped out of Atlanta!
New rappers Young Thug, 21 Savage, and Lil Baby are keeping Atlanta at the top as what some may consider the new home for hip-hop. However, it wouldn’t be ATL or an ATL list without the trio, Migos.
Future Hendrix provided Atlanta with a new age of trap music and in 2012, solidified his spot with a new trapper lifestyle anthem. With “Itchin” came promise of Future’s potential to become a prominent figure in hip-hop. Almost a decade later, he’s still heating up the airwaves.
The Ludacris that people see today is far from the Luda that many ATL folks grew up on. The big fro, cornrows-wearing Ludacris created hits such as “What’s Your Fantasy” that got heavy play on BET’s 106 & Park.
When you hear that “Bum, Bum, Bum, Bum..,” just know that Waka Flocka is about to go off on “Hard in Da Paint.” Thanks to producer Lex Luger, ATL has another track to get hype to.
DJ Unk’s “Walk It Out” had everyone hitting the dance floor and was featured in the 2007 film “Stomp the Yard.”
The mid-2000 single catapulted Yung Joc as a hot artist to be recognized and earned him the BET Hip Hop Award for Best Single of the Year.
The hip-hop duo composed of J-Bo and Sean P blazed the rap scene with the hit featuring the Crunk King, Lil Jon.
The rapper provided a soundtrack for anyone out there trying to hustle for a better way of life: ”I gotta get-get me a big bank roll.”
The track created the slogan used whenever someone violates “Black Hollywood.”
Another anthem for ATL natives, “Never Scared” showed us the earlier days of T.I.’s rapping abilities and that the hungry rising star was definitely here to stay.
“Lean Wit It, Rock Wit It” gained major popularity and earned the four-man band national recognition with nominations including BET Hip Hop Award for People’s Champ and Soul Train Music Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Dance Cut.
The song garnered big commercial success, hitting the No.1 spot on Billboard Hot 100 in January of 2006 and dethroning Mariah Carey’s two-week run of “Don’t Forget About Us.”
The rapper dropped one of Atlanta’s most memorable songs, which also a part of the “ATL” movie soundtrack that debuted in 2006. “What You Know” won Best Rap Solo Performance at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, and peaked at No.1 in April 2006 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Songs.
A huge radio hit, “Dey Know brought Shawty Lo commercial success. Though he had a short rift with T.I., the “King of the South,” himself named Shawty Lo a “True Westside Atlanta Legend” following his passing in 2016.
Embodying the “Trap or Die” persona, Jeezy’s raspy voice paired nicely to Akon’s smooth vocals illustrating the life of a trapper through the lyrics. In October 2005, “Soul Survivor” earned the No.1 spot on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
As the trap sound spread, Atlanta kept up its momentum in hip-hop. In 2005, two ATL legends, Gucci or Guwop and Jeezy, came together for a classic single, “So Icy,” produced by none other than the producer Zaytoven. Flaunting the lifestyle of a trapper, the song propelled both Gucci and Jeezy to the next level in their careers.
Grab you a dance “patna,” put your arm around their neck, and sway from side to side. Get ready to swag surf with the F.L.Y. The group dropped their hit in 2009 and, over a decade later, it’s still in heavy rotation at any HBCU homecoming.
The single added an extra flavor to the crunk-era track with a fire beat that sent “Get Low” all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song became a blueprint for crunk music and will go down as one of the most classic records to be pushed out of the city.
Grab your hands together, and move your shoulders up and down briskly. What’s that called? That’s the Bankhead Bounce by the A-Town Players. Whether you were at a game, cookout, or party, you were getting down with a little Bankhead Bounce.
Goodie Mob sounded off on anyone hating on the South with their 1998 release of “Fly Away” from the group’s second project “Still Standing.” Big Gipp, Khujo, T-Mo, and CeeLo Green created a track letting people know that they’re “welcome to come, welcome to stay. But any disrespect, we will make yo’ a– fly away.”
Kilo Ali released “Love in Ya Mouth” featuring Big Boi in 1997, two years before the ultimate Atlanta party, Freak Nik, came to a halt. The raunchy song remains a fixture at old school mixes — and a clean version, of course, on the radio.
In the 90s, Atlanta was taking on the coasts, but some of the Dirty South’s rappers had bad blood with each other. In “No Mo Play in G.A.” Pastor Troy mocked Master P and his label, before unleashing verse after verse that proved that ATL was ready for war with anybody.
The song, which has been sampled by artists including Bryson Tiller, earned the hip-hop duo a No.6 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1998.
It doesn’t matter your age, or your color when it comes to hitting the dance floor and doing some fly skate moves with Freak Nasty’s “ Da Dip.” The track charted No.27 on the Billboard’s Hot 100 in February 1997.
From their debut project, “Soul Food,” Goodie Mob coined the term “Dirty South.” The group’s authenticity and ability to create their own sound infusing jazz, soul, blues, hip-hop, and gospel cemented their place in Atlanta music history.
Jermaine Dupri discovered the hip-hop duo Kris Kross in Greenbriar Mall in Atlanta, and promptly made them multi-million selling artists with a debut project that left party-goers jumpin’.
It doesn’t get more Atlanta than OutKast, who would certainly appear on the city’s music Mount Rushmore. “Player’s Ball” shouted out East Point, College Park, Decatur and DeVries, while taking us through another day of life in GA.
Driving down I-285 to head to the club in 2002, Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris’ classic “Welcome To Atlanta” was definitely pumping through your stereos. The lyrics: “Big beats, hit streets, see gangsters roaming; and parties don’t stop ’til eight in the morning” highlight the nightlife in Zone 6.
“When that came, that was like the new planet rock,” said CeeLo Green.
“Bombs Over Baghdad” sounded like a spaceship had just landed in the “Black mecca” bridging slick flows, guitars, and a Gospel choir together. “B.O.B” was one of several hits on Stankonia, which earned Best Rap Album at the 2002 Grammy Awards.
12:40 pm UTC Feb. 10, 2021
12:40 pm UTC Feb. 10, 2021