A Guide to Atlanta’s Hip-Hop Culture
If the city’s rapper-owned and rapper-patronized barber shops are any measure, Atlanta is indeed the capital of the hip-hop universe.
You can find a quality fade, dread-dye or man bun everywhere from The SWAG shop (owned by Atlanta-born rapper-activist Killer Mike) in Edgewood to Anytime Cutz in Buckhead, open 24/7 and frequented by the likes of Shaquille O’Neal and rapper Akon.
As first-time visitors discover, there are echoes of hip-hop everywhere. You hear it during your Lyft/Uber rides to and from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. You see it billed on the marquees of the city’s myriad music venues (Tabernacle, Fox Theatre, MJQ Concourse, etc.). So omnipresent is the genre, in fact, that there exists an official five-hour-long, bus-guided primer that is run by an outfit known as Hip Hop Tours of Atlanta.
Not everyone has five hours to spare, so we offer you the following quick-hit guide to the scene:
Escobar: What better way to kick off your weekend than with a plate of collard green spring rolls and a cold Red Stripe at Escobar, the Huckleberry Hills eatery/tapas bar/hookah lounge owned by rapper 2 Chainz (who is known to drop in on occasion). This place oozes with atmosphere.
Little Five Points: Offbeat, off-center but not off the beaten track, this free-spirited neighborhood has a feel all its own. As the sign says, “We’re All Here ‘Cause We’re Not All There!’ Little Five Points is, in effect, the Greenwich Village/Haight Ashbury of Atlanta. It’s a place where vinyl haunts like Criminal Records still thrive, skateboarders polish their backside 180s, and street rappers offer up freestyle gems on demand.
Street Art: The BeltLine, a greenspace initiative built atop a former railway corridor, boasts the largest street art exhibition in the South. Many of the works are hip-hop infused, especially along Decatur St. and DeKalb Ave., where the Graffiti-covered Krog Street Tunnel links the Cabbagetown, Reynoldstown and Inman Park neighborhoods.
Stankonia Studios: Stankonia Studios, where Outkast recorded its best-known material over more than two decades, remains a vital creative space in downtown Atlanta. The iconic music haven, the very inspiration behind the group’s fourth studio LP, Stankonia (2000), is a veritable proving ground for the next generation of hip-hop talent.
Want to explore and learn more about the local hip-hop Heritage? Check out this list of rappers with Atlanta ties: T.I., Gucci Mane, Jeezy, Ludacris, Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), Jermaine Dupri, Big Boi, Lil Yachty, Lil Jon, Waka Flocka Flame, Young Dro, CeeLo Green, Soulja Boy, and many more.