Atlanta History — Peachtree And Auburn

October 31st, 2010

If you’re trying to figure out how hip hop works in Atlanta – you inevitably start asking yourself how the city itself works. Sooner or later it becomes clear that the structure of the hip hop community in Atlanta is inextricably tied to the structure of the city and its economic history. Gary Pomerantz’s 1996 book Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn tells Atlanta’s story by following the rise of two of Atlanta’s most influential families – one black and one white – that gave the city its most famous mayors. There’s tons of great trivia here: Atlanta was originally called Terminus, then Marthasville, then someone decided to call it Atlanta, a made up name, a feminization of “Atlantic”; Glen Iris Drive becomes Randolph Street once you pass over Ralph McGill because whites didn’t want to live on the same street as blacks (in name only apparently) – but the best parts of the book detail the intertwining economic and racial histories of Atlanta. Atlanta became the South’s commercial center because it almost always put economics over race (most notably, after the Civil War, with Booker T. Washington’s “Atlanta Compromise”; and later, while many large Southern cities crippled themselves with racist policies and racial unrest in the 1960′s and 70′s, Atlanta’s black and white business elite were carefully negotiating to avoid the same fate). Much of Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn is devoted to stories in which racial and political friction is eased by putting the city’s business concerns first. Not to say that Atlanta doesn’t have a complicated racial history (take a drive down Auburn Street today), but looking at the city as an economic entity first, goes a long way towards explaining that history – and the history of Atlanta hip hop. A 1913 investment brochure from Atlanta’s Chamber of Commerce describes the city as “Beautiful, hustling, sunny Atlanta”. It’s almost a hundred years later and the hustle hasn’t left.

Photo: “In one of the most enduring images of modern Atlanta, Mayor Maynard Jackson sits before the $100,000 reward money offered during the Missing & Murdered crisis of 1979-82.”
- Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn; pg. 314



October 27th, 2010


The Beginning Of The Book

October 12th, 2010

There’s a quote on the first page of Atlanta from Andre 3000, he’s talking about the day that him and Big Boi went to go see Rico Wade at a hair salon in a strip mall near Headland and Delowe in East Point. The story is legend in Atlanta – and in rap history – but it’s good to hear it straight from Andre: “When we met Rico from Organized Noize in front of his job–and Gipp from Goodie Mob had his truck out there and was playin’ a beat–Rico said, ‘Let me hear how y’all rhyme’…”

Of course Atlanta rap history goes back earlier than that, but for me (and I’m guessing lots of other people too) Outkast was my introduction to Atlanta hip hop, and to the city itself. Atlanta – the book – started out as an attempt to look back on the making of Outkast’s 1998 record Aquemini. It grew into this larger project about the current scene in Atlanta, but much of the book’s foundation was directly inspired by the breadth and details and themes of Aquemini. The sound of that record isn’t too easy to hear in the music coming out of Atlanta these days, but that same sense of ambition that took Andre and Big Boi down to Headland and Delowe is everywhere, it still drives hip hop, and the city.

Greg Street – Atlanta’s biggest local DJ – lent us this early promo photo of Outkast. And then there’s this photo of Andre, Big Boi, and Greg Street that Big Boi posted on Twitter a few months back. Both photos are from 1994 – when they were 19.



October 11th, 2010

Atlanta by Michael Schmelling – a book of photographs about the hip hop scene in Atlanta, Georgia – will be published on November 1, 2010 by Chronicle Books. Text by Kelefa Sanneh, Interviews by Will Welch. Designed by Rodrigo Corral Design and Michael Schmelling. 8.5 x 10, Hardcover With Jacket, 224 Pages, 200 Color and Black And White Photographs. ISBN #0811872777. Pre orders available at Chronicle Books.