Pitchfork’s go-to hip-hop head Tom Breihan sat down with the New Yorker‘s Kelefa Sanneh (yes, the one who broke the Earl Sweatshirt story), arguably one of today’s most important music critics, to talk about his essays in Michael Schmelling‘s new photo book, Atlanta. The book features snapshots of everybody from Waka Flocka to Young Dro.
Pitchfork: I like your idea of Atlanta as a city without a base sound, that it’s just all these micro-scenes that keep popping up. It might be the only really important rap city with no actual singular sound to claim.
KS: Or that it seems strange to be loyal to one sound in particular because there are so many traditions. I was listening to the amazing mixtape by [Atlanta producer] Mr. Collipark that recently came out– it has cover art that looks like the first Snoop Dogg record and it’s called Can I Have the Club Back Please. But “bringing the old Atlanta back” could mean any number of things. It’s not that there isn’t nostalgia, but all the traditions are piled up on top of each other. That’s made it flexible enough to accommodate any movement that comes along.
Other cities have struggled with this. For the last five years, the Bay Area has been struggling with hyphy. Did they embrace it too much? Have they moved beyond it? It’s not like they ever stopped making great music, but it seemed like they were struggling with this perception that artists and fans in Atlanta don’t seem to struggle with so much. They don’t seem to get as hung up on it as people do in New York, which is probably the capital of hip-hop people getting hung up on stuff.
Another thing that’s interesting about Atlanta is that it’s a real magnet. A lot of the people that define that music aren’t from there; they’re drawn there. Gucci Mane comes from Alabama.Waka Flocka was born in Queens. The amazing producer Lex Luger comes in from Virginia. T-Pain’s from Florida. Even when Lil B launched his own first co-sign post Pack, he goes and hooks up with Soulja Boy. Machine Gun Kelly, from Cleveland, goes to Atlanta and hooks up with Travis Porter. I think one reason why the city has sustained itself so well is that it has welcomed artists from all over the place.
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