Last night, VH1 debuted their Rock Doc, "ATL: The Untold Story of Atlanta's Rise in the Rap Game". While watching it, I had a bunch of thoughts, mostly nostalgic
1. It's been 13 years since I've lived in Atlanta. At this point, I've lived in Washington, DC, longer than I've lived anywhere else in life. It is home for me and I feel more connected to DC than any other place I've lived. But Atlanta is in my heart. Watching the Rock Doc (heretofore rerferred to as ATL Rise) had me feeling a lot of pride and feeling somewhat homesick. I was in ATL last week for a day visiting my sister who lives in the western outskirts. It takes almost 30 minutes to drive from her home into my old neighborhood on the West side of the city. In order to get to my parents home in Alabama, I don't have to to drive through downtown or ever see the skyline. I can just be in Georgia. However, as I prepared for my daugher and I to drive back to my parents home, I was overcome with this need to drive thru downtown because I couldn't be in Atlanta and not see the buildings and the skyline and feel like I was in Atlanta. I just couldn't. I HAD to do it. I miss Atlanta is the point here.
2. I was too young to remember the time when Wayne Williams was terrorizing the city. But I as I got older, I remember Wayne Williams. I thought it was interesting, but not surprising they included him into the discussion fo ATL hiphop. He's been mentioned by countless ATL rappers, but he was immortalized by this Andre 3000 quote, "…nobody would die in cops and robbers when we used to play right/the only thing we feared was Williams, Wayne…" on "Thought Process" from Goodie Mob's first album Soul Food.
3. I hate Kilo Ali. Like hate with the passion of 1,000 sharks at a blood bank. This hatred is personal. See…and how do I put this without incriminating anybody…
…a guy whose named rhymes with Below Bali shot my cousin in the leg. My cousin is alive so I ain't just snitch. Plus statute of limitations. But I'm saying, that Bowen Homes life is real and fuck Kilo Ali.
4. I grew up in Germany so our summers were spent back in the US and those summers in the late 80s and early 90s in ATL were when the city was on the rise and being documented in ATL Rise.With that being said, I vividly remember hearing Kilo Ali's "Cocaine (America Has A Problem)" for the first time and loving it. Anyway, I had to be like 11 when I heard that song. They used to show scenes from MBK (a teen club on Campbellton Rd) on television at night, I want to say, before Arsenio Hall came on. We had this tiny ass television in the smaller bedroom occupied by a rotating number of cousins in my grandmother's 2-BR duplex on the West side of Atlanta. Anyway, I remember hearing that song and being like, "wow…who is this dude!!!" Then…see #3.
5. It was interesting hearing the opinions of those so heavily invested in the music scene and their feelings about how ATL wasn't getting respect on the hip-hop scene. It's all obviously true, I just think I was too young to care back in the early 90s. I remember listening to the "Bankhead Bounce" and songs from Hitman Sammy Sam and Raheem The Dream and be like, yay ATL. I wasn't a hip-hop head at the point so I didn't really view any of it as being that important. Until Outkast. The way they teased Outkast in the documentary was very necessary. When Outkast hit, we all felt a change. For one, that "Player's Ball" video was so authentic and southern. It felt like Atlanta. It looked like Atlanta. It was genuine. That is when I really started paying attention. I'll add another anecdote in another bullet about Outkast.
6. Lightskint Chris from Kriss Kross is somebody I knew when I was younger. Not well. But his cousin stayed a few doors down from my grandmother so he used to always be at his cousins's house. Now his cousin was a good friend of mine and he had a crush on one of my sisters so of course we were cool. Anyway, I remember LSC from those days then one day, hearing from his cousin that he had blown up. Then saw him on TV and was like…wow. In the doc they were like, Kriss Kross made everybody feeel like they could make it. That was very true. Seeing somebody I knew, only briefly, make it was definitely one of those, "if they can do it, anybody can do it" moments. Also, its a shame that they blew up as pop acts because they're later work was more them. Thems was some niggas.
7. In high school, I had a friend named Corey who had an older brother named Nan (short for Fernandes - RIP Nan). Now, I have no idea how he got it, but Nan had some LaFace sampler that had half of Goodie Mob's Soul Food album on it at least 6 months before that thing came out. Of course, none of us knew this. Nan hated the tape so he gave it to me and I blasted that thing. I had no idea what I had in my possesion. Goodie Mob didn't get much airplay on the documentary, but while the nation loved Outkast (as did ATL, of course) a LOT of folks were REALLY lovin' Goodie Mob and that Soul Food album. It was angry. It was smart. It sounded like music from a bunch of kids who were just trying to find a way out. "Git Up, Git Out" sounded like way more of a Goodie Mob song than an Outkast song. Point of it all, I was up on Goodie Mob for a looooong time before the rest of the South was. I'm bragging.
8. T.I. sounds like the West side of Atlanta. Outkast sounds like Atlanta. Goodie Mob definitely sounds like Southwest Atlanta to me. T.I.??? That is a West side nigga all day. I remember some years back when Shawty Lo (Bowen Homes representative, Zone 1) tried to claim that T.I. wasn't really from Bankhead but was from Riverdale. And yes, he may have gone to high school for some time in Riverdale, but that nigga is Zone 1, Center Hill all day. All. Day. When I want to remind myself of what the West Side of Atlanta feels like (Adamsville, Zone 4, MLK4Lyfe), I throw in T.I. Any of it will do. I particularly love the King album. But Urban Legend was a spectacular painting of what life as a West side dopeboy feels like.
9. Amazingly, an hour and a half was way too short. It took them an hour to get to Outkast. They could really have done another 2 hours on ATL and still not covered it all. Oh, and it was good to see Jermaine Dupri get some credit. I feel like he's one of the most underrated producers in the game ever. Probably because he lives in the pop realm. But he's responsible for a lot. He put on for ATL in a major way. Same with Dallas Austin.
10. But Organized Noize will forever be where my hip-hop heart lies. They put on for ATL in such a spectacular fashion that their influence may never not be felt in the fabric of ATL hiphop. I know most folks harken back to 'Kast's Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik as their favorite album, but ATLiens is what did it for me. And specifically, "Elevators (Me & You)". I remember where I was the first time I heard it. It changed my life. That song opened me up and I haven't been the same since. Now that song was produced by Andre, Big Boi, and Mr. DJ (they are known as Earthtone III), but there is no Earthtone III without Organized Noize and thus no "Elevators". And I'm not sure where my life would have been without it. I'd probably be in jail. Or dead. Long live ONP.