T.I., Young Thug and the reason Atlanta dominates rap while New York suffers


A few nights before the unofficial beginning of summer, T.I. and Young Thug hosted a premiere for their collaboration video, “About the Money.” Held at the historic Plaza Theater in Atlanta, the event allowed tastemakers, bloggers and a few Atlanta-based celebrities to be the first to view the new video.

Although the video itself isn’t exactly groundbreaking, the event spoke volumes on why Atlanta has dominated rap for over 15 years and remains a stronghold in music.

Hip-hop purists (individuals who have followed rap since the early ’80s), know that Atlanta was once a city that couldn’t break through when it came to mainstream rap. New York, L.A., Houston, Miami and The Bay Area all developed strong hip-hop scenes that garnered national attention in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

However, Atlanta rappers mostly remained local until OutKast, Goodie Mob and, to a certain extent, Kris Kross broke through nationally. But by 2000, Atlanta grabbed the rap scene by the throat and never relinquished its grip.

At the same time, Los Angeles struggled for years after the fall of Death Row and  in between a respectable spark provided by Compton-based rapper, Game. Houston, Miami and The Bay Area remained relevant, but inconsistent. And New York rap eventually fell completely off the map after 50 Cent’s reign in 2003.

But the reason Atlanta has been the most consistent city in rap is partially due to the willingness of established Atlanta rappers to work with new artists. T.I.’s support of Young Thug is similar to OutKast introducing Killer Mike and Janelle Monae; Ludacris was the first to give 2 Chainz an opportunity; Andre 3000 and T.I. have rapped with Future; Gucci Mane discovered Waka Flocka and Young Thug; and DJ Drama introduced Young Jeezy by providing him with one of the greatest mixtapes in rap history (Trap or Die).

On the other hand, New York’s rap scene was likely undone by artist beef and an unwillingness for established acts to introduce new talent. The most prominent New York rappers (Jay Z, Nas, 50 Cent) haven’t introduced a new rapper from their city in years. The top New York-based rapper, Nicki Minaj, was signed by Lil Wayne.

Los Angeles has found its way back into the discussion of top rap cities by mimicking Atlanta’s collaboration-driven scene with artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Y.G., Problem, DJ Mustard and Schoolboy Q to name a few.

There isn’t a guarantee that  T.I. and Young Thug’s “About the Money” will be a huge commercial hit. But it was a moment that proved how Atlanta rappers have stayed on top by passing the torch properly. I’m sure Young Thug was taking notes.

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