atlanta hip hop and the south

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Atlanta eats its young.

That might be a cold-blooded accusation to level at a town dripping with so much black cultural currency. But the hip-hop capital has gained more than it’s ever contributed to its greatest export.

Like music to capitalism’s ears, these are the signs of a sonic identity 20 years in the making. Meanwhile, the city continues to reinvent itself for the sake of outward appearances. Now it’s the Hollywood of the South. Next it’s the Silicon Valley of the South. But the one thing Atlanta has consistently been, the hip-hop pedigree that’s kept its international flame perennially lit, still gets the shaft on the low.

Why Can’t Atlanta Embrace Its Greatest Cultural Export? Hip-hop.

Photo by David Becker/Getty Images and (bottom) Guy D'Alema/FX

Bitty and Hip Hop

Thinking about Bitty liking not just pop music, but hip hop. He grew up close enough to Atlanta (suburbs, Madison) that he could always get the Atlanta radio stations, and while he may have started listening to these fun, upbeat songs with some of the other figure skaters at practices and impromptu hotel room dance parties while at competitions, he started listening for himself because it was a nice, personal escape from the country music his parents always had on in the car.

(How he cherished his first pair of truly quality over-ear headphones. “No, Mama, you don’t need to change the station, I just need to listen to my program piece a few more times.” And she never knew the difference.)

But Eric Bittle was also a closeted gay boy growing up in the South. Who was the son of the local football coach. He started listening to the music because it made him feel happier, but then he started actually following the Atlanta hip hop scene, and while he definitely does NOT believe he has an inner sassy black girl, you can’t tell me he doesn’t identify with a genre of music about fighting back against systemic oppression, that addresses the need to find strength in the face of constant adversity, that sometimes angrily grabs a moment to just tell everyone to fuck off and let the singer speak. These songs are not speaking about his struggle specifically, but he feels them nonetheless.*

(And they kept him aware of the other daily fights the people around him were fighting during high school, so he tried to use his status as the football coach’s son by hanging out around the kids who got picked on by the bullies on the football team, because they knew Eric would tell his father if he saw them doing something blatant. But Eric knew to stay in his own lane, so he never made a big deal about it. And when he could, he’d bake stuff for the Multicultural Student Alliance bake sale, but funnel it through his friends on the cheerleading squad. He didn’t need the attention.)

He’s so used to hiding the depth of his musical knowledge and opinions by the time he gets to Samwell, though, that he doesn’t really ever talk about it, except in a general pop culture trivia kind of way, until one day Nursey and Chowder start a debate about East Coast vs. West Coast rap in his kitchen, and NURSEY IS JUST WRONG. Well, okay, not wrong, but it’s Nursey, he thinks the East Coast stops somewhere north of Maryland. And that’s how Eric Richard Bittle, our tiny blonde Georgia peach of a baker, ends up giving an hour-long lecture on the history of the Atlanta hip hop scene. Nursey actually learns something.

(*Where did this headcanon come from? Hearing my husband correct a coworker who told him he was too white to listen to rap. He may have gone to high school in Ann Arbor, but he vividly remembers growing up a block off of 8 Mile in Detroit, where the neighbors got angry at his mother because she dared to paint her house and raise the property taxes for the whole street. The Detroit rap scene does not exactly represent his life, but he doesn’t appreciate being told that his enjoyment of it must be ironic.)

ATLANTA GA

Family and friends of people killed by police in metro Atlanta will hold a People’s Tribunal, telling the true stories of how their loved ones were killed by police and demanding justice from the police departments and the judicial system. They will be joined by community activists and students at a public event to be held in the gazebo at the south end of Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta. The event will also include performances by hip hop artists/activists Jasiri X and Zayd Malik, and will be followed by a march through the streets of downtown.