Hip-hop burst into the music industry at a party in Brooklyn in 1970. From there it spread to Los Angeles, and the feud between East Coast and East Coast rap West started. In the 1980s, the Southern Network of hip-hop burst onto the scene with suitors from Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston, Memphis and Miami, but eventually Atlanta took the country by storm for become the mecca of hip-hop.
In the 1990s, Atlanta artists emerged to make an impression across the United States. When Outkast won “Best New Rap Group” at the 1995 Source Awards, it became clear that Atlanta was a force to be reckoned with.
With the community surrounding Atlanta’s hip-hop scene and local artists who have achieved worldwide fame over the past four decades, it makes sense that in 2009, The New York Times called Atlanta “the center of gravity of the hip hop”.
Areas from Bankhead to Buckhead have been referenced in the lyrics, proving that Metro Atlanta is a source of artistic inspiration. For a complete idea of where Atlanta’s rap world began and where it’s going, here are 12 hip-hop landmarks to visit in the metro area.
Downtown Walter’s clothing and sneaker store has been an Atlanta staple since 1952. It was one of the first white-owned stores to welcome African Americans. While the town has changed over the decades, Walter’s has remained the same.
OutKast, Future, Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy have all mentioned Walter’s in their raps, and other artists such as Ludacris and DJ Khalid have been seen shopping here.
The owner, Walter Strauss, died in 2018 at age 94. His wife, Estelle, died in 2019.
Even with the loss of the beloved founder, the heart of the store remains. Walter’s Clothing continues to be a legacy in Atlanta with a “Name to remember.”
From Run-DMC’s dookie chains to Biz Markie’s diamond-awash four-finger rings, jewelry has always been ubiquitous in hip-hop. The Icebox jewelry store in Buckhead opened in 2009. T-Pain was one of Icebox’s first major customers after it opened in Buckhead in 2009.
The store has brought advertising into the 21st century with its YouTube channel which now has over 1.4 million subscribers. Viewers can see purchases made by celebrities and other wealthy customers. Lil Baby, Lil Yachty, Cardi B and more artists received personalized pieces.
Originally the home of Organized Noize founder Rico Wade’s mother, the once bare-bones basement studio is where OutKast, Goodie Mob and other bands produced and recorded their first tracks. The small dark space served as a refuge for many young men who had nowhere to go. The brotherhood between these young artists created a sense of community that was prevalent in the music and became paramount in building Atlanta’s early hip-hop sound that defined the genre.
Over time the artists moved to new studios and the house was sold. In 2021, Big Boi bought the house, turned it into a sanctuary for all things OutKast, and listed it on Airbnb.
For the 25th anniversary of “ATLiens,” Big Boi listed it at $25 per night for two guests. The house can now be rented on Airbnb for around $500 per night.
Cascade Family Skating
“Sunday night at Cascade,” TI begins in the first line of the 2006 film “ATL.” “Beautiful Georgia peaches and wet paint. It was a nice place to be.
The film was mostly shot on location in Cascade and featured guest appearances from Killer Mike, Bone Crusher, Monica, and other local artists. It was loosely based on the experiences of the film’s producers, Dallas Austin and TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, who grew up in Atlanta.
In August 2021, a sequel was announced after “ATL” director Chris Robinson responded to a tweet from Chance the Rapper that called the original movie “probably the most quoted movie ever.” [his] childhood.”
Members of TLC and other music industry players were seen at the rink during its early rise to Atlanta’s hip-hop scene in the late 1980s and 1990s. The rink also has been mentioned in several hip-hop songs, including “Cascade” by Kodyier.
TI’s Trap Museum and Escape Room
Created by trap music progenitor TI and built in the Westside, the heart of where Atlanta’s trap culture began, the museum was meant to remind visitors how the movement influenced the local community.
A tour of the museum reveals examples of ungentrified Atlanta, like a pint-sized convenience store stocked with sodas, candy, rolling papers, and glass pipes; “Grandma’s Living Room,” with boarded up windows, jars and bags of drug paraphernalia; and a replica of the cocaine cooking site. Visitors will also see childhood portraits of famous musicians, TI’s Grammy Award, and the iconic pink car that once stood in front of 2 Chainz’ Pink Trap House.
In addition to the museum, people can visit the escape room or enjoy the atmosphere of a bar. The museum also houses two studio booths where new and emerging artists can record. https://www.instagram.com/trapmusicmuseum/
On January 15, 2020, TI and Killer Mike reopened Bankhead Seafood, a Westside staple from 1968 until it closed in 2018.
“Proud to bring back an Atlanta landmark with my brother,” mike the killer said on Instagram.
The updated menu includes classic menu items such as his now famous fried fish and new additions such as cookies made according to recipes from Killer Mike’s aunt and grandmother.
The Nappy Roots group opened Atlantaucky Brewing, a tribute to their Atlanta and Kentucky roots, in Castleberry Hill on February 4. The group said it was proud to be one of the few black-owned breweries.
Their goal is to “create the whole space around beer, art and music,” said member Skinny Deville. Photos of Atlanta hip-hop musicians adorn the walls alongside pieces by local artists. A stage gives Nappy Roots and other artists a place to perform.
The group made their brewing debut in 2017 with a collaboration with Monday Night Brewing to release Front Porch pale ale. They then released Watermelon, Chiquen and Gritz, a golden watermelon beer named after their 2002 hit album. https://www.instagram.com/atlantucky/
According to the website, Stankonia Studio is “a place where all the funky th’angs come from”. Located on a street once known as “studio row”, Stankonia Studios is the birthplace of many of OutKast’s biggest hits. In fact, this month will mark the 28th anniversary of OutKast’s “Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.”
A 110-year-old tunnel with a rich history is now considered one of the few spaces where it is legal to do graffiti. The ever-changing street art retains an element of urban culture in rapidly gentrifying areas of the city, namely Inman Park, Cabbagetown and Reynoldstown.
Ludacris has long been a part of the Atlanta hip-hop scene’s collaborative effort and was one of the first Dirty South rappers to achieve mainstream success. Among his many other accolades, he has won three Grammy Awards.
This concept from Ludacris features Southern-style comfort food such as Luda’s Chicken Pecan Waffles with Whiskey Maple Syrup and Andouille sausage, and Braised Beef Cheeks with Mashed Sweet Potatoes. The beer selection comes from Georgian craft breweries such as Monday Night Brewing and Orpheus.
Opened by Ne-Yo, his wife Crystal Smith and Love n’ Hip Hop star Karlie Redd, this College Park restaurant is known for, you guessed it, chicken and waffles. But the ambiance is what sets this brunch and dinner spot apart.
Located downtown on the sidewalks of Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, this Walk of Fame was created to honor African-American artists for their accomplishments.
The Black American Music Association (BAM) and the Georgia Entertainment Caucus (GEC) held an inaugural ceremony on June 17, 2021, at which Outkast and several other black artists were inducted. It is a history marker as the only Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame in the country. https://www.instagram.com/blackwalkoffame/?hl=en