sweet as the scratch

welcome to new atlanta: digital beats,
ambient sounds, and ATLien futures

I'll tell anyone who'll listen that important shit is going down in the vast and unregulated world of Atlanta hip hop.

But first a little hedging...Across the world, wide-spread availability of production, recording, and video/audio-sharing technologies (i.e. virtual dj, audacity, youtube, soundcloud, etc.) is paving the way for rappers, djs, and hip hop heads to produce/consume more music than ever before. Even so, mass-media record companies and the international music industry at large are distancing themselves from rap music, deeming it unprofitable compared to 'EDM' and more popularized musical forms. Thus, at the same time that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of hip hop artists are working and releasing music on a regular basis, opportunities for major recording deals are becoming increasingly rare.

In Atlanta, these changes appear in the form of a hypercompetitive, sped up, and fragmented system of production, consumption, and exchange. Since no other city in the world (with, perhaps, the exception of Chicago) is turning out hip hop like Atlanta, artists with huge listenerships are nevertheless finding themselves on the fringes of the rap industry--forced to network, pool resources, and release (tons of) free music to receive any compensation for their labor and creative work.

While this is not necessarily unique to the rap world, its impact on the sound of Atlanta hip hop is. For, in the A, rather than produce stasis, over-saturation and exhaustion are fast becoming breeding grounds for innovation. Simultaneously liberated from the constraints of mass-market production and caught up in the search for 'buzz' vis-à-vis new styles, sounds, and personas, inner-city and urban Atlanta blacks from Zone 6, Decatur, College Park et al. are hyperproducing rap and electronic music contoured by experimentation, frustration, open-source technologies, and collaboration. The result is a playful and eccentric musical form crafted almost exclusively on personal laptops and desktop computers: raps lean (all pun intended) on the verge of non-language, instrumentation is sharp, futuristic, and profoundly digital, and production is deeply textured within electronic landscapes of repetition, ambient harmonics, and disorienting loops.

That these transformations are connected to a vanguarde (rather than avant-guarde) of young, black artists is where the significance of Atlanta hip hop at our present moment shows its face. Indeed, I would suggest that, if rap continues to lose status in the international music industry, the sounds of this new generation of ATLiens will likewise push dominant black American musical production further and further away from rap (as we know it). For what this future might sound like, check the tracks below, and, while listening, ask yourself, where is rap headed when Young Thug is featured in GQ, when Awful Records inc. releases the biggest hit of the summer, and when Trindad Jame$ starts dropping Ambient tapes?:

0:00 "Did That (NO DJ) (feat. Johnny Cinco & Shawty Lo)" - Ca$h Out - (nov '14 release)
4:02 "Overflow (feat. LuiDiamonds & Lord Narf)" - Pyramid Quince - The Moon Lookin Fye: Live From the Disco
7:27 "Work" - MPA Shitro - (nov '14 release)
11:07 "Dead People (feat. Raury)" - Gucci Mane - (dec '14 release)
14:06 "Chanel Vintage (feat. Future & Young Thug)" - Metro Boomin - (June '14 release)
18:34 "Warrior" - Metro Thuggin - Metro Thuggin
24:00 "Lighter [prod. Dun Deal]" - Skooly - (oct '14 release)
28:00 "Rapper [Prod. By The Legacy]" - Lil Silk - Lil Silk - Son Of A Hustler
31:55 "Yes U Can [Prod. By Yokstaghm]" - J Money & Yung L.A. - Batman & Robin 2 (Superhero Language)
35:03 "You the World" - Young Thug - 1017 Thug 3 The Finale
39:03 "STYX ETHRLMX (feat. Abra & Father) [prod. Etheral]" - AWFUL RECORDS - (oct '14 release)
44:51 "Proud (RED VERSION)" - GAHM - The House That GAHM Built
46:07 "032813-072513" - Shade
50:23 "Cura" - Ethereal - Heat Death 2
54:55 "Metropolis" - Metro Boomin - (feb '15 release)
58:44 "Lost In My Dreams" - Trinidad Jame$ - The Wake UP
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