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The Untold Story of Atlanta’s Rise in the Rap Game

Atlanta lived up to its reputation as a musical hotbed on Sunday night with the premiere of VH1’s latest Emmy Award winning Rock Doc franchise. The 90-minute television special, which airs Tuesday evening, explores the city’s meteoric rise and success in the rap industry.

Held at the legendary Rialto Theatre, the ATL: The Untold Story of Atlanta’s Rise in the Rap Game advance screening attracted a slew of artists and influencers, such as singer R. Kelly, Mayor Kasim Reed and Ambassador Andrew Young.

“It means a lot for Atlanta, Georgia, for people to understand the story and everything behind it,” said actor and rapper Ludacris, who doubles up as an interviewee and co-executive producer. “We are proud and I just want to thank everybody for supporting.”

The film chronicles how Atlanta earned the mantle of hip-hop dominance amidst a backdrop of homegrown rappers struggling to establish their identity, in a genre dominated by New York and West Coast artists.It also explores how post-civil rights Atlanta created a climate for African-American arts and culture to flourish, which set the scene for a local hip-hop scene to emerge.

“No one has actually told the story of how Atlanta hip-hop took over” said director and co-executive producer Brad Bernstein. “Everything is spawned from Atlanta now. Everything emulates from Atlanta.”
“These guys were the outsiders,” he said. “They were not the originators. They came in the second and third waves and they fought their way to the top and made sure they were heard.”

Usher, T.I., Future, Lil Jon, Jermaine Dupri, and Jeezy are among the Atlanta based mega-stars that will appear in the film. Pioneers of the Atlanta rap game Kilo Ali, Raheem the Dream, MoJo, MC Shy D and the producers of Organized Noize were also interviewed.

Music industry heavyweights and celebs that turned out Sunday included DJ Toomp, DJ Nabs, actress and singer LeToya Luckett and actor Larenz Tate.
“There’s a lot of soul and struggle in the music,” said DJ Nabs. “They’re fighting for respect and it’s taken a long time.”

“We’re responsible for a disproportionate number of hit records so this isn’t about putting Atlanta on the map,” said Mayor Reed, who appears in the film. “It’s about giving an authentic view about our role in hip-hop.”
Reed has played a pivotal role in spearheading the city’s rapidly expanding entertainment and music industry. Georgia offers attractive tax incentives for companies across the TV, film and music industry.

“Atlanta is one of the few places where young black men and women have learned to control their own music,” said Ambassador Young, who appears in the film. “In New York, in Chicago, even Los Angeles, the music is not controlled by the young people themselves.”

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter@Kunbiti


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    Kunbi Tinuoye
    Kunbi Tinuoye
    Kunbi Tinuoye is the founder and CEO of UrbanGeekz. Previously, she worked as a News Correspondent for NBC’s theGrio. Prior, she was a senior broadcast journalist for the BBC in London. Tinuoye currently sits on the SXSW Pitch Advisory Board and CES Conference Advisory Board. She is a key player in the Atlanta tech startup ecosystem and serves as a mentor for Comcast NBCUniversal’s The Farm Accelerator. Tinuoye has received several awards and accolades, including being honored with a Resolution from the Georgia Legislative.