Atlanta, Georgia: the land of the free and the home of the Braves. Situated in the heart of arguably the greatest state in the U.S., Atlanta serves as a cultural hub for the southeastern part of the country. It’s a city of many monikers and even more rappers, but above all else, “The A” is my home (well, sort of). I actually grew up 25 minutes outside of the city in Marietta — also home to my good friend Newt Gingrich — where remnants of Atlanta’s culture somehow managed to reach me, even in suburbia. This influence manifested itself primarily though music played on local radio stations and definitively shaped how I value local artists today. For my final column of the semester, I’d like to share some of my favorite acts, both old and new, that have come from Atlanta and its surrounding areas.
One band in particular that emerged from my actual hometown is Moros Eros. Though short-lived, this group put out two albums in the mid-2000s that caught the attention of numerous media outlets, including MTV. I find their most recent album, “Jealous Me Was Killed by Curiosity” (released in 2007), particularly interesting due in part to the energy with which each track is performed. Frontman Zach Tipton has stated that in addition to deriving his musical influences from acts like At the Drive-In and Talking Heads, a sizeable portion of the lyrical content arises from his experiences attending Catholic school. As a result, the band, located in a religious, conservative suburb, offers a sound critique of organized religion from a perspective very similar to my own.
As we move from outside the perimeter to Atlanta’s city limits, a number of prominent local artists immediately come to mind. From TLC to Mastodon to Cartel to Usher, Atlanta’s music scene is never in need of either talent or diversity. Many are aware of its active, though sometimes overwhelming, hip-hop scene from which much of Atlanta’s musical acclaim arises. Most hip-hop artists and rappers tend to gain success within their specific genres, though they occasionally cross over and acquire mainstream notoriety. One group that has accomplished this feat is Outkast, easily one of the most popular acts to emerge from Atlanta.
Outkast burst onto the scene in the mid-1990s with two of the most iconic hip-hop albums to date. In 1996 they released their sophomore record “ATLiens,” following up two years later with “Aquemini,” which produced the Grammy nominated single “Rosa Parks.” Outkast solidified their presence during this time using hip-hop as a medium for discussing class struggles and poverty, among other politically charged topics. Virtually every native of Atlanta can list numerous songs produced by this duo, comprised of rappers Big Boi and Andre 3000. The impact they had not only on the local scene, but also on hip-hop collectively certainly shaped the future climate of the genre, thrusting Atlanta into the spotlight as the center for southern hip-hop.
Though hip-hop is certainly one of Atlanta’s strengths, it by no means defines the city’s overall music scene. The city also boasts a vibrant indie rock community with bands weaving traces of southern rock into a wide variety of other genres. While some of these acts (i.e., Manchester Orchestra and Marietta-based Deerhunter) have long dominated Atlanta’s music scene, many upcoming artists now have the chance to make a name for themselves in the Big Peach. Atlanta-based band Little Tybee, presumably named after one of Georgia’s popular vacation destinations, has seized this opportunity with their unique blend of folk and rock. Channeling the likes ofAndrew Bird and Fleet Foxes, Little Tybee often utilizes complex arrangements in their live shows that sometimes require up to five additional musicians to orchestrate. In 2011 they released an album entitled “Humorous to Bees” that showcased their eccentric approach to folk, ultimately landing them sets at SXSW and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Last year Little Tybee released “For Distant Viewing,” further emphasizing their eclectic roots while reinforcing the promise Atlanta shows as an epicenter of American music and culture.
When I reflect upon Atlanta-based musical acts, I realize how lucky I am to have grown up in an area with such an active and continuously evolving music scene.
Joy Jackson is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. This is the final appearance of Finding The Offbeat in the guide.