A couple of years ago on Headland and Delowe
Was the start of something good
When me and my nigga rode the MARTA through the hood
Just tryna find that hookup ...
— "Elevators (Me & You)," ATLiens (1996)
There must've been some alchemy in the air on the day Rico Wade, Ray Murray, and Sleepy Brown of Organized Noize Productions met two aspiring rappers in a strip mall parking lot.
As hip-hop mythology goes, Headland and Delowe is hallowed ground, even in all its unassuming present-day glory. Anchored by a Wayfield Foods, the commercial strip boasts a random mix of mom-and-pop nail, beauty, and barber shops, a taekwondo dojo, dance school, and a 90-days same-as-cash furniture outlet.
On a recent Friday afternoon at the No. 1 Barbershop, clippers buzzed as barbers edged beards and faded heads. When asked about the significance the intersection holds today, shop co-owner D. Woo, aka Wooski, talked about the place in almost spiritual terms.
"You might relate it to a chakra or the top of a pyramid," Wooski said. "It's just an epicenter for positive energy."
Wade was at Lamonte's Beauty Supply, where he worked as a store manager, on that fateful day, circa 1991. Murray had just been in the midst of verbalizing their need for some young, new talent to produce when Big and Dre seemingly appeared out of nowhere. An impromptu audition followed in the form of a parking-lot freestyle, according to former CL music editor Roni Sarig, who recounted the scene in his book Third Coast. After spitting bars over the extended instrumental of A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario," Big and Dre earned an invite to the Organized Noize headquarters, aka the Dungeon. The rest is recorded history.
Despite being immortalized on record by the best-selling hip-hop duo of all time, no historical marker or leftover signage demarcates the former location of Lamonte's or the blacktop parking lot that would prove to be OutKast's launchpad. So much remains unchanged it feels like the block time forgot. An old Section 8 apartment complex is being demolished across the street. But it's hard to shake the sense that something could be percolating beneath the surface.
In addition to Wooski's barbershop, which he started with five other entrepreneurs eight years ago, he's promoting his own in-the-works indie label called Black Umbrella Entertainment.
"Atlanta's teeming with talent," he says. "Headland and Delowe is definitely the birthplace of something good. It's something in the water."