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Musical moments that made Atlanta pop in 2010 

The surprises, uprisings and star turns we couldn't stop watching

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Atlanta's stain on the nation's collective unconscious grew this year into something resembling a Rorschach inkblot. It says a lot about our indelible imprint on the pop culture landscape. What, exactly? Uh, we're still making nonsense of it all.

What's in Obama's iPod: Acey Duecy, baby

click to enlarge REPUBLIC
  • REPUBLIC

When Prez Obama responded in October to comedian and morning radio show host Rickey Smiley's "what's on your iPod" query with the name of Atlanta soul mainstay Anthony David, it conjured the sweetest image of the first couple chillaxin' in bed together while sharing a set of earbuds (since Michelle was the first to note Acey Duecy as an iPod favorite of hers back in '08). But it also spoke volumes about the continued proliferation (sounds presidential, right?) of Atlanta's soul scene, 10 years after its expansion onto an international stage.

— Rodney Carmichael

Chilly con Carnivores in the U.K.

click to enlarge COURTESY OF CARNIVORES

Carnivores' split 7-inch with Brooklyn's Dinosaur Feathers for U.K. indie Music Mule hardly seemed like a monumental release. But their "Dressed For the Rain" side scored an on-air shout-out from Pulp vocalist Jarvis Cocker on BBC 6. Even passing praise from the salty Brit-pop icon, who once bum-rushed a Michael Jackson show, raised Carnivores' profile. It has since landed them in talks with European distro Rough Trade. That's nothing to sneeze at.

— Chad Radford

Waka Flocka Flame wows the hipsters

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The most surprising thing about Waka Flocka Flame's swift ascension to hip-hop stardom wasn't the sales numbers. Rather, it was the embrace he received from indie tastemakers like Pitchfork that shocked. Boasting the meanest Lex Luger beats in history, Waka's nihilistic pleasure-zone rap was the toast of blogtown in 2010, proving once again that there are few things white kids dig more than black people rapping about guns and money.

— Gabe Vodicka

Deerhunter's late-night excursion

Four months after Deerhunter's (not so) secret sardine-tight show at East Atlanta's tiny 529, the band made its national TV debut on "Conan." After the wily show host exposed his junk in a pair of man-jeggings and the Kardashian sisters discussed the merits of putting mayo on their va-jay-jays, Deerhunter closed with a performance of "Helicopter" that sounded as ethereal as ever. With the smoke machine coughing white clouds all over the stage, it was a surreal coming-out.

— RC/CR

Cee-Lo gives a 'F*ck'

click to enlarge SHANNON MCCOLLUM

Four years after he helped usher in the age of the viral single with Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," roly-poly Dungeon Family associate Cee-Lo tore back onto the scene with "Fuck You," a left-field lover's lament that was vulgar, crass and foolishly fun. It was instantly everywhere: mere weeks after it blew up on the Net, guest star Gwyneth Paltrow performed her own (decidedly cleaner) version on Fox's "Glee." Welcome back, Soul Machine.

— GV

Justin Bieber, made in Atlanta

click to enlarge PAMELA LITTKY

Web phenomenon Justin Bieber went mainstream like a mutha in 2010. Atlanta only has itself to blame. Bieber's manager/rainmaker Scooter Braun: an Atlantan. Bieber's vocal coach-to-the-stars (and, lest we forget, "housewife" Kim Zolciak) Jan Smith: an Atlantan. Bieber's swagger coach Ryan Good: yep, an Atlantan. And Bieber's R&B daddy Usher: Atlanta all the way. In a city known for importing raw talent and churning out pop exports, Bieber's become one helluva cash crop.

— RC

B.o.B's big payback

click to enlarge DUSTIN CHAMBERS

"Crossover ain't nothin' but a double-cross!" Remember that line from The Five Heartbeats, the '90s flick based on the career exploits of a Motown-inspired soul act. Back then black artists worried about compromising their sound for the sake of gaining a pop (read: white) audience; now they worry about being pigeonholed in the 'hood. After getting signed to Atlantic Records on the strength of such street anthems as "Haterz Everywhere," B.o.B's decision to embrace his acoustic guitar-strumming Bobby Ray side threatened to leave his bi-polar debut in limbo. But one ubiquitous Bruno Mars collaboration ("Nothin' On You"), five Grammy nods, and 500,000 certified album sales later, the kid's growing pains seem well worth it.

— RC

Janelle Monáe: the critics love her (and so does Prince)

click to enlarge JOEFF DAVIS

The ArchAndroid soared critically despite meeting commercial ambivalence. Yet Janelle Monáe's 2010 can hardly be deemed a disappointment. Her bold musical vision led to a dream-fulfilling invitation: Prince — his Purpleness — asked her along for a string of year-end stadium dates. We've long loved Ms. Monáe at CL, and her continuous progression toward super-stardom fills our hearts with joy. I think I've got something in my eye.

— GV

Big Boi plays a free show at Yaraab Shrine Temple

click to enlarge JOEFF DAVIS

Call it his coming out party after years of hard work on Sir Lucious Left Foot: In May, Outkast's diminutive half hosted a free show (with free liquor) at Ponce's Yaraab Shrine Temple. "Shutterbugg" and "B.O.B." were earth-shaking, as was the crowd's jubilant response. No Dré, but equally great performances from upstart-of-the-year Yelawolf and rap's Willy Wonka, Jay Electronica, elevated this show into the unforgettable-sphere.

— GV

Yelawolf yowls on Interscope

click to enlarge HANNIBALL MATTHEWS
  • HANNIBALL MATTHEWS

The saying "write about what you know" is a manifesto for tatted rapper Yelawolf. His evocative tales of meth and guns are gritty ruminations on a day in the life of a Southern miscreant. With a hyper flow, Yela spent years grinding away in Atlanta's underground hip-hop scene. After a botched deal with Columbia several years ago, he kept at it and landed a deal with Interscope, followed by breakout collabs with Raekwon, Big Boi and Gucci Mane, and his major label preview: Trunk Muzik: 0-60.

— CR

Washed Out, or something like that

click to enlarge ERNEST GREENE
  • ERNEST GREENE

The overnight success of Ernest Greene, aka Washed Out, is a sign of the times. A 20-something with a degree in library science and no job prospects, the rural Georgia native moved back home with his parents to save money. Between e-mailing resumes he posted some drowsy dance tracks to his MySpace page and they accidently went viral, leading to his synthed-out Life of Leisure EP and a sold-out CMJ show in Brooklyn that fall. But his real intro came in 2010 when he embarked on a tour that included a pilgrimage to SXSW. In its wake, a cat-and-mouse battle ensued between hipster blogs du jour, which declared him the darling of chillwave, and that gray lady the New York Times, which labeled him and his kind "annoyingly noncommittal" for their revamped '80s electropop. Since we last heard, Greene is no longer living with his parents.

— CR

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