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Friday, February 27, 2009

Where you at? "Atlanta Bitch" — and thoughts on how we rep our city

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Is there a more self-referential genre than hip-hop? Once labeled "CNN for black people" by Chuck D, most commercial rap has long since lost that edge. But strip away the overt socio-political content and what remains is a strong sense of place — whether real or imagined.

No other form of music goes to such great lengths to lyrically represent/cultivate its environment. Despite Rakim's claim that "it ain't where you're from, it's where you're at"; it's actually all about where you're from or the place you claim as home.

Your city. Your block. Your crib. Not even your lack of imagination matters as long as you substitute it with plenty of ’hood references. Because at the end of the day, it's all about moving the crowd. And geography is often the least common denominator.

Of course, there are very creative ways to do it, and very wack ways. Over the past 20 years, Atlanta has been the benefactor of both.

The latest song to rep the city doubles as a response to the club anthem, "I'm in Miami Bitch" by LMFAO. Due to appear on DJ Smiles next mixtape, the remix "Atlanta Bitch" features Niko Villamor, o8o of T!Katz, and Gripplyaz. As far as Atlanta theme songs go, C. Will of the blog Fresh.I.Am sums it up best when he says it's "bound to be a club hit all the way from MJQ to Halo."

But in a broader context, it got me to reminiscing on Atlanta-themed rap songs — from the overly familiar (Jermaine Dupri's "Welcome to Atlanta") to the criminally overlooked.

Released 21 years ago by MC Shy D, "Atlanta-That's Where I Stay" (see below) was produced by DJ Toomp, who has earned industry acclaim in recent years for producing mega-hits for T.I. ("What You Know") and Kanye West ("Can't Tell Me Nothing"), among others. On the Shy D song "Atlanta-That's Where I Stay," he samples DeBarge's "All This Love" to give the track the laid back feel that, when mixed with the Miami bass sound so prominent in the South at the time, helped give birth to Atlanta's pre-OutKast Cadillac music.

Sort of ironic when you think about it — 20 years later DJ Smiles' "Atlanta Bitch" still has the city looking to Miami for inspiration.

Check out 2009's "Atlanta Bitch" and 1988's "Atlanta-That's Where I Stay," and let us know which one you think best represents the Atlanta you know. If neither, name your song.

Listen: "Atlanta Bitch"

Download: "Atlanta Bitch"

Listen: MC Shy D, "Atlanta-That's Where I Stay"

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