Monday, November 28, 2011

New York Times arrives to 'black entertainment mecca' unfashionably late

Posted By on Mon, Nov 28, 2011 at 7:57 PM

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  • Rich Addicks for The New York Times

I'm rarely surprised when mainstream media sleeps on cultural shifts among black and other ethnic communities. But the online title of the New York Times recent piece, "Atlanta Emerges as a Black Entertainment Mecca," struck me as a serious case of the Rip Van Winkles.

So BET shuts down Peachtree St. for last week's taping of the Soul Train Awards at the Fox, and all of a sudden Atlanta's deemed the new Black Hollywood?

Welcome, old Gray Lady, to the current millennium.

In case y'all didn't know, writes Kim Severson:

Tyler Perry and his movie and television empire are based here. Sean Combs has a house in a suburb north of the city. The musicians Cee Lo Green, Ludacris and members of OutKast call it home. So does the music producer and rapper Jermaine Dupri.

The worst offense is not just that all of the above was true five years ago (back when Perry established Tyler Perry Studios), or that most of it was documented ad infinitum during the last decade and a half (when Jermaine Dupri was still relevant); but that it was written in that clueless carpet-bagger tone New York transplant Severson's been guilty of before.

FYI: Last week was not the first time BET closed down Peachtree Street to roll out the red carpet (see: 2006's BET Hip Hop Awards). Maybe my head is swirling with too much hometown pride, but the Nene Leakes in me feels the need to clarify a few things: Sorry boo boo, but for better or worse Atlanta's long been the home of bougie, Black Hollywood. Welcome to the party. And for the record, you're way late — unfashionably so.

Surely the Times must know about Atlanta's pop music reign: the string of mid-’90s Billboard and platinum hits from Atlanta-based label LaFace and others (Usher, TLC, OutKast, Toni Braxton, Goodie Mob and Dungeon Family, Monica, etc.), and the slew of crunk and trap stars, R&B and pop songwriters/producers, and second generation industry execs that emerged in the 2000s (Ludacris, T.I., Lil Jon, Jeezy, Ciara, Keri Hilson, the Dream, Tricky Stewart, Akon, Devyne Stephens). But perhaps the Times doesn't realize how that early music industry success spawned the city's black filmmaking chops over the course of the last decade, with the proliferation of locally produced movies from music producer Dallas Austin, Drumline (2002) and ATL (2006); Will Packer and Rob Hardy, Stomp the Yard (2007); and, of course, the mammoth himself Tyler Perry.

It was the talent pool, and unsolicited economic boost, these films attracted that resulted in the state's eventual 2008 Entertainment Industry Investment Act — not the other way around, as the article suggests.

Still, Severson does make some solid points beyond the music realm. Since the passing of the 2008 act, BET has made a third home of sorts here, filming sit-coms "The Game," "Let's Stay Together," "Reed Between the Lines," and the recently canceled late-night talkie, "The Mo'Nique Show," hosted by the Precious star and Oscar winner. Other network dramas and reality shows have also followed suit.

So I don't blame the Gray Lady entirely. She's probably been seduced, as many have, by the RHOA effect. Despite its garish mix of new money wannabes, groupies, and industry vets, the success of Bravo's "Real Housewives of Atlanta," now in its fifth season since 2008, has exposed all of America to a wafer-thin slice of the black entertainment scene that's flourished in this town since Bobby Brown was laying down tracks at Bosstown Studios (that's pre-Stankonia, mind you).

Perhaps a more timely story focus would have been how Atlanta's Black Hollywood explosion in the 2000s paved the road for the recent increase in more locally produced, mainstream (read: white) film and TV projects. Because at this point, even "The Walking Dead" know Atlanta's where it's at.

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