When people meet know Dani and I, they are often surprised to find out that we are both huge fans of rap music. But I can remember way back in 1993, being 13 and rapping to Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle CD in the mirror with my best friend. At that time, suburban white girls were probably not who Snoop had imagined his demographic would be, but he hooked us and millions of people just like us around the globe onto rap- including Dani, all the way over in Germany.
So when the two of us put our heads together on places we wanted to see on the southern part of our NYC2NOLA road trip this year, we were thinking as much about the Dirty South as we were about Southern Charm and Georgia Peaches.For us, Atlanta is a music Mecca: smooth R&B artists like Usher, Monica, Keri Hilson and TLC and some of our favorite rappers like T.I., Ludacris, Ciara, Soulja Boy and above all, Outkast. As we planned our trip, however, we just couldn’t figure out to make the Atlanta music a tangible part of our trip. I am still not entirely sure what we expected, but there seems to be no way for an average visitor to interact with the music scene in the way that is possible in New York with its made-for-tourists hip hop music tours or the ease of hanging out in the blues bars of Chicago, country bars in Nashville and the live indie rock scene in Austin. Instead, we opted to hope for the best and find it when we got there.
After all, music wasn’t the only reason we wanted to visit Atlanta – in fact one things we love about Atlanta’s main attractions is that they are truly unique to the city: the Behind the Studio tour at the CNN center, the World of Coca Cola and the Olympic Park area. We accomplished all of these only-in-Altanta attractions and fit in a visit to the famous aquarium and Mary Mac’s Tea Room, which you can read about here.
Dani and I looked high and low, but found no signs of a visitor-friendly connection with the city’s music scene. There are hip-hop and R&B concerts, but none on the days we were in town (during the week in early September). When we were recommended Lov’n It Live, a raw vegan restaurant in East Point, an alarm sounded in my mind. East Point? Andre 3000 from OutKast is from East Point – let’s go! (Rap is not an omnivore-only thing – vegetarians and vegans love rap too!)
After a half hour drive from downtown Atlanta, it turned out that Lov’n It Live was closed and East Point is a pretty bleak, lower-income yet ‘up-and-coming’ area similar to where we lived in Deptford, London. What did I imagine? Rappers on every corner or that OutKast would be holding a free concert in the park? Of course not…but still…
We discussed our rap city reality check on our last night in town with a friend who really wanted to help. Very much a Southern Belle, however, she could only reveal that Usher used to live on the same road as the governor’s mansion. At first light, before heading out of town for the long drive to New Orleans, we attempted to find Usher’s mansion and though we didn’t know exactly which on it was, the size of these incredible southern homes could only confirm that Usher has done very well for himself since his ’97 hit ‘You Make Me Wanna’.
Ah well, the road trip must go on. We left Usher’s ritzy Buckhead area of the city, rolled down our windows, blasted a mix of OutKast, T.I. and Ludacris and rapped our way right out of Atlanta. We were headed west to New Orleans, our final stop on the NYC2NOLA 2011 road trip, and home to the most authentic (and easy to find) music scene in all of America.