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Hip-Hop Through Atlanta

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by Autotrader June 2008

If you're ever driving north on Interstate 75 through Atlanta, you can't miss the neon yellow, ever-recognizable billboard between Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and the city limits. It reads, "Atlanta, Home of So So Def Recordings," with an afro hairdo extending a full two feet off the top of the 14' by 48' sign.

It's a fitting entrance to a city that hip-hop songs frequently reference. Atlanta, nicknamed in recent years as the new hip-hop capital of the U.S., has birthed an abundance of top-selling artists and producers from the genre since the late 1980s, in rap's transitional period between beat boxing on the streets of New York City and a modern, nationwide industry.

A road trip through the "ATL" deserves an explosive all-star soundtrack featuring recordings from the city's native sons and daughters — or in some cases, its adopted children. Here are the songs you'll need to make your visit through Georgia's capital as hip as its A-Town residents (and clean versions of all songs are available):

1. "Welcome to Atlanta" by Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris (2002): This classic Atlanta-based power team crushed radio waves with this hit celebrating their native city. The two mention several Atlanta clubs and restaurants — some of which are now closed — in their song, which is perfect for an informal, lyrical tour of the city.

2. "Yeah" by Usher, Li'l Jon and Ludacris (2004): R&B/crunk musical collaborations from Atlanta residents aren't hard to find, but this is arguably the best. Li'l Jon, the founder of crunk, produced the song and provides the beat; Usher lends his smooth R&B ballad-like vocals; and Ludacris delivers a dynamic rap section at the end of the song.

3. "Hey Ya" by Outkast (2003): With an irresistible beat, addictive chorus and humorous undertones, this song is the total package. If that weren't enough to entice you to download it on your nearest iPod, "Hey Ya" is responsible for spawning a dance catchphrase sensation with this lyric: "Shake it like a Polaroid picture."

4. "Dunkey Kong" by Kilo (1995): Besides College Park, Bankhead is the most commonly referenced Atlanta suburb in hip-hop songs. Kilo was right in spirit with this song — mentioning it 20 times throughout the lyrics — while creating a popular dance move out of the phrase "Bankhead Bounce."

5. "People Everyday" by Arrested Development (1992): Arrested Development is known for popularizing Southern hip-hop with a fresh approach. Instead of violence, women and money as subject matter, the Grammy-winning group sang about faith, peace and love, and this feel-good song — often heard on television commercials — is no exception.

6. "Where the Party At (Dupri Remix)" by Jagged Edge and Nelly (2000 and 2006): While it was originally released in 2000 solely as a Jagged Edge and Nelly collaboration, the 2006 Jermaine Dupri tech-sounding remix of "Where the Party At" is much more exciting. In addition to featuring Dupri, it also highlights So So Def acts Da Brat and Bow Wow (formerly Li'l Bow Wow) and features an irresistible, video game-esque hook.

7. "Waterfalls" by TLC (1995): This socially conscious song was TLC's biggest hit, propelling their 1994 album CrazySexyCool to become one of only seven R&B albums to receive diamond certification from the Recording Industry Association of America. While you cruise Atlanta, this song's soulful, old-school flavor should get you through all the streets you can find with "Peachtree" in the name.


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Hip-Hop Through Atlanta - Autotrader