10 Thoughts I Had While Watching VH1’s “ATL Rise” Rock Doc » VSB

Featured, Music, Pop Culture

10 Thoughts I Had While Watching VH1’s “ATL Rise” Rock Doc

ATLLast night, VH1 debuted their Rock Doc, “ATL: The Untold Story of Atlanta’s Rise in the Rap Game”. While watching it, I had a bunch of thoughts, mostly nostalgic

1. It’s been 13 years since I’ve lived in Atlanta. At this point, I’ve lived in Washington, DC, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in life. It is home for me and I feel more connected to DC than any other place I’ve lived. But Atlanta is in my heart. Watching the Rock Doc (heretofore rerferred to as ATL Rise) had me feeling a lot of pride and feeling somewhat homesick. I was in ATL last week for a day visiting my sister who lives in the western outskirts. It takes almost 30 minutes to drive from her home into my old neighborhood on the West side of the city. In order to get to my parents home in Alabama, I don’t have to to drive through downtown or ever see the skyline. I can just be in Georgia. However, as I prepared for my daugher and I to drive back to my parents home, I was overcome with this need to drive thru downtown because I couldn’t be in Atlanta and not see the buildings and the skyline and feel like I was in Atlanta. I just couldn’t. I HAD to do it. I miss Atlanta is the point here.

2. I was too young to remember the time when Wayne Williams was terrorizing the city. But I as I got older, I remember Wayne Williams. I thought it was interesting, but not surprising they included him into the discussion fo ATL hiphop. He’s been mentioned by countless ATL rappers, but he was immortalized by this Andre 3000 quote, “…nobody would die in cops and robbers when we used to play right/the only thing we feared was Williams, Wayne…” on “Thought Process” from Goodie Mob’s first album Soul Food.

3. I hate Kilo Ali. Like hate with the passion of 1,000 sharks at a blood bank. This hatred is personal. See…and how do I put this without incriminating anybody…

…a guy whose named rhymes with Below Bali shot my cousin in the leg. My cousin is alive so I ain’t just snitch. Plus statute of limitations. But I’m saying, that Bowen Homes life is real and fuck Kilo Ali.

4. I grew up in Germany so our summers were spent back in the US and those summers in the late 80s and early 90s in ATL were when the city was on the rise and being documented in ATL Rise.With that being said, I vividly remember hearing Kilo Ali’s “Cocaine (America Has A Problem)” for the first time and loving it. Anyway, I had to be like 11 when I heard that song. They used to show scenes from MBK (a teen club on Campbellton Rd) on television at night, I want to say, before Arsenio Hall came on. We had this tiny ass television in the smaller bedroom occupied by a rotating number of cousins in my grandmother’s 2-BR duplex on the West side of Atlanta. Anyway, I remember hearing that song and being like, “wow…who is this dude!!!” Then…see #3.

5. It was interesting hearing the opinions of those so heavily invested in the music scene and their feelings about how ATL wasn’t getting respect on the hip-hop scene. It’s all obviously true, I just think I was too young to care back in the early 90s. I remember listening to the “Bankhead Bounce” and songs from Hitman Sammy Sam and Raheem The Dream and be like, yay ATL. I wasn’t a hip-hop head at the point so I didn’t really view any of it as being that important. Until Outkast. The way they teased Outkast in the documentary was very necessary. When Outkast hit, we all felt a change. For one, that “Player’s Ball” video was so authentic and southern. It felt like Atlanta. It looked like Atlanta. It was genuine. That is when I really started paying attention. I’ll add another anecdote in another bullet about Outkast.

6. Lightskint Chris from Kriss Kross is somebody I knew when I was younger. Not well. But his cousin stayed a few doors down from my grandmother so he used to always be at his cousins’s house. Now his cousin was a good friend of mine and he had a crush on one of my sisters so of course we were cool. Anyway, I remember LSC from those days then one day, hearing from his cousin that he had blown up. Then saw him on TV and was like…wow. In the doc they were like, Kriss Kross made everybody feeel like they could make it. That was very true. Seeing somebody I knew, only briefly, make it was definitely one of those, “if they can do it, anybody can do it” moments. Also, its a shame that they blew up as pop acts because they’re later work was more them. Thems was some niggas.

7. In high school, I had a friend named Corey who had an older brother named Nan (short for Fernandes – RIP Nan). Now, I have no idea how he got it, but Nan had some LaFace sampler that had half of Goodie Mob’s Soul Food album on it at least 6 months before that thing came out. Of course, none of us knew this. Nan hated the tape so he gave it to me and I blasted that thing. I had no idea what I had in my possesion. Goodie Mob didn’t get much airplay on the documentary, but while the nation loved Outkast (as did ATL, of course) a LOT of folks were REALLY lovin’ Goodie Mob and that Soul Food album. It was angry. It was smart. It sounded like music from a bunch of kids who were just trying to find a way out. “Git Up, Git Out” sounded like way more of a Goodie Mob song than an Outkast song. Point of it all, I was up on Goodie Mob for a looooong time before the rest of the South was. I’m bragging.

8. T.I. sounds like the West side of Atlanta. Outkast sounds like Atlanta. Goodie Mob definitely sounds like Southwest Atlanta to me. T.I.??? That is a West side nigga all day. I remember some years back when Shawty Lo (Bowen Homes representative, Zone 1) tried to claim that T.I. wasn’t really from Bankhead but was from Riverdale. And yes, he may have gone to high school for some time in Riverdale, but that nigga is Zone 1, Center Hill all day. All. Day. When I want to remind myself of what the West Side of Atlanta feels like (Adamsville, Zone 4, MLK4Lyfe), I throw in T.I. Any of it will do. I particularly love the King album. But Urban Legend was a spectacular painting of what life as a West side dopeboy feels like.

9. Amazingly, an hour and a half was way too short. It took them an hour to get to Outkast. They could really have done another 2 hours on ATL and still not covered it all. Oh, and it was good to see Jermaine Dupri get some credit. I feel like he’s one of the most underrated producers in the game ever. Probably because he lives in the pop realm. But he’s responsible for a lot. He put on for ATL in a major way. Same with Dallas Austin.

10. But Organized Noize will forever be where my hip-hop heart lies. They put on for ATL in such a spectacular fashion that their influence may never not be felt in the fabric of ATL hiphop. I know most folks harken back to ‘Kast’s Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik as their favorite album, but ATLiens is what did it for me. And specifically, “Elevators (Me & You)”. I remember where I was the first time I heard it. It changed my life. That song opened me up and I haven’t been the same since. Now that song was produced by Andre, Big Boi, and Mr. DJ (they are known as Earthtone III), but there is no Earthtone III without Organized Noize and thus no “Elevators”. And I’m not sure where my life would have been without it. I’d probably be in jail. Or dead. Long live ONP.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • I didnt get to see it and I cant wait to see it rerun…..As a purebred Bronx Puerto Rican, I must admit that living in Atlanta has provided me with a sense of—pride for this city I didnt expect to have when I moved almost 5yrs ago

  • Larry Stewart

    That doc is why I keep saying – I can’t understand the argument against Outkast as greatest hip hop group of all time. I know New York wants it to be Wu Tang or Run DMC or Tribe and I love all of ’em, but Outkast defined everything you want in a group. Without Outkast, hip hop is still regional. Still LA and NYC. Outkast was lyrical, musical, mainstream, underground, street, fantasy, pop, and everything in between. It just can’t be understated how they embodied that and did it over 4 albums strong. They had an experimental one with Idlewild. They did more work across several other singles, the underrated Dungeon Family compilation. I mean – their body of work is unparalleled. Somebody tell me I’m wrong…

    • I think the Wu and Outkast love runs deep in the same way for each city…Wu Tang did things for NYC hip hop that were never done before….I dont think comparing Run DMC is fair since they come from the Original Class….but the pride and love that NYC has for Wu and ATL has for Outkast, I’d say is pretty even. Their fandom is damb near evangelical

      • Lea Thrace


      • Imagine being a fan of both! I remember what I was doing when I heard “Protect Ya neck”

        • My fam grew up on Park Hill in Staten Island, and seeing Method Man and U-God smoking a blunt in front of our building as I played hopscotch with cousins….it just made it a personal thing whenever I heard em on the radio lol

    • BlueWave1

      I’d put them at #2 behind Public Enemy.

      • Andrea

        Yay! We have the same number 1!!! on…whatever….competition this is?

      • Michelle

        Speaking of Public Enemy, I believe that they had come out at the right moment. If PE was a group that was trying to come out now…Ehhh, I don’t know if they would’ve been successful.

    • Damon Young

      I appreciate their contribution to hip-hop. but everything you said about outkast — besides the regional part — can be said about the wu, the greatest group in rap history (and one of the greatest groups in music history)

      i can say more about the wu, but don’t think anything else needs to be said.

      • Medium Meech

        I love Wu-Tang and they were very influential. But…their style moved NYC in the wrong direction musically. They have to shoulder a lot of the blame for Rap’s decline in the region. Outkast also gets point for Andre being regarded as one of the dopest in the game, period off the strength of guest spots and mixtape songs (the are of story telling 4??). Plus they evolved more. I don’t know if this is a point for or against Wu-Tang but I think they are dope and I don’t get a good 72.6% of what they are talking about. Those are Bone Thugs in Harmony penetration levels. Maybe it’s like Lucy, if I understood 100% I would understand the secrets of the universe and be able to manipulate matter with the usage of words.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          I disagree. Wu had lyricism, Wu had depth, and Wu had break out artists that on their own, produced some of the best rap songs of all time and two of the best rap albums of all time (Only Built For a Cuban Linx & Supreme Clientele). It wasn’t Wu that lead to the downgrade of NY rap, that came after DMX & the Ruff Ryders. People was getting tired of the hardcore rap, and was eating more on Puffy’s Shiny Suit Era…that’s where the decline started.

          • Medium Meech

            1) I’m not saying Wu wasn’t great. 2) Wu-Tang forever is one of the most slept on albums. People never mention it with the rest, maybe they were too popular then. 3) It’s hard to put into words the style legacy Wu popularized in NY that still lingers… the monotonous beats, lack of bass, cryptic lyrics, weak percussions… it made you nod your head instead of want to move your feet (think the Alchemist, most NYC underground hip, etc…). Basically the reasons rap had to leave NY to reconnect with the underlying strain of soul present in all black music.

            • See but when RZA made My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy beats on 8 Diagrams (in 2007!!!) every was complaining. I’m picking up what you’re putting down though. Not even just dancing, there hasn’t been FUN music in NY for the longest. Nicki Minaj aside, the only other relevant mainstream NY rapper is ASAP Rocky who even though he has plenty of bass heavy tracks (because of southern producers/influences) he still is distinctly NY in the overall direction of his music.

              What NY rappers should of did is jump on being that art rap wave way before everyone else where they could still be lyrical and get our odd beat arrangements. NY is still attempting to hiring gangstas off the block to blow up like it’s 95 though.

              • RewindingtonMaximus

                The problem with NY period is that we are a mash up of so many things at all times, but when it comes to rap, we are hood for life. We haven’t had real party records in years, and our rappers don’t rap about the trap, they rap about the block. So now that all of our new rappers are coming off like South knock offs, it goes to show we don’t have much to experiment with.
                I wish we did jump more on the electronica/experimental bass genre, that might change things up a bit

                • Medium Meech

                  It’s funny because that’s what it was about in the beginning. Having fun at the party is was the genesis of this whole hip-hop scene. The DJ centric move the crowd vibe reminds me of a bit of the electronic. Scene. Somewhere along the way rap started taking itself too seriously.

                  • RewindingtonMaximus

                    That’s the funny part, those early party records were to get our minds off the violence. now all of our records bring the violence to the front door all the time.

            • RewindingtonMaximus

              Ok I give you that, we never have parted ways with the gritty rap since back then, and there hasn’t been any rapper besides Big or Jay who has been so charismatic that you’d enjoy their music just for fun, like Ludacris.

            • BlueWave1

              “…it made you nod your head instead of want to move your feet (think the Alchemist, most NYC underground hip, etc…). Basically the reasons rap had to leave NY to reconnect with the underlying strain of soul present in all black music.”

              ^^This! I think New York forgot that people actually like to dance and enjoy music sometimes. They forgot that Hip Hop originally started out as party music. Wu Tang was great, but I could play Outkast in the car and my speakers would knock. The instrumentals were much better. Outkast used actual instruments and had real baselines in their songs. I could take a woman on the dance floor with “The way you move.” I couldn’t do that with any of Wu’s music.

              Plus, Wu Tang started to get too deep with that Five Percenter stuff.

              • Freebird

                “I could take a woman on the dance floor with “The way you move.”

                I mean, Im all about Outkast and Aquemini might be best hip hop album ever but…

                Cherchez La Ghost
                Ice Cream

                • miss t-lee

                  I’ve only seen ladies dance to “Cherchez”…and that was few.

              • Sorry that thinking too much is too hard for you simple folk. Though maybe Jay Z had it right with “dumb down my audience and double my dollars/you criticize me for it, but you all yell ‘holla’ ”

                ETA: And besides, sometimes you just don’t want to look like a dancing c00n 24/7. How about thinking sometimes?

            • Also, you forget about the jazz influence in hip-hop, especially the hard bop influence. The New York Underground was heavily influenced by that, hence all those things you mentioned in #3. When the pre-eminent underground MC (Nas) is a SON OF A JAZZ TRUMPETER, it would be obvious where the influence came from. You can argue whether or not that’s a Good Thing or not, but it is a part of the larger Black music experience.

          • Ah, the Shiny Suit Era. One people started getting broke, they wasn’t trying to hear that shiny ish.

        • Mr. SD

          Yo the art of storytelling pt 4!?!!!!!! Fy er

      • miss t-lee

        I love Wu and I love ‘Kast.
        However I’ve always felt like trying to compare them will just never work.
        It’s like apples to asteroids.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      RUN DMC doesn’t need to be labeled the greatest group of all time. They already have that title for being the first group to blow and get pop. Without them, no group would have had that success, in the same way that without the Sugar Hill Gang, hip hop would not have started off the way it did.

      However…Wu brought something nobody had ever seen before : 9 MCs who could all rap. And that was the first time a rap group brought a culture behind them. De La Soul & ATCQ had rap on lock because they just wanted to do their own thing, but Wu kicked doors like never before. Outkast is now and forever will be the most diverse rap group of all time, because they changed the game in so many ways, that you can’t even view them as simply rappers.

      So in truth…f the title. They all kings as far as I’m concerned.

      But if you want to be realistic…Kast won simply because look at where Dre & Big Boi are at now…and look at where everybody except RZA is at now.

      • panamajackson

        Let me get this right…we are saying all 9 members of the Wu could spit? I’m gonna have to go on ahead and disagree with you there.

        U-God? Sucks. Masta Killa? Doesn’t suck but nobody’s drafting him if others are available. Even RZA aint a great rapper, though I love him. ODB was never a great rapper though he might be the best non-great rapper of all time. Point is…all 9 are not great at this rap sh*t.

        I think if ‘Kast wins…if…its just b/c of what they managed to pull off. Dre is one of the greats by anybody’s estimation. They managed to evolve. And your last point stands supreme. lol. Poor Rae.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Ok I’ll agree with your point that people like U-God & Masta Killa aren’t great spitters at all, but for 1992, A LOT OF PEOPLE were not great spitters but still hit the track decently. So just look at it from the introduction point of view that at the time, it was unheard of for a crew that large to have all members spitting.
          And yea..poor Rae. But furthermore..f Ghostface for even thinking he had the right to be on Celebrity Therapy.

          • Leave Ghostface alone! Remember the Big Doe Rehab? He was trying to tell us. LOL

      • GZA is chilling with Neil DeGrasse Tyson learning about space and blackholes. I’m sure he’s happy. Method Man is acting off-an-on. The rest though…

    • Rza is what will forever separate them. Their body of work and influence just between 93-97 is beyond compare. The fact that the Wu family is literally all over the world disputes the regional claim. Wu had a video game in the 90s!

    • panamajackson

      You know, I’m an Outkast stan til the day I die. But I will have to give a nod to the Wu on this one.

      Honestly, I think NWA as a more impactful (possibly for all the wrong reasons) than the Wu.

      Even Q-Tip admitted being influenced by Dr. Dre’s beatmaking. Point is, I could argue this one.

      • Neptunes presents The Clones

        I’m with you on NWA. they switched the genre of rap totally.

      • Medium Meech

        I would agree with you on NWA being more impactful. And also on not being sure how I feel about that impact as an adult.

        • panamajackson

          I’ve been waiting to write this post on NWA. Looks like it might be on the way.

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        This is the problem with GOAT arguments, because you always have to pay homage to who came first. Even if you don’t agree with specific artists, chances are your favorite artist was still influenced by them somehow

    • black

      Outkast is not the greatest hip hop group of all time. Outkast is the greatest hip hop duo of all time. I’d argue for Mobb Deep, but that’s beside the point.

      NWA is the greatest hip hop group of all time.

    • Um, people seem to forget that New York City is a place with actual people instead of some mythical fever dream for people from Flyover country. People act like we don’t have feelings because we can take the subway to that stuff they saw on vacation. And Outkast ain’t really street. Sorry. #ILoveNY We have feelings too you know. Then again, I did go to Jay Master Jay’s funeral and literally went to elementary school on the Boulevard of Linden. So what do I know.

    • I agree. Hip Hop heads will argue Wu forever, but Outkast’s impact on a national level was greater. Outkast repped Atl, but they were big EVERYWHERE. West coast cats didnt really mess with Wu all like that.

  • Me, My lady, My sis, and Bro in Law are part of the blessed and highly favored going to the Outkast ATLast concert this month and lemme tell youuuuu, I’m beyond excited.

    • Val

      Nice Avi. :-)

    • Aly

      I cannot express to you how jealous I am right now lol.

    • miss t-lee

      I’m going to see them in October, and I’m beyond hype!
      Wish I could’ve caught that ATL show though, I know that’s gonna be wild.

  • Neptunes presents The Clones

    Outcast started when they were teens. They are not that old but have had a 20 year career,they are level with the Wu

  • Neptunes presents The Clones

    How come nobody is mentioning Master P and CMB…

    • They aren’t from Atlanta.

      • Neptunes presents The Clones

        They are from the south. Since everyone be throwing groups around lol

  • God Shammgod

    For all of you heathens who dare besmirch the Legacy of Dipset:


    …oh yeah, and Southern rap is cool too. But it’s still Dipset you *redacted*

    • NomadaNare

      This is a lie.

    • miss t-lee


    • Things Harlemites say. Besides, Queens has a deeper and broader hip hop bench. Plus none of our ninjas wore pink for 4 years. LOL

  • Lea Thrace

    SO a blog post about the greatness of ATL/Southern rap has somehow devolved (YES DEVOLVED) into a discussion about Northern “rappers”. Hmm

    Yall cant let the south be great huh?

    Ima let yall cook though.

    • We knew would go there. It’s sad.

    • My bad. Only the Cali and Chicago cats are killing it right now anyway. ATL and NY are both irrelevant right now.

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        Sad but true.
        *goes back to blasting Problem – 354 & Curren$y – Saturday Nite Car Tunes*

        • IsitFridayyet?

          It’s not really that sad when you think of what’s come out of Chicago. Chicago Rappers have been doing well for a while (ex. Common, Lupe, Kanye) and now with Chance the Rapper bringing more attention to Chicago’s new generation of rap the future doesn’t seem too bad.

          • RewindingtonMaximus

            Its sad that as many good rappers as all regions of the States have, we keep cornering off areas and then a rebirth has to happen, that’s all I see. I’m glad Chicago is running it right now

    • miss t-lee

      Every. Single. Time.

  • Val

    All I know about rap is I know when I like a particular rap song. Otherwise I don’t know the details of the genre. Which normally means when I read something about rap I usually stop after the first paragraph. Which is how I know this was an amazing piece, PJ. I not only read the whole thing but I actually got into what you were saying and I even learned a thing or three. Good job, Grasshopper. :-)

    • panamajackson

      That is a high compliment. Thank you.

  • RewindingtonMaximus

    Speaking of the greatness of ATL rap….how come I didn’t read anyone bigging up Cyhi Da Prynce with the Hystori mixtape? That’s like my mixtape of the year so far.

    • panamajackson

      I tried to get into Cyhi’s mixtape. Really tried. It sounds dope. Good beats and rhymes and somehow, I was over it after one listen. Solid without being memorable to me.

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        Wow, really? I get everybody likes something different, but you always struck me as a lyrical lover, and he has bars for days on that joint.

  • Aly

    Welp, I know what I’ll be watching this evening. Thanks P :-)

More Like This