Shaky Beats in Atlanta
Atlanta: Where Music Has Something to Say
A musical powerhouse, Atlanta is home to an ever-growing list of famous musicians, huge music festivals and must-see sites for music fans.
Atlanta has seen its share of musical magic. Blues icon Blind Willie McTell performed on the city’s streets in his heyday; Brenda Lee and Gladys Knight were born here, as were Alan Jackson and Travis Tritt. The folk-rock duo Indigo Girls played together for the first time in their Decatur high school English class, and John Mayer cut his teeth jamming at Eddie's Attic.
But Atlanta’s most cohesive and powerful musical identity has roots in one moment from 1995, when East Point’s own OutKast disrupted the East Coast/West Coast dichotomy by winning Best New Rap Group at the Source Awards. When the New York audience booed the duo, Andre 3000 famously grabbed the mic and proclaimed, “The South got somethin’ to say.”
When Outkast got booed after winning the Best New Artist-Group award at the Source Awards, André 3000 decided to drop a bomb on stage with "The South's got something to say," Andre's words along with their influence on southern rappers, eventually got the south the respect it deserves in hip hop. Well said 🙌. Drop your favorite southern rapper/group 👇
Embracing and nurturing hip-hop, rap and R&B artists enabled Atlanta to come into its own as a musical powerhouse. Known as the cradle of the civil rights movement, Atlanta has long been home base for many unapologetically black, outspoken visionaries. After LaFace and So So Def Records put the spotlight on homegrown artists like Usher, TLC and Toni Braxton in the early 1990s, the stage was set for the Dirty South to rise up.
Nowadays, Atlanta’s talent roster is stacked: Migos and Future dominate the charts; Childish Gambino – aka Donald Glover, creator of FX Networks' "Atlanta" – is an award-winning multidisciplinary wunderkind; Killer Mike, half of critically acclaimed rap duo Run the Jewels, scorches every stage he lands on; and Janelle Monae and Young Thug continue to push boundaries and enthrall listeners. Turns out the South does have something to say – and the whole world is listening.
The music festival capital of the South
There’s an Atlanta music festival to suit every taste. Sample the best rap and hip hop at Centennial Olympic Park’s One Musicfest, now into its next decade – or hit up the A3C Festival, which began as a local hip-hop showcase in 2005 and steadily grew into the robust, inspirational event it is today.
Music Midtown, an eclectic two-day fest in Piedmont Park, features artists like Cardi B, Vampire Weekend and Lizzo. The Shaky Knees Festival spotlights indie acts like Beck and LCD Soundsystem, while its sister festival Shaky Beats focuses on electronica and dance.
If jazz is your thing, the Atlanta Jazz Festival has been bringing premiere performances to Piedmont Park for the past 42 years, free of charge – bring a blanket and a buddy and settle in. And the SweetWater 420 Fest, put on by Atlanta’s beloved SweetWater Brewing Company, now 15 years and growing with four stages full of jam band-heavy acts featuring Georgia’s own Widespread Panic at the helm.
Must-see live music venues
When festival season is over, never fear – Atlanta’s got some of the most unique concert venues in the state.
The Tabernacle, a former church, is listed as one of Billboard’s 25 Most Popular Music Clubs in the U.S., and the fabulous Fox Theatre is a beautiful, historic host to Broadway shows and the Atlanta Ballet – and rock ‘n roll, of course. The cool kids hang out at 529 and the Earl, where quirky indie is king, and there’s live music seven nights a week at the divey Northside Tavern, known for its bluesy jams.
More Atlanta music must-sees
Want to be immersed in Atlanta's hip hop heritage in a truly unique way? Time to visit the Trap Music Museum, curated in part by hometown rapper T.I., which also features an “Escape the Trap”-themed escape room.