Mudcat and Little Joe Burton

Atlanta's Musical Influence

Rap, Hip-Hop, Soul, R&B

Known far and wide today as a mecca for rap, hip-hop, soul and R&B, Atlanta’s stature in those areas reaches back several decades. Motown legend Gladys Knight hails from the city, and Stax great William Bell has called Atlanta home since the early 1970s. In the early ‘80s, Larry Blackmon relocated the funk band Cameo from New York City to Atlanta, established the Atlanta Artists label (not only for Cameo’s records but also those by Atlanta-based funk/rap group Ca$hflow), and produced albums by Bobby Brown and The Reddings (featuring Otis’s sons). By the early '90s, Antonio “L.A.” Reid and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds were helping establish Atlanta as the new Motown with their label, LaFace Records, which launched the careers of superstar Atlanta acts TLC, Outkast, Usher, Ciara and Toni Braxton.

In 1993, Jermaine Dupri founded So So Def Recordings, which introduced the world to Atlanta stars such as Kris Kross, Xscape, Da Brat, Bow Wow and Jagged Edge. Their successes and those of fellow '90s-era breakthroughs like Goodie Mob, Monica and Arrested Development paved the way for later, still active entries such as Ludacris, Lil Jon, B.o.B, T.I., and India.Arie. More recently, Janelle Monae, Childish Gambino, Future, 2 Chainz, Killer Mike, Young Jeezy, Rich Homie Quan, Waka Flocka Flame, Gucci Mane, Young Thug, Migos, ILoveMakonnen and numerous others have seen great success, cementing Atlanta as an undisputed urban music capital.

Rock 'N' Roll

The early history of Atlanta’s rock ‘n’ roll scene includes '60s bubblegum pop star Tommy Roe, soft Southern rockers Classics IV (both managed and produced by Atlanta music industry heavyweight Bill Lowery), '60s garage act The Night Shadows, Zappa favorites the Hampton Grease Band (which launched the musical careers of eccentric jam-rock guru Bruce Hampton and acclaimed guitarist Glenn Phillips) and '70s hitmakers Atlanta Rhythm Section (which included ex-Classics IV personnel). The '80s brought acts including The Brains, Guadalcanal Diary, Georgia Satellites, Drivin’ N’ Cryin’ and Indigo Girls to prominence, while the Black Crowes and Collective Soul kept things rocking in the '90s, just as The Rock*A*Teens, Cat Power and Smoke established the (then) low-rent Cabbagetown neighborhood as an eclectic indie-rock creative hub.

Mega rock producer Brendan O’Brien cut his teeth in Atlanta (including a stint in the Satellites), as did acclaimed musician/producer Butch Walker. Grammy Award-winning Christian rock band Third Day is headquartered in metro Atlanta. More recently, indie bands such as Black Lips, Deerhunter and The Coathangers, along with harder edged outfits Mastodon and Royal Thunder, have kept Atlanta’s amps on 11.


Atlanta’s never been widely known for its blues heritage, but certainly Blind Willie McTell must be mentioned in any discussion of the city’s blues history. Ditto for Billy Wright, Barbecue Bob and McTell’s occasional singing partner Curley Weaver, whose daughter Cora Mae Bryant became a local blues favorite in her own right and performed until her death in 2008. Frank Edwards was another Atlanta blues veteran we sadly lost in 2002. Currently, artists such as Francine Reed and Mudcat help keep the blues alive in Atlanta.


Another indigenous music form of the American South, country music has also played a significant role in Atlanta’s musical identity. Born in Fannin County in extreme North Georgia, pioneering country musician Fiddlin’ John Carson spent most of his adult life living in Atlanta’s Cabbagetown neighborhood. Robert Moreland Stanley and his daughter Roba Stanley were other early Georgia-based country performers. Brenda Lee is a native Atlantan, as was Jerry Reed.

Three country stars who came to prominence in the 1990s – Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt and Doug Stone – were born in metro Atlanta; Jackson in Newnan, just south of Atlanta, and both Tritt and Stone in Marietta, to the northwest. Sugarland came together in Atlanta, as did genre-crossing groups Blackberry Smoke and the Zac Brown Band, while up-and-comer Sam Hunt is a native of nearby Cedartown. 

Experience Atlanta's music scene by following this guide to the many venues, festivals and points of interest that celebrate local artists.

Published: January 2016