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An Atlanta Story’ chronicles the power of Atlanta’s hip-hop and trap music

“It was important to find characters that I could follow,” Coscarelli said. “And hopefully through very specific stories, I can tell a more universal one about how this music culture works.”

It opens the book over 40 years ago when Wayne Williams was trying to break into music but eventually became more famous for being jailed for life for killing two men. Williams was also linked to the case of dozens of missing and murdered black children in Atlanta, which he strongly denied. Lil Baby’s mother, Lashon, knew one of the victims, and her childhood was shaped by the fear her parents felt when Lashon’s peers disappeared around her.

“It directly affected the mother she became,” Coscarelli said, and ultimately the formation of Lil Baby (real name: Dominique Jones) himself. From a storytelling perspective, he said, “it was a real breakthrough.”

Key players in the book include behind-the-scenes players such as Kevin Lee, better known as Coach K, and Pierre “P” Thomas, co-founders of Quality Control, the Atlanta-based label and music management company. music and sports. who helped Migos and Lil Baby become international stars.

Coscarelli appreciated how quality control focused on developing old-school talent instead of just finding a hit and jumping on the bandwagon. “They built artists and did it again and again,” he said. “They had several breakout stories and it was because of the groundwork they laid down. They understood the scene and their audience.

He looks at how underground mixing tapes, sold in strip clubs and car trunks, built many Atlanta artists like Future and Gucci Mane. “Migos released mixtapes before releasing an album,” he noted. Online, he said, “young people were used to getting a ton of free music online. When streaming came along, rap artists were groomed to use it much faster than, say, country artists.

Coscarelli also notes how many of these rap stars didn’t initially dream of getting into the music industry, and some had to be coaxed by managers like Coach K.

“When talking about trap music and guys who are said to come from a hustler background, ‘I’m not a rapper’ is a refrain,” Coscarelli said. “It was something Jeezy always said. It’s basically a meme in rap. They have other skills… A lot of them didn’t have time to dream of being stars. They were just trying to live.

In Atlanta, he says, that’s a good thing. “It’s authenticity and living your rhymes,” he said. “It’s seen as a bonus. Someone like Lil Baby when he came out he already had a buzz. He was known in the neighborhood. (Lil Baby was a drug dealer before focusing on music and spent two years in prison.)

Migos hit No. 1 on the pop chart in 2016 with “Bad and Boujee” without “any sacrifice to the pop playbook,” Coscarelli said. “They haven’t changed their sound at all. It showed the power of streaming. A previous song “Versace” was huge in rapping but barely charted on the Billboard charts. By the time “Bad and Boujee” arrived, audiences and technology had caught up. For me, it was the start of the most recent golden age of Atlanta trap music in the mainstream.

But last spring, Atlanta rap stars Young Thug (real name Jeffrey Lamar Williams) and Gunna were arrested. The indictment against Williams includes charges of participating in street gang activity, violating Georgia’s controlled substances law and possessing a firearm while committing a crime. Gunna, real name Sergio Kitchens, has been charged with one count of conspiring to violate the RICO Act, which is used to take down major criminal organizations. Both men claim to be innocent.

This, Coscarelli said, left a hole in the Atlanta rap scene.

“We haven’t necessarily seen who comes next in Atlanta,” he said, “who fills that void. But what’s amazing about Atlanta is that there’s always someone with a new style.

Coscarelli explores relatively uncharted territory with “Rap City.” There are books like Roni Sarig (“Third Coast”), Regina Bradley (“Chronicling Stankonia”) and Ben Westhoff (“Dirty South”), a professor at Kennesaw State University, which explore certain historical aspects of Southern hip hop.

But Coscarelli said more journalists were needed to delve into that world. “There aren’t enough books on rap music in general given its global impact,” he said, while hundreds of books on the Beatles, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and other boomer-friendly groups are readily available. “It’s an injustice.”

Indeed, his book barely touches on older artists like TI, Ludacris, and Goodie Mob. He even told Big Boi about OutKast but didn’t use any of it because it didn’t fit his book’s narrative.

“I didn’t want to write an Atlanta history book because that’s not what I do,” he said.