VIBE: How have T.I. and Gucci Mane’s jail sentences affected the overall music climate in Atlanta?
DJ Drama: You can’t promote the same way from jail when you’re out, so it’s hard to be as many places and be everywhere from jail. The game just moves fast, man. From the point where Tip went in last time to the point he got out [in March], I watched Trey, Drake and Nicki be the hottest in the game, just that fast. We just all gotta keep up. There’s a lot of fresh talent, a lot of people out here that are just really making lanes and making names and it happens every couple years. It’s how the game goes.
Donnis: You gotta keep up when you spend 11 months in jail. That’s something hard to do. These fans want to be fed everyday. Our heros come out of jail and they come out and they can only make so much music. With Tip, it’s quality over quantity. He’s gon’ release records that mean something and are extra important rather than just a bunch of records that didn’t really mean nothing. These kids are spending all their time on the Internet, so they wanna go to a blog and they wanna hear that [new] song.
DJ Toomp: You leave your fans in a state of disappointment when you put yourself in a position where you get out of that light for a year or so. You really give them a chance to really forget about you, almost. To the point where it’s like, Damn Tip’s locked up, Jeezy ain’t out yet, Luda ain’t got an album out—this is what we left with? Fuck it, I’ll gone on and buy that Waka Flocka.
Maurice Garland: Atlanta’s msuic scene has been there here for 20-plus years, so there is always going to be a foundation. But every trend needs somewhat of a leader. With those [Gucci Mane and T.I.] being in and out of jail over the past two years, there really wasn’t that authoritative voice. A lot of cats were trying to fill their spots.
VIBE: But when they came back home, they didn’t pop the same way. Why do you think that was?
Donnis: This is just a personal preference, and I probably shouldn’t say this, but I don’t wanna hear Gucci over Swizz Beatz and shit like that. I wanna hear Gucci on some hood-ass grimy shit. I don’t want to hear Gucci and Pharrell together, but it is what it is. Maybe he’s growing as an artist and doing what he’s gotta do.
Debra Antney: When we had [Gucci], we did our job and we did it well. The one thing we know how to do is work them streets. When everybody else wanted to come in and thought they knew everything, everything got screwed up. There were so many hands in the pot, and you know what happens with that.
Donnis: I don’t wanna see yo ass off the block with ashy lips and y’all dancing and shit in the video. That’s not what niggas wanna see. That’s not what them white girls wanna see! Them white girls that went out and bought your first record? They wanna feel like they was in the trap house kicking it with you. People have to realize why white people were going to buy Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre at the height of gangster music—because it was just a pure form of gangster music. Some people just need to stay and keep it gangsta because when you speak for the streets, that’s something very valuable. With an artist like Gucci, it sucks for Atlanta because who do hood niggas have to look up to? Nobody.
DJ Drama: If we were on the phone a year ago, two years ago, who would’ve ever thought we’d be having this conversation about Tip, Jeezy and Gucci not—Waka being hotter than those three guys? You know it’s concerning, but the thing about Atlanta music is it’s always fresh. It consistently changes.