VIBE: Has Atlanta hip-hop declined in the past year or two?
DJ Drama: No, I don’t think Atlanta hip-hop has declined.
Big Boi: I wouldn’t say it declined, it’s just been a shift. Things go in cycles. So while we’re in the studio, everybody else get a chance to shine. And while they’re in the studio, we shine. It’s really like passing the batton. The goal is to make quality music that people gon’ dig. And at Stankonia, the place where all the funky things come from, we just try to make sure that we put out the coldest music on the planet.
DJ Drama: Atlanta is still Atlanta, I don’t think Atlanta has to prove itself. Atlanta’s been prevalent and relevant for almost 20 years now, going back to Laface and So So Def. Atlanta’s a mecca.
Donnis: Everything changed after [Hurricane] Katrina, because all the New Orleans niggas came to Atlanta and brought the bounce. It was one crazy ass summer in Atlanta. And then everybody got dreads and shit. Atlanta definitely changed; it’s not the Atlanta that I grew up on… It was a decline, because once niggas respond to a bunch of fuckin’ ‘Yeah, What,’ very simple rhyme patterns. Where else do you go from there? Nowhere but down. Artists like myself and Pill and my nigga CyHi—and Yela’s not from Atlanta but he spends a lot of time in Atlanta—It’s our responsibility to bring back real hip-hop into Atlanta. Hip-hop with a message and people saying something.
VIBE: What does it mean for Waka Flocka Flame to be the biggest rapper in Atlanta right now?
DJ Toomp: It’s a gap somewhere, because really what’s happening now is that when you look at Atlanta and say, Wow, the biggest artist is Waka Flocka, you got a long line of artists who really ain’t got hella rap skills trying to get on now.
Donnis: In Atlanta, he’s definitely that guy, man. He’s on some shit that I haven’t seen anybody in Atlanta do. He’s rapping, but it’s on some ill rock shit. When you become extra consistent at a certain sound, people just flock to it. They’re flocking to Flocka, I should say. [Laughs]
DJ Toomp: I wouldn’t say [Waka Flocka] is ours. I ain’t no hater, but I wouldn’t claim him and say that’s the A. Maybe a certain age group that he might represent, the young-ignorant. The guys who want to stand out there twisting their hair all day and can’t find no job nowhere. That’s what his shit represent—the robbers, the little dudes in and out of jail. When I hear a lot of that type music being promoted while you have a rapper off to the side waiting to put out some good music, it really makes you wonder: Are y’all really entertaining this negative side of black society?
Debra Antney: Who and what is Atlanta? Did [Waka] destroy this? It was destroyed before that. I’m not saying this because he’s my son, but it’s real. I don’t think he’s doing anything different than anybody else. There was never a problem with him until the music evolved. Everybody got along with him. The first song that came out, it was a hit. That’s called luck. You come through the second time, the third time—that’s not luck no more. Now there’s more hating. If your music is powerful, bury his music. Bury it. That’s why ain’t no more stuff coming out of here, because people spend more time hating then doing what they supposed to do. Do your craft. Because when you spend all that time of day, you losing, and somebody else is gon’ gain.
Maurice Garland: At the end of the day, young folks run this hip-hop shit. All the older cats and veterans are still here, but for example, I just turned 30 this year and if I heard Waka Flocka in the club, I’m still going to bounce to it. But I’m not necessarily going to be riding around in my car with it like I did OutKast or Goodie Mob. I don’t feel no kind of bad way toward Waka Flocka.
Big Boi: Ain’t no way in hell you can go in the club and they throw on “Hard In The Paint” and you gon’ stand still. I love it.