Last night, a group of about 50 artists, students, producers, press, and management all converged at Patchwerk studios to hear a roundtable discussion with the legendary DJ Drama and Don Cannon. This was sponsored by and done as part of a Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) week-long series of events being held in Atlanta. The unassuming studio front had two valets ready to park cars, and guests were sent around to the back entrance whereupon we saw for the first time how large and excellently maintained this studio really is. I had never been inside, but I knew this was an important studio for Atlanta hip-hop history. What I didn’t realize was quite how important, as I walked down the halls covered in gold and platinum records for the recordings of artists like Ludacris, T.I., Bow Wow, Nelly, and many more famous names. We were ushered upstairs where Red Bull had hired two bartenders to serve us complimentary cocktails, each one including their Redbull Yellow product, and folks mingled around, exchanging information, talking about their artistry or work, and looking around the studio space.
Drama and Cannon were sequestered off in a side room until it was time for the round table, at which point they went downstairs, and a select few were allowed to join them in the room where cameras and microphones were all set up to stream and record the conversation. The rest of us either stayed in the cocktail lounge or in a viewing theater and heard the talk piped over the house speakers. The discussion was moderated but very free-form, and included all sorts of interesting stories about the rise of mixtape culture, and some reflections on some of Drama’s most famous projects, like the Dedication series with Lil Wayne and some of his early work with Gucci and T.I. After nearly an hour of discussion, a few people (mostly students) were allowed to ask questions, which led to some more advice and storytelling from Drama and Cannon, with Drama doing a bit more of the talking.
Once the roundtable was wrapped up, and the last few phone numbers and Instagram handles exchanged among the crowd, it was time to head over to Graveyard in East Atlanta Village for the afterparty. This was a much larger event, open to the general public, and the line out front nearly wrapped around the corner. I got to use my time waiting to enter to meet some new people and tell my story, but once inside, there was little opportunity for conversation as the music was so incredibly loud. I arrived as Cannon was in the middle of his set, and as soon as I got settled with a drink, the music cut out. He casually got things going again, and in time turned the decks over to DJ Drama. The crowd was nodding their heads, but never really went crazy, and the DJs were either chatting with friends or on their phones in between song transitions. To me, the event felt much less like a party and more like an art gallery or something. It felt like the crowd was there because they felt they *should* be there, and for Drama and Cannon, audience interaction seemed unnecessary. A solid mix of old-school hits and modern favorites, Drama’s set was a bit disjointed, but full of well-loved tracks.
After DJ Drama wrapped his set, local favorite Speakerfoxxx stepped up and plied the crowd with a much higher energy set of more modern radio hits and club bangers. She has her own RMBA radio show now, and is quickly rising as the dame of ATL hip-hop influence. It’s been great to see her career grow with the help of labels like Fool’s Gold supporting her, and with her most recent partnership with Red Bull, I feel confident that she will continue to do great things for this city. Red Bull has shown clear interest in our city, and I hope they will continue to invest in our arts and entertainment scene. They have such a strong global brand, and Atlanta is still rising, so keep an eye out for more events and sponsorships coming from them over time. In the city of the phoenix, perhaps it’s even appropriate to say that Atlanta gives you wings!
Click HERE for a list of all the events happening in Atlanta Aug. 15 - Aug. 20.