Haters are going to hate this list; but there are rules to this game.
The task of compiling the 20 most hated Atlanta music acts into one Holy Grail of Hometown Haterade is a serious undertaking — one that musn't be approached all willy nilly. So we established an unimpeachable set of criteria, one that favored rationale over emotion. When all else failed, we arm-wrestled.
What emerged was a shortlist of key questions that guided the final order of the countdown:
1) How hated art thou? Hyperlocal hate might buy you some much-needed indie cred, but to ball with the big boys one must be reviled on an international scale.
2) How "Atlanta" art thou? In a city overrun by transplants, we strongly considered how intrinsic Atlanta is to each artist's development and identity — whether they're natives, current residents, or simply passing through Hartsfield-Jackson.
3) How relevant art thou? One must earn the right to be hated, so consider it a badge of honor. It's a sign that people acknowledge, perhaps even respect, your current position and impact on music — no matter how passionately they think you suck.
In an attempt to leave no stone unturned, we skewer the usual suspects (insert favorite trap rapper here), throw in several indie surprises (f'n hipsters), even slay a sacred cow or two. Our scientific polling and research led us to the best compendium of player haterism ever invented by Al Gore — the Internet(!) — which we scoured for comments, slander, and pure, un-spellchecked revulsion ("Major Shade"). That's followed by our own two-cent critiques ("Haterade"). Most importantly, we defend each artist in question with reasons why they deserve your unyielding adoration in spite of themselves ("Playerade").
Because, in the end, it's all love around these parts.
— Rodney Carmichael
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 20: Gun Party
Keep the safety on until you're ready to pull the trigger
"WTF kinda music is this? I don't fucking get this ether its like bellydancer nu-metal or something?" — "MATH4EVA," Crib Notes
If you've never had your cap peeled by Gun Party, consider yourself blessed. The band's dueling brother-sister vocal combo — Mable and Hawthorn T. Glitter — creates an awkward sexual tension on stage that's borderline incestuous at times. But the most unsettling thing about the slick and twisted alt-rock ensemble is Special TV Microwave Computer, a debut album practically devoid of logical musical references. Mix gypsy-metal riffage with schmaltzy Los Angeles glam and you get a theatrical vibe that reeks of overly confident swagger. The signals are woefully mixed, which hits at the heart of the matter: Gun Party has zero grasp on the aesthetic it's trying to hone, and the dilemma is only underscored by virtue of the bedroom eyes exchanged on stage.
Unfortunately, there is no grace period when it comes to the severity of criticism a prepubescent band receives. Still, it seems unfair to harpoon Gun Party — a group that's barely been playing together two years — for having yet to reach full maturation. Although Gun Party's steez is a bit convoluted, the group exemplifies the nature of a burgeoning Atlanta band attempting to craft an identity in the post-Internet era by blasting through influences as quickly as one scrolls through Facebook status updates. Beneath its strange, all-inclusive brew of alt-rock, neo-pop, and dance floor strut lie the telltale signs of a new musical dynamic. What is often perceived as a lack of aesthetic in the group's sound is the aesthetic. They don't suck, they're just ahead of the curve. — Chad Radford
ATLANTA'S MOST HATED NO. 19: The Constellations
Atlanta's barroom bad boys Occupy the mainstream
"... they are really bad yet people shit themselves over that band for some reason." — "AmJam," Creative Loafing
Because that damn song "Felicia" is still stuck in your head. But, seriously. Bursting on the scene with their 2010 Virgin debut, Southern Gothic, Atlanta's Constellations enjoyed limited radio success and a flurry of press release-replicating write-ups from the glossier rags. Yet substance was all but absent from the group's scatterbrained, soul-inflected tunes, which attempted to bridge the canyon between mindless party anthems and penetrating social commentary to oft-embarrassing effect. This year's Do It For Free was the requisite sophomore outing wherein the Constellations got all serious. Released (i.e., dropped) from the artistic constraints of the dreaded Major Label, the band affected a focus on the heftier thematic side of its double-edged music but betrayed its true nature with some seriously lightweight musical constructs and the most ridiculous Tom Waits impression this side of the Mississippi.
Let's be honest: The Constellations are mainstream drivel, but it's a breezy, nostalgic sort of mainstream drivel - something straight off of the 99X playlist circa 1996. The band's music feels honest in a way most doesn't. These folks care equally about partying and politics, and why shouldn't they be able to express that with a cheesy, smoky organ solo? Frontman Elijah Jones put his money where his mouth is with his outspoken presence at last year's Occupy Atlanta (I sure don't remember hearing about any other big-name Atlanta musicians hanging out at Woodruff Park). And the band's balance actually makes some sort of slanted sense — sometimes, a mindlessly funky party jam is exactly what you need to hear to divert your thoughts from the mounting horrors of everyday American living. But the main reason to love these guys is that, despite their MOR tendencies, they're actually quite unique among Atlanta acts. In an age where even the most utilitarian pop music masquerades as "indie" for marketing purposes, the Constellations make no bones about their style or their audience. Haters gonna hate, but there's something refreshing about a band that operates with such disregard for the trends of the day. Godspeed, Constellations. Keep on doin' your thing — even if it ain't my thing. — Gabe Vodicka
ATLANTA'S MOST HATED NO. 18: Baby Baby
How Baby Baby intends to become Atlanta's next great rock band
On a balmy Saturday, late one night in the summer of 2010, I paid a visit to 529 and unwittingly came face-to-face with a band I wouldn't soon forget — Baby Baby. The group was already on stage, reeling through a jumble of sloppy, high-energy rock, amplified by a sense of pure youthful abandon. After watching a few songs of the band's self-described "fun rock" set, my assessment of Baby Baby was embodied by the wince on the door guy's face.
Less than a year later, I bestowed Baby Baby's debut album, Money, with a biting two out of five stars, which kicked up an Internet flame war fanned by the group's followers. The perceived beef came to a head with a little ditty the group released earlier this year called "Haters." They even used a portion of my review for the single's cover art. Clearly, they understood the first rule of self-promotion: All press is good press. But it also evoked that age-old question: How does one define a hater? The word is one of those cultural memes that gets tossed around way too often; its meaning obscured by oversaturation. So I sat down for coffee with three-fourths of the fun boys from Carrollton — Fontez Brooks (vocals/guitar), Kyle Dobbs (bass), and Grant Wallace (drums) — and asked them to give me their take on all the hate.
Let's jump right in and get your definition of "hater."
Fontez Brooks: A hater is someone who disregards the fact that we work our asses off. When this band started, we recorded out in the woods, trying to put out a CD. We were together for three months, put out an EP, another EP, another EP, the album, videos, and then "Haters." We're a bunch of dorky dudes from Carrollton trying to make something happen. Not liking the music is one thing, but if you can't even respect the hustle, you're a hater, and we don't have time for you.
Fair enough. Is Baby Baby subjected to an inordinate amount of hate?
FB: People talk trash, but it's something that's needed. Say, I'm reviewing the new iPhone. First, you want to know what's good about it, then what's bad. There's gonna be a flaw and you have to talk about it so you know how to fix it.
Grant Wallace: I watched "Bob's Burgers" today — he got a negative review but said, "Anyone who brings in this article gets half off their meal," which is pretty much what we did with your review of Money [laughs].
FB: That was genius! We came to Atlanta with wide eyes, thinking, "Everyone's gonna love us, because in Carrollton people love us." We were naïve boys — emphasis on "boys." We saw what the Atlanta scene is, and that there's literally no place for us. But we set up shop in East Atlanta and invited anyone who wanted to come hang out. But when starting something new, some people are going to say "no," because in order for us to be successful, certain other bands have to be not successful. That's the way the music industry works, and right now the trend isn't in our favor — it's in a chill mode.
FB: Chillwave. Washed Out and Toro Y Moi were running things for a while, and this post-Strokes reverb on the vocals thing is happening — we're talking about people that don't necessarily listen to the radio. The local music scene is what we care about. We're working on knowing our local fans and getting more fans wherever we are. We'll keep touring and trying to get on college campuses, bar areas — more anything where we can play.
GW: We played the parking lot of a TCBY once — we will literally bring it to you. Granted, there were some songs we didn't play.
FB: "Haters" was one, because I sing, "We terrorized this TCBY."
Kyle Dobbs: We played a church once and instead of singing, "Hell yeah," we sang "Heaven yeah." That went over well.
Do you think the less-than-warm reception Baby Baby received was because you guys came on pretty strong right out of the gate?
FB: Absolutely. The Strokes made not trying look cool. We want to make trying your hardest cool again. Right now, everyone's trying so hard to look cool that you can hear it in the music. We came from Carrollton, so we have to try that much harder. We didn't know anybody to talk with in the local scene; we didn't know the Chad Rad or anybody else. We came in and were like, "You want us to play here? Play there? OK!" People were weirded out by our positivity. We don't want negative energy around us.
KD: One reason the album is called Money is because if we had more of it, the CD could have been really good. We could only afford to do a few songs in the studio. The rest were recorded in places like our friends' basements. The next full-length will be called Big Boy Baller Club, and we have a new single, "Keep on Dancing." It's gonna blow your mind. The idea is that times get tough, and you'll think you can't go any further, but you can. ... Remember what I said about positivity? That's what "Keep on Dancing" is about. "Haters" doesn't reflect anything about the album. We put that out to let the haters know that we've got love for you, too.
I didn't think my review of Money was very hateful.
GW: It wasn't; and the "Haters" cover was supposed to be ironic. Everything came together exactly as it should, and it was released on Valentine's Day — perfect! There was a comment that really inspired us, but I can't remember exactly what it said.
KD: Something about "ruining music everywhere."
I take it you haven't read Sun Tzu's The Art of War?
It outlines philosophies and rules for warfare. There's one rule about making your enemies think you're near when you're far away, sick when you're in good health, etc. Releasing "Haters" wasn't very Sun Tzu. Waka Flocka, for example, is one of the most hated rappers in Atlanta. I once asked him what he thought about his haters, and his response was, "I can't be bothered." That's a very Sun Tzu tactic, and if it works for Waka—
FB: Don't worry haters, we know you're reading. Everyone has emotions, and we're acknowledging yours. We got our own book coming out, now that I know what The Art of War is about. It'll be on Facebook and Twitter — Big Boy Baller Club Rules.
KD: I wrote one this morning. Rule No. 356: You can't wait for people to come to you. You have to go to them.
GW: Rule No. 700: Take bone marrow pills to make $1,600 for recording. Three of us are going to Knoxville where we'll be enslaved for five days — taking pills which hopefully won't cause us pain — and use the money to record.
You're being pharmaceutical guinea pigs to pay for recording?
GW: Yeah, we'll totally have enough for a couple of songs after that.
FB: Rule No. 256: The Baby Baby VIP is right outside the front door. If you want to be in the VIP section, all you have to do is kick it outside the front door. Everyone's a VIP at our shows. The cool kids can wait outside or come inside if they'd like. I know you guys want to be selective, but we don't want your energy around us.
Cool kids meaning hipster types who favor fashion and trends over something that doesn't quite fit into the accepted mold?
FB: It pisses me off when people say we're not original. Point to one band that's doing what we're doing. I can point to 15 bands in a five-mile radius that sound exactly the same. The whole scene is copying each other, and everyone wears the same clothes, like Nazi camp. And they're listening to original music?
There hasn't been a really good rock band from here in a long time. There's Manchester Orchestra, Black Lips, Deerhunter, and O'Brother, but the chillwave thing became so popular that everything literally chilled out. Our shows aren't chill, though. We trick people into thinking it's chill in the beginning. We'll say, "Put on your dancing shoes!"
KD: Rule No. 87: Don't try to impress anyone but yourself.
— Chad Radford
ATLANTA'S MOST HATED 17: Cousin Dan
God's gift, and curse, to women
"I saw this dumb ass try to perform some bullshit where he was like look I have on a codpiece to show off my baby dick. FUCK YOU COUSIN DAN." — "MATH4EVA," Crib Notes
It's no mystery why people love to hate Cousin Dan: the moustache, the earring, the laser gloves, the codpiece — it's Saturday Night Fever meets The Road Warrior at an Urban Outfitters convention. By appearances alone, Cousin Dan defies the indie-cred mandate to keep it real. His style reeks of gimmickry executed by a laundry list of ironic electro party rockers — Chromeo, Har Mar Superstar, LMFAO, and Gil Mantera's Party Dream — before him. But Danny Boy's biggest misstep? In his parodied attempt to pander to women's desires, he reveals his own male chauvinist intentions. Sure, it's over-the-top silly, but obnoxious as a mofo.
Even when Cousin Dan is dressed in civilian attire — sporting a Dallas Cowboys cap and a button-down shirt while leaning against a smoke-stained booth at Manuel's Tavern — it can be difficult to separate the man from the myth. Sure, he's ultra confident and full of God's-gift-to-women conceit. But here's the caveat, it's only an act. As a Savannah College of Art and Design graduate with a degree in sculpture, Cousin Dan knows the value of provocation, whether the reaction is positive or negative. The notoriety he's garnered on Atlanta's nightlife scene is a result of his studied, tongue-in-cheek approach to working crowds, and critics, into a frenzy with his unique flavor. And what does Cousin Dan's keyboard-driven spectacle of lights, smoke, and man-sex on overdrive taste like? Something that defies comparison. "I am flavor," he declares with the same godlike swagger he brings to the stage. Confidence of such magnitude is absurd, yes, but that's the point. — Chad Radford
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 16: Childish Gambino
Actor, comedian, rapper, and blah blah blah
"Donald Glover 'tanks' on Fallon. Has he topped Drake as the 'softest nigga in the rap game'?" — Carles, HipsterRunoff.com
Put simply, there generally ain't a whole lot of critical love reserved for the self-consciously poly-talented. Stone Mountain native Donald Glover — who established himself as a writer, comedian, actor, and Twitter elite before pursuing hip-hop in earnest — experienced the celeb-rap backlash firsthand when indie colossus Pitchfork speared him with a spitefully low 1.6 rating for his 2011 full-length, Camp. Though it's entirely arguable that the review was a bit, ahem, childish, it underscored the perception some folks seem to have of Glover's music, which is that it tends to drown itself in a kiddie pool of Asian-girl-obsessed self-pity. We'll admit that the pseudo-outsider petulance of his lyrics certainly didn't help matters much. (He's a black guy! Who didn't fit in at high school! And is, like, way into indie rock! Crazy, right?!)
Fuck what you heard: Camp was no 1.6. Aside from Gambino's well-formed witticisms, most of which were on par with or better than anything Glover's hero Kanye ever spat, the album showcased a mean set of production skills, too. Regardless of your opinion on celebrities who harbor musical aspirations, Gambino has consistently proven that he's in it for the love of the game, not the extracurricular fame. In actuality, his appeal runs deep; try finding another rapper besides the big four (Yeezy, Weezy, Drizzy, Jay-Zizzy) who inspires as much cross-cultural relatability. Gambino is the epitome of the blog-rap generation, the emperor of the post-post-underground, unapologetically geeky and meta-everything. The backlash in his case is to be expected, but we can officially declare that it's baseless. More lyrical than Lil B, as gleefully megalomaniacal as rappers worth three times as much (but somehow still gravity-bound), Childish Gambino is actually a near-perfect amalgam of the three things Glover does best: writing, rapping, and just plain being funnier than a mug. — Gabe Vodicka
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 15: Back Pockets
Untangling the flower-power roots of Back Pockets' musical legacy makes vindication sweet
In the beginning, all Emily Kempf wanted to do was stage a play. But from its inception in August 2008, Back Pockets quickly turned into a Frankenstein's monster, pieced together from Kempf's musical, artistic, and theatrical endeavors, along with anything else she fancied. She chose a banjo as her axe, mostly because she'd never really dug playing guitar all that much, and over the next few years her unrestrained vision grew into a living, breathing entity of dreamlike symbolism wrapped in shambolic music and performance art dirges. Her instincts not only carved out a niche for Back Pockets as one of the most bizarre musical acts in the city, she became a local pied piper of sorts.
Kempf's primal, avant-garde instincts and Southern hippie aesthetic left a mark on everyone who filtered through the group's ranks. But her unorthodox ways became something of an Achilles heel, provoking just as much seething animosity from audiences as she did endearment. It was as if Back Pockets suddenly had become a bad word; but Kempf would get the last word.
The outsider punk-gypsy plod of such numbers as "Break Up Song," "Leave Me Alone," and "Making Out is Great" seemed weird for weirdness's sake. At times, the songs lacked melody and the defining structural qualities that came naturally for Kempf's obvious influences: David Bowie, Crass, Of Montreal, and so on. What's more, the elaborate costumes, theatrical productions, and excessive size of the group — often incorporating as many as 15 members — felt like a gimmick to mask her lack of legitimate songwriting skills.
But Kempf never set out to create easily consumable pop songs, and Back Pockets' ramshackle aesthetic still holds true to her original vision. Through it all, the group has drawn scores of curious participants, many who never made music on their own prior to joining the band. While Kempf hesitates to guess the number, it's safe to say that somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 people have called themselves members over the course of four years. She certainly created a fertile stomping ground for many of the city's more adventurous spirits — including members of nearly two dozen burgeoning local acts such as Wowser Bowser, Faun and a Pan Flute, Christ, Lord, and others — thereby perpetuating a grassroots legacy of experimentation and primitivism. Despite the group's shrinking ranks in recent years, Kempf's vindication lies in the influence she has wielded over so many young musicians who walked away with an indelible piece of her sound and vision. — Chad Radford
Let no band put asunder
From purveyors of experimental art-pop to one hip-hop co-op, Back Pockets' offshoots run the gamut. The following are 23 past and present Atlanta acts that contain former members of the fanciful underground band of merrymakers.
Noisy, high-energy art pop
Billy Mitchell (drums), Philip Frobos (bass)
Summertime reverb punk ditties
Suzanne Baker (vocals)
Danny Bailey (drums), David Gray (drums), Suzanne Baker (vocals), Gage Gilmore (bass)
Ghostly murder ballads
Suzanne Baker (vocals, banjo, broken plates)
Dirty, mathy rock
Danny Bailey (drums), Gage Gilmore (bass)
Billy Mitchell and Brandon Camarda (trumpet)
Britt Teusink (vocals, guitar), Gage Gilmore (bass), Kenneth Figuera (keyboards)
Dreary post-punk/gothic rock
Adam Bruneau (drums)
Textured, droning majesty
Michael Potter (guitar)
Earthy reggae jams
Lazy-day pop melodies
Heather Buzzard (vocals), Michael Jordan (guitar)
David Gray, Heather Buzzard, George Petis (performance art)
No-sense dance mess
Billy Mitchell, Danny Bailey
Staccato rhythms and weirdness
Billy Mitchell, Henry Detweiller (theater), Stephanie Pharr (theater), Brandon Camarda, Casey Hood, Gage Gilmore, Danny Bailey
Casey Hood (vocals), Jared Pepper (guitar), Mikhail Ally (bass)
Bluesy rock 'n' rollers
Jared Pepper (drums)
Jazzy hip-hop co-op
Britt Teusink, Suzanne Baker, David Gray, Danny Bailey, Cameron Stuart (electric guitar)
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 14: The Coathangers
These lady punks don't care what you think
"... fully lame band of shitty broads with zero talent" — "Anonymous," Brooklyn Vegan
Ever since Atlanta's ragtag lady-punk foursome the Coathangers first picked up instruments and started making a racket in the summer of 2007, their caterwauling three-chord assaults have been easy targets. They quickly earned a rep as a band of obnoxious girls — a stereotype they played into with the shrill yap of such juvenile rants as "Don't Touch My Shit" and "Nestle in My Bobbies." The music was simple and sloppy; a one-trick pony. They leapt into the local fray with very little musical ability, coasting on the charisma of a group of girls who just wanted to have fun playing out-of-tune punk jams. Even though their self-titled debut was the first album released by Rob's House Records — the venerated Atlanta punk staple that set the standard for primitive three-chord garage-punk — Coathangers lacked the chops of peers Carbonas, Black Lips, and Gentleman Jesse. And to this day, they've failed to earn the same level of respect.
Of the hundreds of bands I've written about for Creative Loafing over the years, Coathangers are the one that people still elbow me about and ask, "What do you really think?" The group thrives despite relentless sexist attacks on its sound and appearance — including the kind of petty, mean-spirited bashing its male contemporaries would never have to endure. "They all have zooey deschanel hair," one Brooklyn Vegan blog commenter wrote about Stephanie Luke, Meredith Franco, Julia Kugel, and Candice Jones. Imagine how absurd it would sound if Brooklyn Vegan's peanut gallery said that about Atlanta power-pop rockers Gentleman Jesse and His Men? And some of those dudes actually have Zooey Deschanel hair! Rising above such double standards is probably what drove Coathangers to embrace punk rock in the first place. Even in the early days, when they couldn't play their instruments, they never flaunted their gender to disguise it. They owned their musical inexperience and had fun with it. They were the only band to cut their teeth in the Rob's House scene that went on to sign a deal with a legitimate label, Seattle's Suicide Squeeze. Since then they've fleshed out a visceral, buzzsaw-punk creep that culminates in such songs as "Stop Stomp Stompin'," "Hurricane," and "Trailer Park Boneyard" — caustic ditties that do their basement punk roots justice while carrying them around the world. Never mind the respectable 7.6 review Pitchfork gave their latest album, Larceny & Old Lace, Coathangers have succeeded on their own terms. — Chad Radford
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 13: Ludacris
Can't knock the hustle and flow
"'My Chick Bad'? Nobody cares about your chick. Go somehwere, OK. Get a life! ... And if you dont' make good songs, you'll probably never be as cool as you used to be ever again. So this is some friendly advice, Ludacris. You suck." — "hdesir100," YouTube
Remember that scene in Hustle and Flow when Terrence Howard's character, Djay, takes a puff from his Newport, turns to Ludacris' character, Skinny Black, and confronts him with characteristic bluntness: "What the fuck happened to you, mayne?" Talk about life imitating art. Chris "Ludacris" Bridges' 2005 portrayal of a hometown hero who'd made it so big in the rap game that he'd forgotten his roots was eerily prescient, considering how that role helped launch a Hollywood acting career that slowly brought a demise to Luda's rap relevance. Those animated flows that punctuated his early releases have been replaced by repetitive themes and predictable punch lines; no doubt, dude's been phoning it in since 2006's Release Therapy. He's practically a shell of the boisterous MC he was 12 years ago when he released his Def Jam debut, Back for the First Time. He even acknowledged as much last November with the aptly titled release of his latest mixtape, 1.21 Gigawatts: Back to the First Time. But it'll take more than a time-traveling DeLorean to bring the old Luda back to the future.
In Chris Bridges' defense, it has to be hard to evolve when the character you created in your early 20s is so damn ludicrous. It's the age-old question all hip-hop artists eventually must face: Am I too grown to still be doing this shit? No wonder he's diversified his empire in recent years to include such brands as Conjure cognac, Soul headphones, and the Asian/Singaporean fusion restaurant Straits. Not bad for an artist whose former claim to international fame was having "hoes in different area codes." Nonetheless, even legends in the game need reinvigorating now and again. And when rapper du jour Drake began suggesting in interviews last year that Luda had bitten his pause/stop flow, the Canadian MC seemingly woke the sleeping giant. The result: the aforementioned mixtape, subtitled Back to the First Time, showcasing a rejuvenated Luda over 11 unrelenting tracks. Not only does he give Drizzy Drake a much-needed "History Lesson," he retools his flow and silences all the haters with the standout track "Say It to My Face." With his eighth proper album, Ludaversal, slated for a third-quarter 2012 release — featuring A&R direction from his former Disturbing Tha Peace protégée and impeccable beat selector 2 Chainz (see: Atlanta's Most Hated No. 8) — Luda looks to be back in the driver's seat. — Rodney Carmichael
- GOUMILLION & LEOPULD
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 12: Ciara
Hide your goodies, girl. We've already seen 'em
"Ciara's Basic Instinct album is in stores right now. Go get it, it makes the ultimate holiday weed plate, the ultimate holiday coaster. You can use the CD insert to clean plaque out of your teeth." — "Charlamagne Tha God," The Breakfast Club Morning Show
Sometimes, we loathe artists for their failures more than their successes. Ciara Princess Harris made us a promise in 2004 by reanimating Aaliyah's R&B-tomboy strut in the form of a round-the-way Riverdale girl. She oozed post-adolescent sex appeal but coyly kept a lid on it while sporting an athletic body and agile dance moves. Over the course of four albums and six years, though, CiCi went from teasing us with her Goodies to shoving them down our throats: Remember that nude Vibe cover shoot in 2008 and her too-sexy-for-BET video "Ride"? (Who gets naked for Vibe? And how raunchy do you have to be for BET to ban you?) While part of it was likely a self-conscious attempt to combat those erroneous drag-queen rumors that dogged her for years, it was also a desperate overreaction to new chicks on the block (Rihanna, Keri Hilson) and slipping record sales with each subsequent release, culminating in the 2010 flop Basic Instinct. In a PR makeover-turned-disaster, her harmless boo Bow Wow got the axe for 50 Cent, while CiCi began palling around with the likes of Kim Kardashian. If CiCi's tryst with 50 left her image somewhat sullied, gallivanting with professional knob-hopper Kim Kardashian only earned her more stamps of approval in her passport to Slutville.
True story: I spotted Ciara last year at one of Sade's sold-out Soldier of Love concerts at Atlanta's Philips Arena. She tried to hide behind dark shades and a stone-cold countenance as she breezed through the food court followed by a beefy escort. Sadly, it worked. Once the city's brightest hope for uncontested pop&B princess, she could now coast through a hometown crowd without conjuring even a sideways glance or veiled whisper. I immediately recalled the non-encounter upon hearing the recent news of Ciara's forthcoming album, One Woman Army, scheduled for this year release on Epic, where her original label godfather L.A. Reid now sits at the helm. It's a key reunion because her career suffered most during the time away from Reid's proven marketing machine. Based on the early promo photos, she's turned down the sluttiness for something sexier yet equally disarming. And while her first single, the dance-floor burner "Sweat," isn't a No. 1 stunner, it subtly suggests that CiCi knows she'll have to work to regain our trust. — Rodney Carmichael
- BEN WATTS
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 11: Justin Bieber
We caught Bieber fever! Then we got very, very sick.
"Help! My wife is going to name my son 'Justin Bieber' if I don't get 1 million likes! Please help me out so that this disgrace to society doesnt happen!" — Mark Manderson, Don'tLetMyBabyGetNamedJustinBieber Facebook page
He's Justin flippin' Bieber! His antics are downright addictive. Remember when he escaped from a bunch of screaming fans on his Segway? Or the time he Segway-raced Elisabeth Hasselbeck on "The View"? OK, so his antics mostly involved Segways before he turned 18, but still. Now that his preferred mode of transportation is a $100,000 chromed-out Fisker Karma, we have the right to abhor him with a breed of hate typically reserved for Washington politicians and Wall Street bankers. Ever since he was born a little YouTube baby — wrapped in swaddling clothing and lying in a manger — he's been groomed for his ultimate destiny as this generation's sacrificial lamb chop. Simply and sickly, we need Bieber. We crave his young and uneducated flesh like zombies on bath salts. The fella has single-handedly reanimated what is no doubt a small, corpse-like army of grubby record company executives, death-starved for talent and attention, who have since proceeded to exploit the tar out of him for their own personal gain. And let's not forget meeee — the whiny, cynical music critic, who has rarely been handed such an effortless excuse to complain about the superficiality of the music industry. All of us, rolling around together in this goopy puddle of delicious, nutritious Bieber. Don't worry — there's enough to go around.
He's Justin flippin' Bieber. You just shuddered simply from reading his name. Do we really need to spell it out for you? The born-again manchild has come to represent everything soulless and unholy about the cookie-cutter pop music factory dot com. Yet, some things have changed about the Biebz in the last two years. Namely, his voice: His new album, Believe (out this week), showcases the soulful thickening of his vocal chords; he practically sounds like a white Justin Timberlake now! Then there's his new nickname: "Lil Swaggy," as bestowed on him by Atlanta's own 2 Chainz. A fresh haircut: Call it the spiky upsweep. And his recent change of address: Though he still keeps a crib in the A, he purchased a $6.5 million home in Calabasas, Calif., last month. But he's still as much a creation of Atlanta as he is the product of his mother's Canadian uterus. And although the former Atlantan has relocated 2,000 miles away, we couldn't discard Bieber that easily even if we wanted to. His manager, Scooter Braun: Atlantan. His vocal coach, Jan Smith: Atlantan. His bodyguard, Kenny Smith: Atlantan. His RBMG label daddy and musical mentor, Usher: Atlantan. And don't forget his #Swag. That's right, Atlanta. We discovered him, nurtured him, protected him, signed, sealed, and delivered him to the masses. You're welcome. — Gabe Vodicka
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 10: Washed Out
How Atlanta got caught in chillwave's rip current
"Washed out need to put some starch in the wash cause this Álbum sounds kinda limp" — Diplo, Twitter
The chillwave backlash was swift and strong, and as its unwitting poster boy, Ernest Greene endured much of the assault. Washed Out's first full-length, Within and Without, was a shamelessly heavy-handed Ben Allen-produced feast of massive chillaxable proportions, but haters assailed an apparent scarcity of substance among the pulsating day-glo grooves. (Fruity Loops and GarageBand does not necessarily a musician make.) And certain stubborn locals weren't so happy about Greene's new label characterizing Washed Out as an "Atlanta band" after his rapid rise through the blogosphere, when in fact the guy hailed from the Georgia National Fair headquarters of Perry, some 100 exits down I-75. I mean, who lives in Perry? It's Middle Georgia. They don't even have a Panera there. Nobody claims Atlanta who ain't from Atlanta! Except for, you know, everyone.
Within and Without not only surpassed expectations, it was a wet slap in chillwave's pimply, pallid face. By liberally borrowing from the darkest jams of 1980s shade pop, and even busting out a synth-less vocal performance, Greene established a depth of musical being that disproved his — and the hypothetical genre's — supposed millennial tunnel vision. And unlike many of his shy bedroom-y contemporaries, Greene has shown no fear of the live show. Washed Out's Atlanta performances, which have spanned clubs, warehouses, and even the Buckhead Theatre, have been among the most well-attended and well-received we've seen over the past couple years. In fact, since Greene's arrival on the local scene, the flourishing electronic community has flown smack-dab onto the collective cultural radar, undoubtedly leading folks to discover electrifying artists they may not have otherwise. The bottom line? We should be proud to claim this talented transplant as one of our own. — Gabe Vodicka
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 9: Black Lips
Why Black Lips love to be the band you hate
It's often said that hindsight is 20/20, but attempting to put Black Lips' local influence in perspective five years after Good Bad Not Evil catapulted the group onto the indie world stage is a dubious endeavor. Black Lips came to define Atlanta garage rock — and much of the world's view of it — throughout the aughts, but things weren't always wine and roses. Not everyone was head over heels for the group's chaotic, three-chord rock mania. While legions of fans were converted at every show, just as many foes came crawling out of the woodwork. But history has proven that Black Lips' polarizing legacy played a key role in the group's notoriety and ultimate success. Now touring on the heels of the band's most successful outing yet — last year's Arabia Mountain (Vice Records) — singer/guitarist Jared Swilley took a few moments to ruminate on his coming of age in the shadow of the church and the Internet, the fiery passion he encountered with both, and how Black Lips' haters have only boosted the band's career.
The Rob's House era (circa 2005-'09) was a boon for Atlanta's garage-punk scene, which kind of eclipsed a lot of music that wasn't part of that scene at the time. When I wrote about the Atlanta magazine photo shoot at Variety Playhouse in 2008, people complained that amateur-sounding, three-chord bands were getting too much local media coverage. Can you see how that might breed contempt in more accomplished musicians who felt they were being overlooked because they didn't fit into a more buzzed-about scene?
The Rob's House era was a blast. There were so many bands and people doing cool things — kind of a less fucked-up, more fun Die Slaughterhaus. I don't see what there is to complain about when a big group of people are having tons of fun making music. I love three-chord rock: Chuck Berry, Hank Williams, the Ramones. Those are all three-chord musicians that are pretty damn good. I don't get the complaint. It probably got "local media attention" — meaning CL and Stomp and Stammer — because there were a bunch of young, fun rock 'n' roll bands playing parties and shows. A lot of people came out, so there was stuff to write about. Blaming local media for any lack of success is really whiny and lazy. Only you can make things happen. If things aren't happening you probably aren't very good or you aren't trying hard enough. If you don't like what someone is doing creatively then start your own thing doing what you like. That's how a lot of good art is created.
Now that Black Lips are seasoned local vets, does the group feel any sense of responsibility to Atlanta's indie music scene?
I love a lot of Atlanta bands, and there is a sense of camaraderie within the scene. We're on tour with Gringo Star in Italy, and we're doing shows with Atlas Sound in Spain and Portugal next week, and have toured all over with tons of Atlanta musicians. But we aren't totally a part of a local scene anymore. It's time to pass the torch to a younger generation of bands that will hopefully create their own cool thing. [Black Lips] and Deerhunter brought some outside attention to Atlanta's indie scenes, which probably helped draw some attention for other local bands, whereas before, I don't think many people were looking at Atlanta for any kind of indie rock stuff.
You've said that you grew up around your father's church watching people shouting, praying, and crying, and wished that people had the same kind of passion at rock shows. Have you reached a point where you create an environment in which people lose control in similar ways?
You can never re-create the passion of people at church. They aren't drinking — they're thinking about the universe. People at our show do have fun, but they don't believe that when they die, they'll get to hang out with us. Church was always my biggest influence before rock 'n' roll. I thought, "How the hell did all these people get to be so insane?" We're trying to keep that going. And now when we go to countries and places where we've never played before, because of YouTube, audiences act the same. People in Bangkok were doing the same kinds of things as people in Chicago, even though most of those Thai kids hadn't seen us play before. I don't know how people charging the stage at the end of the set started, but now all the kids expect it and they do it.
Black Lips emerged around the time when music in general was finding its place on the Internet, and when people began fuming on online comment sections. Prior to that, when people felt so moved that they had to say something, they'd take the time to compose a thoughtful letter to the editor. How do you think the digital forum has changed the way audiences experience and critique music?
You know that picture of Iggy Pop standing on the edge of the stage, pointing at the audience? That picture says so much, and is so mythologized, because there's no grainy YouTube video that someone shot with their phone. Now, anything you say and any show you play is on the Internet the second you're done. And people have left comments — which can be good and bad. There's nothing you can do about that, and I'm not about fighting change or progress.
Does Black Lips' music attract an inordinate amount of haters?
Haters are great! When Black Lips first started, I'd get kind of bummed about things people said, but at least they were saying something. Hating is a form of jealousy, and really, it's a positive thing. Haters don't realize that they're actually boosting the confidence of the people they're trying to slag. You're doing something right if you have haters, and it's too easy to be an Internet troll, which is the most cowardly thing you can do — post anonymous messages because there are no repercussions.
If you create something that gets people that worked up, you've created art.
I guess so. Deerhunter isn't a super controversial band, but Bradford [Cox] has said and done hilarious and outlandish stuff that people have gotten pissed about. He creates that kind of controversy, which divides people. I remember going on tour with Deerhunter, opening for Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Not many people knew them yet, and during the first show Bradford got heckled by a guy who asked, "What's wrong with you?" He had the perfect comeback, "I have the same disease as Joey Ramone — a broken heart!" Then he started the song. After that tour, people were on MySpace writing hateful shit about how Bradford looks like he was in a concentration camp, or that he needs to eat 10 steaks. He posted these hateful things that people were saying about him as his bio. He's really good at owning his thing.
Black Lips get tagged as a hipster band a lot.
We've gotten the hipster thing real bad, but I don't see how it's an insult. To me, a hipster is a youngish person in their 20s or 30s who's into music, art, or fashion — which is pretty much everybody I know. You know what a hipster isn't? It isn't a dude that's like an accountant who listens to Creed and stuff. He's probably not a hipster. Anybody who uses hipster as a bad word is probably a hipster.
People say things like, "I hate going to Black Lips shows now because there's all these fucking hipsters." Well, are they accosting you? Are they trying to steal your shit? Are they hurting you? Do people's clothes really make you so mad that you can't go out where they go? It's always funny on the Vice website when commenters say things like, "You fucking hipsters. I fucking can't stand this!" Well, why are you on Vice's website? I don't go to Christian websites and say, "I can't stand you Christians, you really get on my nerves!" I don't read a lot of conservative news sites, either, because it doesn't appeal to me. If I don't like something, I don't look at it or listen to it or buy it. I don't like Nickelback. I think they're a shitty band, so I don't listen to it and it doesn't bother me. But people waste so much time devoted to Nickelback-hating! If you hate them that much, don't listen to them.
— Chad Radford
- Mathew Hannibal
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 8: 2 Chainz
Tity Boi makes his own milky way
"Side Thought: Someone Should Edit BEEZ IN THE TRAP With Just Nicki On It." — @fucktyler, Twitter
In a medium as episodic as hip-hop, rappers who sucked yesterday can have a great second act tomorrow. But 2 Chainz's metamorphosis from lightweight to featured artist in the New York Times has been suspiciously drastic. Before 2011, you were most likely to hear this guy's voice nestled deep in the second half of a Ludacris album. Now, his tracks are in prominent rotation on ESPN. The contemporary acclaim leveled at 2 Chainz — "so evocative," gushed hip-hop critic Tom Breihan — can be hard to brook because he's really no more distinguishable a rapper than he was when people called him Tity Boi. He's not as prone to bed-shitting gaffes (who could forget "I'm so sick I wrote this verse in the hospital" from Theater of the Mind's "Southern Gangsta"?), but you still don't get the sense that he takes any joy in language; he's dutiful and consistently unsurprising. The unsinkable 808s that tinged last year's Codeine Cowboy would've been put to better use by a more animated rapper.
2 Chainz pulled himself up by his own Gucci bootstraps — from Ludacris' sidekick to unsigned hype to Good Music/Def Jam signee — on the strength of his commendable mixtape hustle. While he continues pivoting closer to the mainstream, his music stays true to its bearings, which predate Auto-Tune, Lex Luger, and rap-as-electro. Codeine Cowboy, like fall of 2011 successor T.R.U. REALigion, gives off a certain comfort in its repetition. The ingredients that make up these tracks don't often vary, but find a nice languished groove. Although not as verbal as cohorts like Yelawolf, 2 Chainz has a strong delivery; his matter of enunciation carries the sting of a well-connected uppercut. And his temperament, while deceptively mild, makes clear that he has a hair-trigger bullshit detector. On Kanye West's "Mercy" and Nicki Minaj's "Beez in the Trap," he was the stalwart presence there to balance out his collaborators' eccentricities. It's a role that suits him like a custom chain. — M.T. Richards
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 7: Future
Dungeon dragon breathes hot fire
"Yeah seriously this guy sucks ... Please don't get caught up in the hype machine that keeps spitting out this whack trap rappers. It's doing more damage to Atlanta's rep than the Falcons' playoff performances." — Evan Williams, Creative Loafing
When Dungeon Family co-founder Rico Wade told his younger cousin he'd have to dumb his style down in order to get heard, the artist formerly known as Meathead took the advice to heart. Despite all the hullabaloo over Future's hip-hop lineage, the DF descendant bears little resemblance to Atlanta's most reputable rap family. Add to that Future's penchant for the Auto-Tune assist, and you have a recipe ripe for ridicule, but he's certainly a product of his time. The drug culture that has consumed Southern rap — whether slangin' it or sippin' it — is Future's real pedigree. His syrup-laced concoction of warbly voiced R&B melodies and trapped-out swag is an acquired taste — one best suited for a night full of clubs, drugs, and forgettable hookups. But like any narcotic, Future's astronaut high often leaves you filled with regret and a nagging headache when you crash land in the morning.
To understand Future's appeal, you have to appreciate a side of Atlanta that many would prefer to overlook. This is a dude who earned his hustler stripes dealing drugs in the pre-gentrified neighborhood of Kirkwood. Today, his booming bass loops reverberate with the repercussions of that high-speed, low-key life. Like a lot of contemporary trap-rap, it's aspirational, but it's also inspirational to those who can relate. And if you listen to the pained insistence in his Auto-Tune and syrup-assisted wails, it's not too far a cry from the Delta blues. Indeed, there's something mildly addictive about a street cat with a drug-addled voice choosing sing-songy melodies as his weapon of choice. Truth be told, he's the most melodic rap artist to come out of Atlanta since a certain DF duo named OutKast. — Rodney Carmichael
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 6: Gucci Mane
Savant or Southern trickster?
"Gucci mane a brilliant lyricist....uh, yeah, ok This guy is a walking minstrel show. I wonder what white major label he's signed to?" — "Shabazz," We Are Respectable Negroes
A few years ago, Gucci Mane was all the rage — and not just on Fulton County's arrest warrant list. Rap critics were up in arms in a debate over the East Atlanta trap rapper's skills on the mic. Bloggers split into two extreme camps — those who thought Gucci Mane was a lyrical savant versus those who thought he was a plain idiot. The protracted war even broke down along color lines, with white writer (Brandon Soderberg) arguing that most white critics were too culturally removed to properly judge Gucci's merit. Black blogger Gordon Gartrelle responded with a mock dissertation-styled critique of his own, satirizing Soderberg's pseudo-intellectual tone to argue that Gucci's sexually explicit come-ons were really "a nod to radical lesbian feminist awakening." The whole thing underscored just how divided a reaction Gucci Mane provokes. Is he a caricature who traffics in, and conjures up, some of the South's oldest racial stereotypes; a street thug whose lawlessness is subsidized by a conspiratorial music industry; or a product of the hood using his gift of gab to pull himself up by any means necessary? However you choose to interpret him probably says a lot more about you than it does Gucci Mane. — Rodney Carmichael
Whether you're among his shrillest detractors or most hawkish supporters — and both camps are packed to capacity — you gotta grant him this: The dude has style. With the ace comedic timing of Cam'ron and a cadence stickier than that bubblegum kush he's always raving about, Gucci can make even the most ham-handed abuse of language sing like a fucking canary. 2009's Writings on the Wall, still his definitive mixtape by many estimates, put on a clinic in showboating finesse: "This Gucci Mane da sosa/And my albino testarossa/'bout the color of the ocean." Unlike stylistic progeny Lil B, whose career has played out like one long audition for some traveling vaudeville trope, Gucci never puts on airs; he's genuine enough that you don't blink when he talks up his "fat hoes in Chicago" or likens his watch to a sliced tomato. At 32, repeat jail stints and the endless glare of blogosphere hype have clearly done him in, but new mixtape I'm Up reveals a man unshorn of his slack-jawed, sleepy-eyed charm. — M.T. Richards
Atlanta's Most-Hated No. 5: Zac Brown Band
Southern fried something or another
"you are not a jam band. you are not talented. you are a james taylor rip off wanna be b!tch. GFY Zac Brown" — "corycb," PhantasyTour.com
Aside from the fact that the group's music tends toward mainstream radio poppycock with decidedly unprofound themes like drinking beer and eating fried chicken and pecan pie — you know, the kind of lyrics that really help the South shed its backward, backwoods image — Zac Brown Band seems to have hogged up all but a tiny sliver of the country spotlight available in Atlanta, gorging on fame while leaving loads of lesser acts to fight over the scraps. ZBB is the sort of dreaded Atlanta band that OTPers know and love, mindless music to blast on the two-hour commute back to Johns Creek. It's no surprise that these guys get consistently doused in Haterade by snarky critical types like us; the merit of their kind of music is often hard to locate amid the calculated, twangy sheen and overly frat-tastic lyrics. To the haters, Zac Brown Band is just another CMT-approved scapegoat, an embodiment of country music's decades-long downfall.
OK, so they're not that bad. Songs like "Chicken Fried" belie an underlying current of smarts and a definite sense of playfulness, a trait doubly exposed when the band covers songs like Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name." The reality is, though these guys win Grammys and Country Music Awards by the boatload, Brown remains diligently humble. He consistently does his part to help fledgling country singers in Atlanta and has given a needed jump-start to many a young career through his Southern Ground record label. And he's damn charitable to boot: Last year, he opened Camp Southern Ground, a 350-acre camp for kids with special needs in Fayette County. Plus, you can't tell me you don't sing along to "Chicken Fried" every time you, uh, accidentally hear it on the radio. Seriously, that song is the jam. — Gabe Vodicka
Zac Brown Band's new album, Uncaged, drops July 10.
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 4: B.o.B
Rapper abandons hood clichés for pop success
"im so happy tyler dissed him" — "hmahmood786," YouTube
"I grew up in the cul-de-sac/Where the coke and dro is at," B.o.B rapped on the lost classic "Fuck You." The uninitiated might assume that B.o.B grew up in Epcot. From the sounds of it, any modicum of his plastic-spoon upbringing has long since been beaten out of him; these days, B.o.B is more interested in making kidz bop than making the trap go ham. Both The Adventures of Bobby Ray and this year's Strange Clouds take blind stabs at a kind of pop-trance-rock that no rapper could be expected to make work. They're skin-deep records with pretensions so vastly outsized that they make OutKast's Idlewild look tact by comparison. For B.o.B, the call of stadium status is reason enough to subtract the very qualities that once made him great (working-class pathos, a born intensity). Any remnant of the B.o.B that existed before 2010 is gone now, diluted beyond recognition. — M.T. Richards
The funny thing about B.o.B is that some of his biggest detractors were once his biggest fans. Perhaps it's to be expected with an artist whose internal conflict has consumed such a large part of his creative output. More than any rapper in recent history, his artistic evolution — from Bobby Ray to B.o.B to Bobby Ray and back — has been laid bare. But a big part of Ray's identity crisis came in reaction to the industry's attempt to typecast him as yet another crunk rapper from the A. And despite early hits like the hood anthem "Haterz Everywhere," B.o.B was never just another rapper from the A. Sure, he gets derided for being a crossover pop success now. But there was nothing popular about B.o.B brandishing a six-string or daring to belt out power-ballad hooks at Bankhead's Club Crucial in 2006, when Atlanta was the snap-n-trap capital of the world. To go against the lame-stream and brand himself a multi-instrumentalist with a gift for pop melodies at the risk of losing his hood credibility, well, that took the kind of balls most rappers only rap about. B.o.B's willingness to stay true to his parallel path — even in the face of haterz everywhere — actually makes him kinda gangsta, acoustic guitar and all. — Rodney Carmichael
ATLANTA'S MOST HATED NO. 3: Soulja Boy
GarageBand savant proves adept at causing torrential shit-storms
"@souljaboy learn my history ? you never made history your a fucking crank rapper gone platinum that got lucky . off one song ." — @SpaceGhostPurrp, Twitter
Just like the punk rockers that killed disco, there is a cottage industry of purists tasked with disassembling whatever's fun about mainstream hip-hop. Exhibit A: the unprecedented pillorying of Soulja Boy. What's bizarre is the degree to which 21-year-old DeAndre Way has been culpable in this very public shaming. His mixtapes, which he records at a frantic clip, should come with a cautionary label: "Patience and stamina required." Too often these works are sullied by wordless grunts and incoherent rhymes spat on the fly a la Lil Wayne, minus the lyrical brilliance. Soulja's practice in self-sabotage rarely stops at the recording booth. Last fall, he was deservedly drubbed for taking a potshot at the military (remember "fuck all the Army troops"?). While we're not in the prediction business, it seems unlikely that Soulja Boy will be a U.S. diplomat in his next life, or a critically acclaimed MC in this one. The only reason he isn't higher on this list is because we don't want to give him anything to brag about.
Soulja Boy has fallen victim to a broad, caricatured brush. To hear many hip-hop elites tell it, he's not merely a poor rapper; he's not a rapper at all. He's instead a bilious creature of that sorry demographic known as Generation Z, background fodder for middle-school dances. Soulja is not one to coast on the support of a thriving prepubescent constituency, though. His catalogue has taken more risks and departures than one might expect. 2009's shark-toothed, synth-churning "What You Know" sounded a lot like the U.K. niche-genre grime, an early sign of the oddball streak that was later realized on Converse marketing jingle "I'm a Goner" (featuring Andrew W.K. and Matt & Kim). While Soulja will never be a purveyor of hardcore lyricism, his 2010 studio album, The DeAndre Way, was improbably solid: unimpeachable hooks, tight verses, a sturdy command of meter, and an approachable charm that explains his "30 thousand 100 million" Twitter followers. — M.T. Richards
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 2: Waka Flocka Flame
Post-crunk's crown prince burns steady
"Gtfo of Hip Hop cuz u aint talking bout shit but girls,money,cars,chains and shit and got no lyrics.Waka Flocka u r on of the worst rappers alive behind Lil Wayne,SouljaBoy...we do not wanna hear u rap so stfu and leave hip hop alone!!!!!" — Austin Jaamal, "Waka Flocka Flame Sucks" Facebook page
Gucci protégé Waka Flocka Flame's initial emergence on the local radar gave little indication of potential staying power. Borderline inane tracks like "O Let's Do It" seemed stolen straight from the Soulja Boy ringtone-rap playbook, while others, such as "Hard in Da Paint," banged hard but further showcased his lyrical ineptitude. Waka Flocka was the latest in a line of forgettable, fast-burning mainstream Atlanta talent, another deceptively shallow representation of the city's cavernous hip-hop community. And we can't forget Waka's numerous encounters with the law — he was shot in early 2010 and, later that year, he was involved in the infamous Walter's Clothing shootout — and the undeniable A&R influence of his rap-prominent momager, Mizay Entertainment founder Debra Antney. Neither helped his case in the eyes of critics, many of whom labeled him an albatross around hip-hop's neck — with his own predilection for iced-out Fozzie Bear and Pink Panther chains serving as an ironic metaphor for his steady stream of psychopathic, loony tunes.
Come on, Waka Flocka Flame is Atlanta to the core. As the hater train mercilessly chugged toward him, it seemed as if people had forgotten that the death/party dichotomy of mindless crunk music was the muscular foundation upon which modern Southern rap was built. Waka's jams, built to be blasted beyond all recognition, are intense, brawny creations, pure physiological experiences as much as musical statements. The rapper has outlived expectations; not only has he proven his staying power with a solid sophomore album, Triple F Life: Friends, Fans & Family, but he has also basically become the new face of Atlanta rap cool. Even the critics have come around: re-energized SPIN's recent "Loud Issue" featured Waka front-and-center and declared him a master of his craft. We love Waka because he reminds us to take ourselves less seriously — even as he brazenly insists, just by living, that this shit is serious. — Gabe Vodicka
Atlanta's Most Hated No. 1: Cee Lo
Goodie Mob's mouthpiece is in your living room
"If Cee-Lo is the one leading GOODie Mob now then yes, be prepared for another terrible 'world party' album followed by numerous 'off the wall' comments and wtf moments from his bat-shit crazy ass....(sigh)" — "Cee-lohaslosthismarbles," Crib Notes
Cee Lo has been on an escalator to the real-deal type of fame and fortune since Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" destroyed the airwaves back in 2006. "Fuck You" (or "Forget You," in FCC-speak) similarly dominated in 2010 and maintained its omnipresence through much of last year. But it wasn't until Cee Lo's stint as a judge on NBC's "American Idol" knockoff "The Voice" that middle managers and soccer moms nationwide got a true taste of the Soul Machine — blinding white chompers and all. His unlikely rise from Southern rap hero to red-state household name has been a fascinating one to observe, but it can't be denied that the former Thomas DeCarlo Calloway has lost some street cachet along the way. And though the long-rumored Goodie Mob reunion seems to finally be coming to fruition, there have also been troubling signs that Cee Lo's fame and fortune have gone to his head. The group's first televised outing in years, on "The Voice" of all places, seemed to some more like Cee Lo + Guests than a bona fide Goodie performance. It's led to increasingly frequent — and arguably valid — queries about his cred. Even Jet got in on the hate with the troll-ish headline, "Cee Lo: Crossover or Sellout?"
Let's be honest: If any one of the myriad hip-hop stars that came up in Atlanta in the mid-'90s had to go and get known worldwide, Cee Lo is a pretty excellent selection. The rotund rapper has long been a barely controlled ball of delirious energy. His weird charisma has at times bordered on the otherworldly, and he's well-suited, if we're being totally honest, for perching in that bizarrely robotic judge's chair. Can we rightly deny him his moment in the mainstream sun? Come to think of it, it's actually kind of tremendous that a guy whose pained and insistent wails would barely qualify as singing on some planets is judging the second highest-rated vocal competition on TV. Plus, the increased name recognition Cee Lo has enjoyed as a result of "The Voice" has led to some pretty strange and unforeseen opportunities for the rest of the Mob, like the Mark Burnett-produced reality series "Cee Lo Takes the U.K.," which followed the group as it recorded its new album and experienced the joys of jolly old England. Cee Lo has always been a love-him-or-hate-him kind of character, and it just so happens that we at CL have always been planted squarely in the former camp. And we won't ever give up on him, even if he marries Pippa Middleton and becomes the newest black sheep of the royal family. Come to think of it, there's potential for a spin-off there ... — Gabe Vodicka