Being born and raised in Atlanta, I’ve been submerged in the hip-hop culture of the city for my whole life. From car rides to school, where the 808 seemed to make the windows shake, to cleaning the house listening to the voices of Young Joc and OutKast. I’ve had the privilege to be immersed in this culture. Little did I know how big of an impact hip-hop has had on Atlanta, the South, and the whole United States.
Named after Andre 3000’s famous call-to-action, “The South Got Something to Say” is a new documentary from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Horne Brothers created this film as a way to “give something back to Atlanta,” said Tyson Horne at the film’s premiere. Showing all the parts of Atlanta hip-hop, from Atlanta’s first rapper to the politics that have shaped the country, in the doc the brothers show that hip-hop isn’t just music. It’s a culture … the culture.
The structure of the documentary is similar to that of a song, with an intro, a chorus, and even an outro. In the intro, the mood is set, playing old-school songs with an 808 that you can feel in your soul. I found myself nodding my head, and rushing to add many of them to my playlist. Appearances by staples of the Atlanta hip-hop scene showed the purpose of the film through all of their different words. This made me see that all of these different people were working toward the same goal, and that was beautiful, to say the least.
The chorus, the repeated tune of the community and politics, shines throughout the whole film. The Horne brothers spotlight the ways that events such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the Atlanta Child Murders ignited a fire encouraging artists to make music in response to the situations as well as the government action (or lack thereof). Hip-hop became more than a beat, some instruments, and words. It became a way for the people to finally have a voice in issues that the government had attempted to silence.
Of course, there were conflicts within the community, like the East Coast vs the West Coast. But it was different in Atlanta. I still don’t know if it was the fact that different events surfaced or our Southern hospitality, but the film shows that throughout history there has never been an industry-wide split in the Southeast hip-hop scene.
As for the outro, the Horne brothers make the audience angry — not mad at the film, but at the world. From the songs playing in the background to the scary pictures on the screen, you can’t help but feel sad and mad. They hone in on Atlanta’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement during the COVID-19 shutdown. Sen. Raphael Warnock even goes on to call it “COVID-1619.” Seeing rappers like Killer Mike speak openly on the murder of George Floyd shows that it was more than music and that the “movement” has never ended.
Aside from the anger felt by seeing the racism throughout the Black community, the outro also causes you to see how far we truly have come when it comes to the hip-hop industry. Various female rappers are shown on screen and speak on how there is now a “place for them” that there wasn’t before. The brothers Horne even go so far as to play “Area Codes” by Kaliii just to show the progress in Atlanta. Seeing this as a young woman was beautiful, especially how we were shown the shift from girls in hip-hop groups Like Silk Tymes Leather, to full girl groups like Crime Mob, to independent female artists like Rasheeda, Kaliii, and Roxanne Shante.
As a member of this new generation of Atlanta, the film allows me to see this beautiful city through a new lens. I didn’t know the close connection between music and politics, and what I thought I knew of “the movement” was completely wrong. This film is an awakening, focusing on an essential piece to the puzzle we call America: expression.
To hear a classic hip-hop Spotify playlist created by Reagan Hudson and inspired by the AJC doc, click here.
“The South Got Something to Say” is now streaming at AJC.com.
VOX ATL is grateful to Rachel Tobin at Tobin Ink for graciously supplying VOX teens with seats to the AJC doc premiere.