Rap Capital: An Atlanta Story


How much do you know about rap?

Unlike in the pre-internet era, it’s easy to ignore great swaths of music today. Many are hip-hop haters. Therefore they know nothing about the scene, never mind Atlanta and Lil Baby, but if they read this book…

Now there might be some people who read “Rap Capital” and know everything Joe Coscarelli is talking about, but there aren’t that many and I’m not sure they’re going to read this book anyway. You see “Rap Capital” is not a gossipy tell-all, rather it’s an in-depth analysis of the history of the Atlanta rap scene up until today. And more.

It starts off with an explanation of Atlanta. How there are different areas, all with their own names.

And then it tells you about the lives of Black people in Atlanta.

It’s not inner city a la metropoli like NYC, it’s not high-rise,  it’s more like L.A., as in single family dwellings. And some of them are where drugs are sold, these are called “trap” houses, i.e. “trap” music.

Atlanta is the epicenter of Black culture in America. Not that you’d know this if you don’t listen to hip-hop. Even if you follow politics, you’re thinking about all the white areas surrounding Hot Lanta. But this book is not about elections, it’s about cultural influence, and when it comes to hip-hop, it’s NYC, L.A. and Atlanta, and one can say that Hot Lanta leads.

So what is it like growing up in Atlanta?

Good chance you were raised without a father.

Good chance are you were involved in street crime from a young age. It’s not easy to fly straight. All the influences, and the need for MONEY! If you want money, you need to find your own way.

As for the traditional way… One of the rappers in the book talks about how many college graduates end up back in the hood with minimum wage jobs. You see it ain’t so easy to get out. So you make do with what you’ve got.

“Rap Capital” is the best explanation of street culture I’ve ever read. As in why do all these young Black men end up dealing drugs, end up being involved in crime. BECAUSE THERE’S VERY LITTLE OPPORTUNITY!

And the amount of money you can make…

I can’t get over the story of the dealer turned rapper showing up with 300k cash for his first video. You can make a ton of dough dealing, but you can also get caught and go to jail, and you can also get killed. Many do.

Die that is.

As for going to jail… It seems everybody has! You read about these rappers being in and out of jail, “Rap Capital” will give you an understanding of the landscape. It’s not like you’re an instant star, you’ve got to SURVIVE first!

And the interesting thing is so many of the rappers are crossover artists, from the street to the studio. Yes, drug dealers who have no interest in recording step up to the mic because the entrepreneurs behind the scene believe they have good tales to tell. Read “Rap Capital” and you’ll see hip-hop as primarily a storytelling medium.

Not that there aren’t some stupid lyrics. Then again, most of the acts have very brief careers. And you can be a star in Atlanta only, via mixtapes. You either know all the hits, or you’re oblivious. It’s a culture.

Reading “Rap Capital” you can see why rock is dead. Rock used to be somewhat similar, as in there was a scene, which bubbled up from the streets. Sure, everybody wanted to have their say and get rich, but you didn’t start at the top but the bottom, you had to impress your peers first. And believe me, no one is hanging on the words of the latest rock act these days.

Rap is the way out.

And its stories appeal to not only the Black community, but the white.

And there’s an unbelievable amount of money to be made. Lil Yachty made double digit millions in eighteen months. You see recordings are only the beginning, the jumping off point. Sure, it’s great if you can gain notice and make money from streaming, but the real cash is in public appearances, and sponsorships and… If it can be monetized, they’re interested. The credibility comes from escaping the streets. Ripping off the establishment is the goal, whereas rock became the establishment!

And you’ve got to work unbelievably hard, around the clock.

And they’re recording ad infinitum. It’s not like they’ve got ten tracks demoed and they go into the studio with a producer. They carry around hard drives, see a studio and go in and rap for a few hours and the end product might never see the light of day. They’re honing their chops, unlike so many on the white side of the business.

And the real star is Coach K. Who I first heard about from Steve Barnett, when he ran Capitol. He hipped me to his power. You align with a power player…

And you don’t always succeed.

Lil Reek gets a deal with Republic, releases a single that doesn’t make it and is dropped and goes back to the streets, and it’s hard to ignore the streets, there’s so much money to be made. AND RESPECT!

And like I said, there is history. The gang that ran Detroit and Miami infiltrates Atlanta. How many people are in the Atlanta police gang department? SIX! That ultimately changes and the gang is busted but before that there is a string of strip clubs where records are broken and…

This is a foreign world.

But it’s impacting the entire world.

Read “Rap Capital as anthropology. Irrelevant of the acts and how successful they end up being.

You’re making your own way. Your goal is to find a way to be rich without being on the street.

And don’t get the idea that these rappers are fungible, the story is the successful ones are uber intelligent.

And unlike rock, rap understands the street. When to flood the marketplace with product and when to hold back.

Coscarelli spent four years reporting this story and you feel like you’re embedded in Hot Lanta when you read it. You can feel the streets. You get an idea of how the tracks are made and what makes them successful.

As for the mansions and automobiles… THEY’RE MAKING THAT MUCH MONEY!

Can you make as much money as a professional athlete does?

Probably not, then again the athletes are investing in hip-hop. It’s all intertwined. Like I said, it’s cultural.

As for the major labels… They come last. They skim the cream. And they’re not always necessary. Deals are made when they’re financially right. This is a street phenomenon. And if you’re successful, you end up with your own label.

It’s fast cars and fast money and if you’ve always been scared of the inner city, of Black people, of rap, you should check this out. You’ll know so much more when you do.

The reporting is exhaustive. But only by going to the micro level can you fathom people’s hopes and dreams and their experiences. What it’s like to grow up poor and want more, with the white man wanting to keep you in jail, at least on probation, when the only way you can make bank is to be on the streets…

In truth, not everybody will finish this book. Because it is so detailed. But if you do, you’ll be one step ahead of everybody else. You’ll know what is truly going on. Maybe even more than those who profess to be hip-hop experts.

You’ll be dining out on the book for a week. Telling all the incredible stories to your friends.

Atlanta is hiding in plain sight, still most people don’t see it. But if you read “Rap Capital,” you will.

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