Music Issue - Genre-benders

Atlanta musicians make one fine mess out of rock, hip-hop and everything in between

Is Atlanta really "the city too busy to hate?" Chad Radford and Rodney Carmichael asked some local musicians and tastemakers to give us their thoughts on the invisible line that separates rock and hip-hop in the Dirty Dirty. 

1) What motivates you to bridge the gap between rock and hip-hop?

2) Are cross-genre collaborations in Atlanta driven by art or commerce?

3) Which circumstances are better for fostering a strong and distinctive music scene — a global village or gated communities?

Randy Castello

Cross-genre talent purchaser for the Drunken Unicorn, and the main man behind the esteemed Tight Bros. Network promotions company

1) I can't say I'm bridging the gap between these two landscapes since the rock scene in Atlanta is dead in my humble opinion. Comparatively, the Atlanta underground hip-hop scene is as vibrant and exciting today as was the rock scene two years ago, albeit with more fashion sense.

2) It depends on where each artist is with their career. For example, Diplo sent an instrumental track to Atlanta artist Muffy to lay vocals over clearly for art's sake, since Diplo's intention is simply to leak the track over the Internet ... On the contrary, Big Boi, who just collaborated with the Atlanta Ballet for an event at the Fox Theatre, was obviously booked for the sake of commerce, since you can't get all those people in one room without someone wanting mad money.

3) I'm going to have to go with global communities building a stronger creative music scene simply because there are no boundaries in relation to location and creativity.

Jonathan Merenivitch

Lead of the four-man punk band Tendaberry that performs a wicked version of rapper Ghostface Killah's "Cherchez Le Ghost"

1) In the not-too-distant past, some people tried to combine hip-hop and rock and made a total hash of it. It was obnoxious, macho and mean. One of our desires musically was to mix hip-hop and rock but be a bit more sensitive and intelligent in the execution.

2) A little from both. In some cases it's driven by an intuitive, almost innocent desire to create, and in others it's a cynical, cash-grabbing move. In the end, the audience will always seek music that's motivated by a genuine desire to express oneself, rather than a desire to "get money, fuck bitches."

3) One of the best music scenes in existence was punk-rock London in '77. And they took influences from everywhere, from the NY punk rock of the Ramones and the dub of Lee "Scratch" Perry in Jamaica. That's how you make a strong and distinctive music scene. Taking from everything you have a genuine love for, adding a bit of your own personality and hoping that other people dig what you do, and have the same idea.

Stephanie Luke

Banshee drummer for Atlanta lady punks the Coathangers who opened for Janelle Monae last year in a cross-genre show collaboration

1) I don't know that I'm necessarily motivated to merge the two, rather it just kind of happens that way due to the fact that I listen to both types of music all the fucking time. Certain types of rap/hip-hop songs and artists are more punk rock than some 'punk' bands from a few years ago, ya know?

2) Both. Everything seems to turn commercial whether it's supposed to or not ... It's more about bringing together all different types of musicians rather than different types of "labels," and the idea of getting rid of this dumb imaginary line between hip-hop and rock. Everyone should keep an open mind. Getting stuck in one type of musical genre seems boring.

3) Global village sounds way too fucking hippie, but I guess that's the best way to say it. Definitely, merge everyone together and see what comes out. That's usually how it's worked out in the past.


Hip-hop trio's latest mixtape, American Badass, is fueled by classic rock samples, and group member King Self plays drums for local rock acts within the Grape Tree Collective.

1) I can't honestly say we're motivated to bridge any gaps; it just so happens that we have a white guy in our group and part of being in a band with someone is an immense cultural exchange, so over time our tastes have blended. We all like Nas and the Hot Boys, but we also really like the Stooges and CAN and shit like that. Supreeme and the Grape Tree Collective are also products of early 2000s Grady High school, which was the closest thing to a racial utopia we'll get for a while.

2) I'd say friendship, 'cause to my knowledge I don't know of too many cross-genre collabs going down in the city. But we're all friends, we all mess with the same girls, drink at the same bars and so on. I wish people would recognize the profitability in doing shows with people outside of their genre, especially in a city where people are always trying to be on some "other" shit.

3) Well, that's another hard question. I think that it's always good to have a weirdo held up in a room alone with a laptop and their favorite songs for a few years (i.e., Soulja Boy or Beirut), but exchange and exposure helps people avoid clichés and stop being repetitive as hell. So I'd say a good dose of both. I say do your thing on your own for awhile, develop where you stand, but never be afraid to get out there and absorb and share.

Bean Summer

Visual artist and booking agent for Lenny's Bar, one of Atlanta's premier dives that offers its stage to both rock and hip-hop acts.

1) I like to bring cross-promotions into Atlanta. I think it's important that the scene integrate because we still live in a culture and society that has racial divisions. Our schools, neighborhoods, and yes, our venues and churches, remain sadly separated. It's important to the dream that was founded by our city's greatest heroes, such as Martin Luther King Jr., that Atlanta be a place where integration begins.

2) I like to think art. As a small booking agent I do my part to make cross-collaborations happen. Commerce is possibly the last thing on my mind. I think on a larger level. Commerce keeps racial division up and promotes division. If people from the rock and hip-hop scenes can forget egos and price points, and focus on art and music, the better off the scene in Atlanta will be.

3) I always believed strongly that the scene should be open to all people from every musical background, race, sexual orientation and creed. It's important that Atlanta be a global village. In that way we can truly bring something new and amazing to the city and then to the world.

Deep Cotton

Production credits include Janelle Monae's Metropolis, OutKast and Big Boi's upcoming solo album. Their own sound is more punk than funk. The first suite, Runaway Radio, is due this fall.

1) Ultimately, genres are created by people that like to categorize things. I don't give a damn – and no one gives a damn – about genres as long as your music's jamming. We just love great music. And we love the future. And that leads us to be brave and to keep searching. You know, there's so many great sounds left to discover.

2) Art, definitely. Commerce isn't strong enough now. No one's making any money off music. So artists are finally free to be themselves. You might as well take the risk to try something new, invent something different than what's on the radio because the radio's not guaranteed to sell you any records. Artists are truly listening to the times. And the times sound like an iPod on shuffle.

3) We just had an artists' summit at Wondaland. It was real inspiring. And we can't wait to do another one. We must have had 60 people there: everyone from Tendaberry and Jaspects to Proton and Hollyweerd. Just talking, planning. It was all about helping each other actively develop a scene that we can all be proud of. That said, to truly innovate sometimes you have to create alone. We basically pulled away from everyone to co-found the Wondaland Arts Society and do Janelle Monáe's first suite. It's like Apple; sometimes you have to build the hardware and software yourself to get it right.


Mutant hip-hop luminary Zano blurs the lines between jazz, noise, funk and rock with freewheelin' and experimental flare.

1) Money. Personal interests and personal tastes. There's always been a connection between hip-hop and punk that's been overlooked. If you look at the early days, back in New York there was a lot of cross-pollination happening with folks like Afrika Bambaataa and all of the early folks, Cold Cut, Grand Master Flash and the rest of the downtown crew.

2) Everything in this society is driven by commerce. But from the artists themselves, it's usually art. Because everybody wants to make something that sounds good and different.

3) A gated global apartment complex where people can go out to the court and hang out at the swimming pool and mix and get ideas and then go back to their apartments and do their singular things, and go back and forth. The village and the model both have their strengths, but they also have some pretty significant weaknesses.

Mathis Hunter

He's Mathis when playing drums with local indie rockers the Selmanaires. But when crafting the polyrhythmic funk of Noot d' Noot, his alter ego Bimbi "Smoofus" Thomas takes over.

1) Noot makes sure to hit the up and the down stroke. You got to switch the strokes.

2) Commerce? Do we get paid for this?

3) Last night, about 4 a.m., I was trying to get in a gated community, going to see a friend. Scanning down the list, this dude pulled in behind me and said, 'Just pull up, I'll get you in.' So what's it mean? The global village will bumrush the gated community anyhow.

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