ATL Hip Hop Culture

Disco's decline in 1979 led to a surge in Atlanta's NightLife, focusing on skating and dancing. Skating culture demanded joining elite crews for showcasing routines, which evolved into incorporating dance moves. The emergence of hip hop culture in Atlanta was influenced by DJ Smash and the Rainbow Arcade as a hub for breakdance battles and new music.


Miquiel Banks

6/12/20241 min read

blog cover image - atl hip hop culture
blog cover image - atl hip hop culture

The Late 70s

As Disco is destroyed in the infamous Disco Demolition Night in 1979, the City of Atlanta’s NightLife is consumed by two major passions: Skating and Dancing.

Skate Culture

Throughout the A, you have hundreds of ATLiens spending their weekends hanging out at the Skating Rinks around the City.

Unfortunately, the Skate Culture is tough on new talent and to enter this Elite Scenario, you have one option: Join a Crew!

As part of a Skate Crew, you work on routines and work on ways to show the Community every week that you're the BESTEST BEST!

As the Skating Rinks change from a place to Hang out to an Entertainment Venue, the pressure on the Skate Crews to entertain the "Non-Skaters" intensifies.

With this new intensity, the Skating Crews start doing incredible routines and as the routines get more advanced and more complex, certain Skate Crews realize they should add "Dance" Moves to their routines.

It is this small transition in Skate Culture that develops an "EXPLOSION" of Legendary Skate Routines across the A.

During this elevation of Skate Culture, a move known as "The Skip" becomes commonplace in the Skating Rinks across the City of Atlanta and its Surrounding Areas.

ATL Hip Hop Culture

Out of Nowhere, the Hip Hop Culture hits the City of Atlanta and there are arguments about how it starts.

Many claim that Hip Hop Culture comes from Skate Culture and they are correct.Others claim that Hip Hop Culture is a continuation of the Disco Era and they are correct.

Others claim that Hip Hop Culture flourishes because of DJ Culture and the Million Dollar Record Pool and they are correct.

The Origins of Hip Hop all derive from these forces and yet, when it arrives, it spreads so fast no one has time to recognize it as a Global Movement and Evolution of our Consciousness.

Up in New York, their Hip Hop Movement is fueled by DJ Culture and the Block Party, but down in the A, our Movement is fueled by DJ Culture and Talent Shows.

DJ Culture and Rainbow Arcade

One Common Denominator throughout Hip Hop Culture is the DJ, a Major Force in Early Hip Hop Culture, is a domineering and powerful force among our Movement.

Over in the SWATS, the Earliest DJ of Prominence is DJ Smash.

DJ Smash and his Brother, Kelvin Walton, own one of the Most Renowned Hip Hop Spots in the SWATS - Rainbow Arcade.

Every weekend, all the local Break Dance Crews in the SWATS meet at Rainbow Arcade to battle it out.

And suddenly, the Rainbow Arcade becomes the HOT SPOT for several reasons:

  • It’s across the street from Greenbriar Mall

  • The Mall has a Food Court

  • The Mall has its own Arcade (The Gold Mine)

  • The Mall has a Movie Theatre

The Walton Brothers elevate the Arcade from a simple place to play video games to a place of Hip Hop Discovery.

When you enter the Rainbow Arcade, you are met with Dragon’s Lair, Spy Hunter, Dig Dug, Frogger, Defender, and Robotron.

After you walk past the initial games, you are met with a humongous Dance Floor and then, you are hit with the BOOM!

In the back are two HUMONGOUS SPEAKERS and we are hit with DJ Smash scratching and cutting throughout the day.

And for a Breakdancer in a Crew, this is how we live.

We spend all week practicing break moves on Cardboard, listening to our Boom Boxes at home.

Then, we spend Fridays getting our gear ready and rock out to the V103 Fresh Party.

After that, our crew hits Greenbriar Mall, sometimes we watch a movie, sometimes we walk around the Mall talking trash, and sometimes we hit the Gold Mine.

As nighttime comes, we rush across the street to battle rival crews at Rainbow Arcade.

As we battle, DJ Smash hits us with the latest new Hip Hop Songs we have not heard anywhere else.

Every week, DJ Smash receives new records from the Million Dollar Record Pool and we hear Hip Hop Songs that are not heard anywhere else in the City:

  • Rhythm Rap Rock by Count Coolout

  • Super Rhymes by Jimmy Spicer

  • The Bubble Bunch by Jimmy Spicer

  • Must be the Music by Secret Weapon

  • Don’t Stop the Music by Yarbrough and Peoples

  • Battman: Let Mojo Handle It by MO-JO

  • Mr. Yellow by Yella

  • F-4000 by The Treacherous Three

  • Drop the Bomb by Trouble Funk

  • Arkade Funk by Tilt

  • King Kut by Word of Mouth

  • Fix It In The Mix by Pretty Tony

Soon, we spend our select evenings at Therrell High School Dance Parties dancing and watching the super special scratching techniques of DJ Toomp.

After that, breakdancing soon dies out and, many of us, transition into another ATL phenom known as Yeeking.

The Therrell High School Talent Show

Alongside the Rainbow Arcade Breakdance Scene, the Hip Hop Culture is also fueled by Talent Shows.

And none of the Talent Shows are more explosive than the one we experience at Therrell High School.

This Talent Show is always SOLD OUT because, at the beginning of Hip Hop Culture, the two best Rappers in our Neighborhood are in a Group.

New York has Run D.M.C. and the SWATS has Kool-Aid and Raheem, the best Rappers EVER!

Everyone around the City can’t wait until the Therrell High Talent Show, so we can breakdance in the aisles.

As the lights dim, we are hit with a Dope Hip Hop Track and Kool and Raheem hit the stage.

And we know the song, so we join in and scream the hook.

Cause It’s Awesome!!!!

Elevation of ATL Hip Hop Culture

As Hip Hop Culture consumes the A, it breaks out in different places.

Some of us are consumed by breakdancing.

Many are obsessed with Rapping and Beatboxing.

Others are fueled by Graffiti Art.

As Hip Hop flourishes across the City, two subcultures appear and during the 80s, these subcultures actually became MORE FAMOUS than Hip Hop Culture Itself.

The First Subculture is the Fashion Culture.

The Second Subculture is the Yeek Culture.

The Fashion Culture (The Five Points Prep)

The Fashion Culture of ATL Hip Hop is known as the “Prep Culture,” but of particular interest is a subcomponent of Prep Culture known as the Five Points Prep.

No matter where you go in the City, no matter where you hang out in the City, no matter what you plan on doing in the City, there is one truth.

You are going to experience and/or see a Five Points Prep.

And there’s no mistaking when you see one.

When you get off the train and are walking to the Bus Stop, you peer over in the Corner and are met with an unbelievable sight.

A guy, deep in the corner, is posted up on a wall, with his right leg bent and his left leg flat against the wall.

His head down and covered by a Fisherman Cap, he stands still and never moves, perhaps a divine silhouette, or maybe a Divine Mannequin?

The Bright Loud and Yellow Fisherman Cap is matched by a pair of Great Sky Blue Levi’s Jeans, loose fitting.

His Matching Yellow T-Shirt, covered by an Izod Tennis Sweater, is a powerful fashion statement.

And before you leave, you look down and notice his Rod Laver Adidas sneakers are Mint Condition, newer than Brand New.

The SEERING White Leather Sneakers reflect the gloomy orange light peering down from the Marta Station Lights above.

And somehow, this guy still has not moved.

You sigh and realize that you’re late for your bus and then, you walk up the steps and again, you notice another figure on the other side of the Train Station.

Off in the Corner, another guy leans against the wall and you notice his outfit.

A Bright Red Polo Shirt, a red scarf, light blue Generra Collection Pants, Red Polo Belt, and you look again and sigh.

There’s no way the guy has on Polo Socks?

Then, you notice that he not only has on Tretorn sneakers, he has dyed them the same color Blue as his pants.

Are you Serious right now?

As you jump on the bus, you walk to the back and notice a guy posted up, holding the metal bar, and he is definitely part of this underground culture.

You notice that he has on Rod Laver Adidas, a Tennis Sweater wrapped around his neck, and a Golf Bag.

You giggle a bit and look again and you REALIZE this DUDE has a freaking Tennis Racket - are you serious???

As he gets off, you watch him walk over to a group of guys, all wearing Plaid Blazers and Sebagos, and as the bus pulls away, you sit down and smile.

That’s the A Shawdy!!!!

The Yeek Culture

Click here for more information about the Yeek Culture.


Take Action

Join FoF, an online Community that merges the vibrant worlds of Hip Hop, Content, Coaching, Storytelling, and GTD Cultures!

Join the FoF Community

Donate to FoF Culture