These letters are an ode of gratitude, a chorus of appreciation resounding through Atlanta’s core. Here, we gather the penned sentiments of our city’s luminaries—a mosaic of thank-yous dedicated to the heartbeat of our culture: Hip Hop.

In Atlanta, Hip Hop isn’t just music—it’s our heartbeat, synchronizing with the pulse of our dynamic city. These letters, crafted by souls who’ve danced in spotlights and toiled behind curtains, encapsulate the ecstasy of that first bass drop, the artistry of lyrical tales, and the communal fervor coursing through crowds. We celebrate the beats and the ethos woven into Atlanta’s fabric.

With a nod to DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican pillar in Hip Hop’s foundation, we embrace the cross-cultural ties that enriched this movement.

Let’s journey through time and sound—a tapestry of heartfelt expressions illuminating Hip-Hop’s profound impact on our lives, city, and collective spirit. These letters honor the love, memories, and unbreakable bond we share with the beats that forever transformed us.

Crank up the volume, and let the symphony commence.

Hip-Hop, you are appreciated.

Curated by Ann Hill Bond, Lamar Stewart and Odie Donald II, in partnership with the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office

Dear Hip Hop:

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop, I am pleased to reflect on what it means to me personally. I grew up in Southwest Atlanta in Adamsville when Atlanta’s Hip Hop scene began to blossom. Atlanta is the Hip Hop Mecca of the South. The music industry here is plentiful and diverse, producing noteworthy artists in various genres. So, it’s no surprise that some of the biggest names in Hip Hop call Atlanta home. Our city’s history as the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement is tied to the social justice themes often found in the lyrics of rap songs. Hip Hop has greatly influenced Atlanta’s culture, and in turn, Atlanta also transformed this lyrical genre. I fell in love with Hip Hop when I was about six years old. I can remember hearing music coming from my older sister’s room. That was my first introduction to Hip Hop from artists like Kurtis Blow, Raheem the Dream, Run DMC, KRS-One and more. In high school, I participated in talent shows as a part of a dance crew. We used to gather at Greenbriar Mall and other places in Atlanta to have dance and rap battles with kids from schools throughout the metro area. Music has served as a roadmap for my life.

As a kid, music was an important creative outlet for my friends, and I. I attended school with some of the world’s greatest Hip Hop icons. Music moved us and inspired us to express ourselves in ways that helped shape who we are. I remember the ascension of Hip Hop in Atlanta around the late 80’s and early 90’s. Around that time, I started listening to my favorite Hip Hop group OutKast, as well as other Atlanta rap geniuses like Jermaine Dupri, Organized Noize, Goodie Mob, and Kilo Ali, to name a few. Hip Hop’s influence will span generations, and our city is a huge part of that revolution. It touches fashion, art, and culture. Hip Hop produced an original sound with beats that stir something deep within us.

That’s a feeling you never forget.


Mayor Andre Dickens

Big Boi performs onstage during Day Two of the 2023 ESSENCE Festival Of Culture™ at the Caesars Superdome on Saturday, July 1, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Dear Hip-Hop, 

My love for you is not a moment but a process reflecting different sides of who I am. I first became connected with Hip Hop in college, and the Sugar Hill Gang came out with the famous song “Rapper’s Delight.” I was a fan of the Black oral tradition in music from high school listening to the Last Poets and Rudy Ray Moore. Both groups had their place in my teenage years. Neither was on the radio or underground. Some friends memorized their poems from the record albums of parents or older siblings and relatives and started reciting them on the streets. I liked the cultural and political message and thrust of the Last Poets, which fit the militancy and Black Power nationalism for a generation wearing Afros, natural hair, rejecting calling ourselves Negros, and the spirit of self-determination and resistance in the air. The witty, naughty, and often vulgar humor and storytelling of Moore resonated differently. Young men like me loved Moore’s tales of Black masculine heroes Dolomite and Shine during a time when Black men would primarily appear on television and cinema as clownish buffoons or docile servants of white men. After high school graduation, movement folks introduced me to other powerful transmitters of the Black oral tradition, particularly  Gil Scott Heron, the Watts Prophets, and Amiri Baraka. These artists put poems over African drums, R&B, and Black classical music (so-called jazz). 

Moving to Atlanta in the 1980s, my students at Southside High (now Maynard Jackson) began to share their cassette tapes. They dropped Kool Moe Dee, Public Enemy’s (PE) “Bum Rush the Show,” and Boogie Down Productions “Criminal Minded” and “My Philosophy .”These artists not only continued the oral tradition but dropped the consciousness (I.e., the “science”) that inspired my teaching and everyday rhythm.

Hip Hop became an essential vehicle in my teaching, whether at Southside, Atlanta Metro Upward Bound, Morehouse, Clark Atlanta, Georgia States, and particularly in federal prisons. At the suggestion of the political prisoner Dr. Mutulu Shakur, we made it the focus of our curriculum. We organized a Hip Hop Summit at United States Penitentiaries in Atlanta and Coleman (in Central Florida). Utilizing Hip Hop in both institutions and witnessing the growth of some of the young prisoners there became some of the most valuable and rewarding experiences I’ve had in over four decades of being an educator. 

Hip Hop is not dead. Its foundation is the oral tradition of our Ancestors from West and Central Africa, nurtured in the folk tales on the plantations. It is a vehicle to express different parts of ourselves, the sacred and the secular, the party and the pain. It continues to grow and is a vehicle to help us grow. Hip Hop is now 50, and guess what? It’s Forever!

Dr. Akinyele Umoja
Professor + Author
Department of Africana Studies, Georgia State University

MC Shy D’s “Atlanta That’s Where I Stay”

Dear Hip-Hop,

Music, in general, has always been a part of me. My father, Felix C. Williams, was a renowned musical genius in his own regard. Playing with such greats as Paul McCartney, Johnny Taylor, James Brown, Joe Tex, Micheal Jackson, just to name a few. My mother, “Ms. Martha,” is musically inclined as well. I play several brass instruments which I will explore more in this career season.

 But HIP-HOP? My journey with you began in elementary school, E.L. Connallly. I was in a hip-hop collective, so to speak; there were rappers, break dancers, and beatboxers in the crew. We called ourselves “The Crusaders.” Fast forward to 1985, I went to the OMNI (that’s OG Atlanta) to see RUN DMC, L L Cool J, Whodini, The Fat Boys, and others at the “Fresh Fest.” When I saw RUN walk out on that stage with such Savoir-faire and stage presence, I knew then that I wanted to do that. The way he and DMC controlled the crowd mesmerized me. I went home and immediately wrote my first rhyme. “Calibrator, modulator, master rap dominator alias a cold creator” was how it started. 

Moving along, I met Ceelo Green hanging out in Greenbriar Mall long before we knew each other’s musical calling. I recall he was 8 years old, and I was around 11. Who knew that one day we would reunite and become a part of the most incredible hip hop crews ever; The Dungeon Family. Slightly before that induction, I had the opportunity to rhyme on Kool Ace’s first album. The song was entitled “Old School Player.” 

I was born on the right day in the right century at the suitable dispensation of time. A day later, it may not have happened that way. As hip-hop turns 50, I am beginning to write my best offerings ever. I have a new three-part album entitled “The Eternal Triad,” with the first installment called “Eternal (The Flesh).” It will be in the atmosphere real soon. So it’s safe to say, “The rest is history.” 

Here’s to you, “Hip-Hop.” 

The Dungeon Family’s own Backbone. 

CeeLo Green performing AFROPUNK in 2021 (Bria Suggs/The Atlanta Voice) Credit: Bria Suggs / The Atlanta Voice

Dear Hip-Hop, 

I’m young enough to have never known a time without Hip Hop. As a child in rural Alabama, it was a part of the soundtrack of my life. My ALL-TIME favorite artist is Usher and as he blended hip hop with R&B, I was hooked. Today, I love to tell everyone how much I love Trap music and how I have the honor of representing Headland and Delowe for all of my OutKast fans. Southern hip hop was a part of my soundtrack and so many of my teenage and college memories.

Now that I call Atlanta home, I’ve seen up close how hip hop has created economic opportunity for Black Americans. There is a multi-billion dollar ecosystem around hip hop for everyone from artists to producers, agents, lawyers–you name it. This made me fall in love with hip hop in a new way.

As a southern hip hop fan, I’ll say Hip hop wouldn’t be what it is today without many of the cities I represent in Congress including: Atlanta, College Park, Decatur and East Point. You can’t tell the story of hip hop without the Fighting Fifth. I’m proud to sponsor the resolution that celebrates 50 years of hip hop, and I am a co-sponsor of the RAP Act, which protects the free speech of artists. Because hip hop means so much to me and the people I represent, I love that in my Congressional work I get to promote hip hop and ensure we have 50 more years plus of driving the culture.

Congresswoman Nikema Williams (GA-05)

Outkast Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik Album Cover

Dear Hip-Hop, 

First, let me start by saying I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, at Crawford Long Hospital. My mother and I lived off Washington Road in East Point before moving to Savannah, Georgia. Every summer after we moved to Savannah, I would return to Atlanta and spend time with my family. Then at the end of 2004, I moved back to Atlanta permanently and have been here ever since. Upon my return, I became very interested in hip-hop. Much of this was because of my growing interest in the legendary duo ‘Outkast.’ Outkast stood out because Big Boi was from Savannah, GA, and moved to Atlanta just like me. Big Boi is actually from the same side of town in Savannah and had close family members in my neighborhood ‘Cloverdale.’

Nonetheless, their style and being unapologetically southern made them quickly become my favorite rap group. While I was in school, Outkast’s “The Whole World” featuring Killer Mike was my ringtone on my phone. This song is where I would be exposed to Killer Mike, who also became one of my favorite artists. Right before I moved back to Atlanta in 2004, I listened to T.I’s “I’m Serious” & “Trap Muzik” albums almost every day in Savannah! T.I. quickly became one of my favorite rappers; it was out of him and Savannah legend ‘Camouflage’ who I listened to most then. I wanted to be just like T.I. growing up; I loved his style and jargon. T.I. made me want to fly! Crazy how things would come full circle because Big Boi, Killer Mike, and T.I. would all become a part of my journey in the music industry.

Now I’m the CEO of my label, “Playas Club Music Group.” I have an incredible roster of artists: King Elway, Charlise J, Pimpin Pablo, Big Smitty, Young Bo, and Respekk. I run the label alongside my partners Johnny Cedor and Messiah Freeman, aka Pimp Sweet Tooth. We’ve garnered a significant buzz as a label over the past couple of years, and Atlanta has supported my newest business venture. I love seeing the progress of my artists going from barely known to many people becoming familiar. I enjoy helping my people accomplish their goals and further their careers. I also own a studio on Covington Hwy called ‘Sound Lynk’ with my partners Chad Hampton and Roger Vidal. I knew I loved music before, but once I became a label owner, my love for music became unconditional, and now I’m connected to hip-hop more than ever. 

Clay James, @whoisclayjames
Curator of the City of Atlanta’s HH50 activation at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport 

T.I. performs onstage during Day Two of the 2023 ESSENCE Festival Of Culture™ at the Caesars Superdome on Saturday, July 1, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Dear Hip-Hop,

An Ode to Outkast from An Atlien 

13th Floor / Growing Old featuring Big Rube, Atliens, 1996. The boisterous tenor of Big Rube on the open immediately followed by the harmony like memories of yesterday automatically triggers core memories of time spent in English Avenue with my grandmother and family growing up in Atlanta. As a fifth generation Atlantan, I have had the gift of sight to be a witness of the nostalgia of pre-1996 Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta along with the thriving beauty of the Atlanta we are witnessing today. As I grow old in this amazing City, I am reminded of the love, struggle and fiber of my ancestors as they transitioned from the rural areas of Washington, Ga – a small rural town in Wilkes county, best known for being the place where the Confederacy dissolved itself effectively ending the Civil War as we know it.

Elevators (Me & You), Atliens, 1996. My mother was a single parent with an amazing extended village of which my grandmother served as root and soil for us. As she sought to firm her independence and path for her professional career, we would often ride the 86 Lithonia headed to Decatur together. While on the Marta bus ride, I would look intently out the window while also attempting to dodge the cool air blowing intensely from the window vent. Unknown to others, my Mom included, I would play a game in my head, also known as “Bingo”, coveting the kind of home I wanted, the car I would drive down to the fashion of the women we passed by. My dreams were real and very achievable as growing up in Atlanta allowed for me to experience black excellence in real time, all of the time.

Player’s Ball, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, 1993.This hip hop classic originally released on the LaFace Family Christmas compilation album was an anthem for my cousins and I as we cruised the parking lot of the Greenbriar Flea Market dressed photoshoot ready to see Mr. Harry. He captured the essence of Atlanta with the binders of images he saved, different colored backgrounds to match any fashion ensemble and the standard white pillars as background props. 

Upon arrival at the parking lot, we would literally see people that came from far and wide, wearin’ afros and braids, kickin’ them gangsta rides. Despite my limited comprehension at the time that this classic was in fact a Christmas song as if the lyrical clue of ain’t no chimneys in the ghetto, so I won’t be hangin’ my socks on no chimney it was an audio illustration of the Atlanta that I’ve grown to love and respect.

Black Ice (Sky High) by Goodie Mob featuring Outkast, 1998. In this season of my personal life and professional career, I seek to find joy in even the smallest of things while marveling at God’s wonder. I have the honor of leading the commercial efforts at the busiest airport in the world, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, serving a global community as they take flight and return to land. I am reminded each day that my role and mere existence in the aviation ecosystem is part of the late Honorable Maynard Jackson’s vision and legacy realized. Hence my goal each day to touch what I never touched before, seen what I never seen before, woke up and seen the sun, sky high.

Jai Ferrell
Deputy General Manager, Atlanta Airport

Goodie Mob’s Soul Food Album Cover.

Dear Hip Hop,

I started out with a crush when I bought two tapes… Naughty by Nature and Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. That was ’91 or ’92. I know… two extremes… fun rap and thug rap. But I’ve always been complex, and Hip Hop, you allowed me to be different. I loved those tapes, but “Aiesha” by A.B.C. was my favorite song. I remember my older sister playing it in the car, and I had her run it back so many times she got annoyed with me. I was amazed by the power of the music.

It started with a crush, but I fell in love in ’94 when I heard “Nappy Heads (Remix)” by the Fugees. Man, I love that song. And then they followed up with “Vocab” and Hip Hop, and we became connected at the heart. The Fugees did it for me. Lauren’s genius, Wyclef’s musicality, and Pras’ weirdness were the right combination. It was perfect.

So I thank the Fugees for my relationship with you, Hip Hop. And after the Fugees, it was “Ready to Die” by the greatest rapper of all time, the Notorious B.I.G. He was from Brooklyn, and I’m from Brooklyn. So we connected on a different level. Biggie showed me a path to coolness and originality, and I followed suit.

I love Hip Hop, all your positives and negatives. You gave voice to generations unlike anything before. I hope youth culture preserves the art form. Thank you, Hip Hop, for everything you’ve done for me.

– Ian Ford
Atlanta Influences Everything Co-founder

Jermaine Dupri performs onstage during Day Two of the 2023 ESSENCE Festival Of Culture™ at the Caesars Superdome on Saturday, July 1, 2023 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Dear Hip-Hop, 

I fell in love with you because you became the equivalent of a lion taking the pen and telling the stories of urban America that no one wanted to hear.

In retrospect, NWA told us to F**k the Police long before George Floyd, but we all wondered why they were so angry. 

Some say I fell in love with hip hop because it started in the East and West, but my southern playas like Andre told us they had something to say! 

I fell in love with Hip Hop because it told stories of abandoned houses, drug deals, and hungry babies in the places we wanted to ignore! 

I fell in love with hip-hop because T.I. said, I’m from Bankhead; I’ll take your cookies! 

I didn’t have to wonder what he meant because Bankhead is home! 

I fell in love with hip-hop because it tells the truth. It’s the good, the bad, the ugly over a dope beat, so we listen even when it’s hard to hear the words. 

I would love for the story to change at times, but I also know until the world opens up, including us all. 

There will be music makers and storytellers who will make us all uncomfortable, just as Hip-Hop did.

– Genia Billingsly
Writer + Grove Park Resident

Jeezy raises a glass of champagne following the Peach Drop at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2018 in downtown Atlanta. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Dear Hip-Hop, 

Being the youngest of five kids, I often flirted with hip-hop in elementary school, but my full-fledged love for it started in middle school with the Black Rabbeye. I’m pretty sure he was originally from New York. I got invited to a lot of Bar Mitzvahs back then, and this dude was the go-to DJ for all of them. We’d typically be the only Black guys in the room. In 1996, one of his go-to tracks was “ATLiens” by OutKast, and I always anticipated him playing that. I’d ask my crush for a dance, wait for the moment that spaceship sound effect would come over the speakers, and then proudly belt out the line from the chorus – “if you like fish n’ grits and all the pimp sh*t, everybody lemme hear ya oh yayer!” – like I was the third member of the group. I was an outsider in school, but I felt seen in those moments with the Black Rabbeye working his mixes, that song playing. Like the lyrics from Andre and Big Boi, hip-hop culture gave me visibility, purpose, and confidence, the kind of support and love you get from family. I’ll never forget how she made me feel then, now, and forever.

– Gavin Godfrey
Atlanta Culture Journalist

Arrested Development’s Tennessee

Dear Hip-Hop,

Dr. Mark Baker, known as the “Hip Hop Politician,” is one of the Founding Fathers of South Fulton, GA. The former two-term Mayor Pro Tem and District 7 Councilman is best known for bridging the gaps between politics and culture. The extreme Hip Hop advocate and former Congressional candidate was a catalyst for ending the long feud between Kanye West and Drake, as a ripple effect began from his creation of Larry Hoover and Prison Reform Day in South Fulton. When asked when he fell in love with hip hop, the Chicago native states his passion goes back to “The Message” by GrandMaster Flash and the Furious Five, culminating with G.O.D and Gaining One’s Definition by Common and Cee-Lo. These two songs highlighted and acknowledged the circumstances of the culture and the method by which he would ultimately navigate through them.

“The Message” is a widely recognized classic song that explains, “It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under.” G.O.D. Gaining One’s Definition is a less amplified yet profound classic on Common’s 1996 album One Day It’ll All Make Sense, where he states:

“As a child, given religion with no answer to why

I just told believe in Jesus cuz, for me, he did die

Curiosity killed the catechism

Understanding and wisdom became the rhythm that I played to

And became a slave to master self

A rich man is one with knowledge, happiness, and health

My mind had dealt with the books of Zen, Tao, the lessons

Koran and the Bible, to me, they all vital

And got truth within ’em, gotta read them boys

You just can’t skim ’em; different branches of belief

But one root that stem ’em, but people of the venom try to trim ’em

And use religion as an emblem

When it should be a natural way of life

Who am I or they to say to whom you pray ain’t right

That’s who got you doing right and got you this far

Whether you say “In Jesus’ name” or Hum, does Allah

Long as you know it’s a bein’ that’s supreme to you

You let that show towards others in the things you do.”

Hip Hop has now merged with popular culture and is 50 years old, causing all walks of life to have gravitated towards it. Dr. Baker laughingly states that we live in a time when we have grandparents with neck tattoos who fear being spotted in Freaknik documentaries. This indicates that Hip Hop has fostered a paradigm shift that can’t be denied. Dr. Baker is connecting generations and engaging all demographics to bridge the culture gap by using my Instagram to share hip-hop quotes on various posts and his social media platform. Most recently, his work has culminated with him leading a group of artists and historians in an exploratory commission to bring about the first of its kind Hip Hop and R&B Museum and Hall of Fame…all for the love of the culture!

– Mark Baker
Former South Fulton Council Member 
Candidate for Congress

Rapper and restauranteur 2 Chainz speaks at Esco Resturant and Tapas on Sunday, November 6, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Dear Hip-Hop,

The Art of Storytelling: My Hip Hop love story. 

The beautiful thing about memories is that they choose us. We all have memories that we try to hold onto that somehow slip through our grasp. Yet, occasionally, there are times where a memory chooses us, and leaves an enduring mark on the way we see and respond to the world.  

Music is central to all of my memories. I’m the son of musicians and the descendant of a bloodline of musically inclined people, so I like to think music is in my blood. Legend has it that my grandfather, John Sterling, sang like Sam Cooke. The sound of my Mom’s piano or my Dad practicing any number of instruments will forever be one of my most comforting memories. Of course, I could never forget those holidays where the Wilcoxson family, over 100 deep, crowded around said piano to form an ad hoc family choir. Between my Dad’s endless record collection of jazz, soul, funk (and an occasional folk album or two) my Mom’s gospel and classical taste, my siblings and I all developed very unique, distinct, and eclectic musical tastes. But for me, there was one genre that spoke uniquely to me that embodied the best of it all, hip hop. 

The year was 1998. I was ten years old. I recall the world feeling so big at the time but for the first time feeling like I had the freedom to make my own decisions. This included starting to develop my own tastes in music and by spending more time outside of the house, I started to get exposed to more genres. My earliest memories of hip hop coincides with this time of exploration, running errands around Atlanta with my friends and their older siblings or hanging with my older cousins. Naturally, they are much cooler than we were, so you listen to what they like and start to get an affinity for the music they played. No matter where I was, Saturdays in East Atlanta with Kris and Kendrick, the songs my big cousins kept on repeat, or watching music videos at Torrin’s house all had one thing in common… Outkast and the Dungeon Family.

I was too young to watch the 1995 Source awards when Andre Benjamin now notoriously put Atlanta on the world stage. But between those Source Awards and the ’96 Olympics, it felt like Atlanta, and hip hop, became the center of the universe, overnight. My family had an on-again, off-again relationship with cable (and a strict daily TV limit to boot), so I depended on local radio to get my hip hop fix and my favorite time to listen I tended to listen was while I did my homework, enjoying the golden era of Atlanta radio. As I sat at my desk, headphones on, I listened intently for whatever song spoke to me in the moment and waited all day for it to come back on to add it to one of my tape-recorded mixtapes. I always had a thing for the B-sides and found out early that while the songs on the radio were good, the ones that didn’t get played were that much better (this later became a mixtape obsession and a constant search for emerging artists, but I digress) and that is what makes what happened next so unique, especially for the times. 

Occasionally, when my parents left, I would turn up the stereo system and blast music across the house, turning our living room into my own music studio. One rainy afternoon as I was immersed in my listening pleasure, a song came on that absolutely left me mesmerized. To this day, it remains one of my favorite beats. The pace of the drums and the trippy hypnotic melody seemingly conflict, slowing time in the middle of the progression. I was mesmerized. Lyrically, the lyrics could be seemingly confused and easily overlooked but when you take the time to listen, it made me realize that what I loved most about hip hop was literally, Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1) and the idea of songs as allegory. Da Art of Storytellin’ was hardly Outkast’s biggest hit. It charted was #67 on the hip-hop charts. To this day that is the only time I ever heard it on the radio. Nonetheless, I’ve been in love with hip hop ever since.

– Sterling Johnson
Director, Just Opportunity Portfolio Partnership for Southern Equity

Outkast’s Da Art Of Storytellin Part 1

Dear Hip-Hop, 

Can you fall in love more than once? Can I kick it? Can it all be so simple?

My thoughts on HIP HOP are as shattered as the broken glass that’s lying everywhere. 

The documentarian of my life, Has it told my story, or am I living it’s spoken word?

It’s the Questions, and its Roots are planted firmly in every aspect of my soul.

I fell in love when that random guy handed me a Digable Planets CD because he heard I liked jazz and could appreciate lyricism.

Love hit again when three Refugees asked Mona Lisa on a date, then chose to Kill me softly ala Ms Flack and Al B Sure.

The confessions of Bahamadi still spark unrequited love, like the unrequited love songs from 2 Skinnee J’s.

Is my love now being shared with white men? Wasn’t it just for me? El P Running Jewels from the Beasties, the Slim chances of…which Aesop?

I fell in love with all the burrows in NY because 9 Kung Fu flick lovers opened up their 36 chambers. I loved being pressed against the wall

by some hipped sister, who’s face I never saw, or needed to, while she bent over and grinded out her stress over every Luke Song the DJ would play.

RIP Sasha ( not Thumper ). Your name conjured Outkast lyrics that concreted both Headland and DeLowe in our hearts.

How much do we love our Black women? A lot, but second to a plate of chicken, rice and gravy. The Goodie spoke it and it shall stay true. 

Like all relationships, my love ebbs and flows. I’ve fallen deeply and floated in the shallows. Love has made me want to separate when you showed me your worst and sent late night text messages when I got home from Record Store Day. Why did you cut your hair and start wearing tight jeans and you speak but the words are jumbled? Purposely mumbled? When did it become cool to be purposely strung out on the drugs P. E. told us was self destructive? Bitch is a synonym now? Did the Queen give you that black eye? It’s hard to love you like this, but I still do because there is so much more to us. You have died so many times, 7 emcees struck down at once..then 8Ball said to press, play and now you are back. 

I’m an ATLien by this love and it resonates when I Pledge my Allegiance to the grind and Quest and Rhapsody that has a hold on my vision, ears and heart.

Sylverster Pierce
Founder of Pierce Consulting 

Dear Hip Hop,

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of your birth, it’s impossible to put into words the depth of appreciation and gratitude I hold for you in my heart. Hip Hop has touched every corner of my life, from influencing my style as a six-year-old begging my mother to buy me a pair of Jordan I’s that were one size too small, to shaping how I view the vibrant culture that shapes and reflects the heartbeat of communities around the globe.

My journey to leadership, fatherhood, public service – manhood has been shaped by Hip Hop. I strive to represent the core values of unity, creativity, and community that Hip Hop champions. My childhood was filled with connections to the likes of future doctors, lawyers, community leaders, athletes and Hip Hop superstars like my next-door neighbor Dungeon Family’s Own Backbone or an occasional baby-sitting session by my childhood friend Willie Brown’s big brother John better known as Little John. Hip Hop’s profound impact on my life ranges from fostering relationships and connections to navigating pathways that go beyond music.

Reflecting on this milestone of fifty years, it’s not lost on me that on August 14th I’ll celebrate my own forty-fifth. Hip Hop and I have grown up together. The intertwining threads that have woven you into the fabric of my existence. From summer camps at Adams Park with Bobby “Valentino” Wilson to teaming up with Jamal Jones aka Polow da Don and Jonathan Tabb aka Moss B as young hoopers or playing alongside Southside superstar Tauheed Epps now known as 2 Chainz during AAU basketball, I learned the relation between the stories that accompany the pulsating rhythm of the music and the bold strokes of fashion and expression that challenge convention. You’ve gifted us a unique tapestry that celebrates diversity, resilience, and self-expression, while equipping us to lead our community.

My heartfelt thanks extend to the countless artists who have poured their souls into your lyrics, melodies, and beats. You’ve provided a platform for previously unheard voices, shedding light on the struggles, dreams, and triumphs of individuals who found solace and strength in your embrace.

The halls of Frederick Douglass High School, where legends like Jarvis and Jonas Hayes, Killer Mike, Jamal Lewis and TI also walked, stand as a monument to your ability to unite individuals. You’ve been the bridge that spans generations, backgrounds, and experiences, creating a common ground where stories are shared dreams are nurtured, and communities grow.

So, on this milestone anniversary, I raise my voice in unison with millions of others with similar experiences and backgrounds to express our deepest gratitude. Thank you, Hip Hop, for the music that has become the soundtrack of our lives, the culture that has enriched our existence, the fertile ground that shaped us, and the unity that has bound us together. May your legacy continue to inspire, uplift, and ignite the flames that inspire generations of leaders to come.

Your biggest fan,

Odie Donald II