For generations, Atlanta, the birthplace of the civil rights movement, has served as a Black mecca, a beacon of progress and potential for Black Americans looking for more: More money, more opportunity, more house. Black politicians played hardball with the white power brokers in the ‘70s and ‘80s and ‘90s, making sure African Americans got a piece of the financial pie, from city contracts to the airport makeover to the ‘96 Olympics.
The face of political power in Atlanta was undisputedly Black: middle class, college educated, largely middle of the road, but Black.
Today, the face of political power in this heavily blue city is still Black—and Democratic. But now, as the explosion of the entertainment industry turns the city into a Southern Hollywood, a new — and some would say unlikely — form of Black political power is emerging here: Hip-hop moguls.
Ludacris partnered with former Mayor Kasim Reed to bring the hit Broadway musical “Fela!” to the city. Killer Mike, one-half of the Run the Jewels rap duo, and T.I. sat on the transition team for former Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. 2 Chainz showed up at a recent city council meeting, along with Killer Mike, to rail against proposed legislation that would shut down businesses with too many outbreaks of violence.
The city of Atlanta is where these titans of hip-hop grew up, cut their creative teeth and got rich. So in one sense, this is a long-overdue flaunting of Black political power by Black tycoons. T.I., Ludacris, Killer Mike and the like are simply doing what white moguls have done for centuries in this country: using their money and their might to influence City Hall.