Michael Schmelling’s original intent for Atlanta was to create a photo book based on Outkast’s seminal record Aquemini; but as he immersed himself in the city’s hip-hop culture, he found a different story to tell, focusing on the pulse of the future.
The photographs in Atlanta portray Atlanta hip-hop as a living, breathing, growing thing to be found anywhere and everywhere, from strip clubs to the alcohol-free teen rap-party scene. The book also includes a series of exclusive interviews with the likes of producer The-Dream and notoriously elusive André 3000 himself, conducted by GQ editor Will Welch. The true pride of Atlanta, though, is in the included downloadable mixtape of unsigned ATL rappers, including Pill, Them Concrete Boyz, and cover-photo subject Lil Texas.
“We found kids who were the same age as (Outkast’s) André and Big Boi were when they were first making records,” Schmelling notes. “There were a thousand YouTube videos of kids dancing in their living rooms, beats and songs were being made on PCs and uploaded to SoundClick or SpitYoGame. Something new was happening. And something new kept happening.” Schmelling decided to document that groundswell, spotlighting hip-hop as a lifestyle, wherever and whenever it was. “A year in Atlanta hip-hop,” says Schmelling, “is like five years in any other genre.”
Click through below for a selection of images from the book.