20 Reasons Why Atlanta is America’s Music Capital

We build beats


When LaFace Records started working with music producers Organized Noize in the early ’90s, label boss L.A. Reid told the trio not to use samples. Never mind hip-hop’s already longstanding tradition of digging through record crates to find the perfect loop or hook—Reid was being economical. To legally use a sample, you had to pay—sometimes as much as $2,000. So, Organized Noize had no choice but to start a new tradition: building, from scratch, its own trademark sound.

Organized Noize used a Rhodes electric piano and Curtis Mayfield–inspired vocals from producer-singer Sleepy Brown for the Dungeon Family collective. The approach caught on, with OutKast embracing the no-sampling directive for all but select hits.

In 2007, Soulja Boy Tell ’Em created pop hit “Crank That” on a laptop, with a basic music software called FL Studios. Local producers like Metro Boomin, Sonny Digital, TM88, and Southside followed suit. “Most of them were using really consu­mer-level, basic laptops,” says mix engineer Alex Tumay, who has worked with Metro Boomin. “All of their plugins, all their sounds, you can easily download for free.”

Though this has allowed producers to create sounds anywhere in the world, these beats are still identified with Atlanta.

“All those sounds like hi-hat rolls and snares, any stuff they can do with one plugin and one click of a button—that all feels very much a part of Atlanta’s sound,” Tumay says.