20 Reasons Why Atlanta is America’s Music Capital

We mentor new talent

Atlanta is the best city for music
Alex Belle (left) and Isis Valentino of St. Beauty

Photograph by Fernando Decillis

On a Friday night in January, Atlanta multihyphenate—singer, producer, actress, model—Janelle Monáe stands behind a deejay booth inside Edgewood Avenue’s Space 2, wearing her signature black and white, for a listening party. She’s a quiet observer because it’s not her party. It’s for the musical duo known as St. Beauty. Monáe is their mentor, and she’s beaming with pride.

Monáe, as head of the Wondaland Arts Society collective in southwest Atlanta, helped St. Beauty’s Alex Belle and Isis Valentino find their sound and evolve into artists who can sing, write, perform, and, eventually, branch out into TV and film. Wondaland’s artists also include Chuck Lightning and Nate Wonder as Deep Cotton; Wonder’s younger brother, Roman GianArthur; and Jidenna.

Wondaland’s business model is a popular concept in Atlanta, with local collectives like WERC Crew and LoveRenaissance (LVRN) serving as incubators for metro-area talent. These companies, which are mostly independent but sometimes partner with major labels on their own imprints, create a collaborative atmosphere that offers mentorship, inspiration, and cross-pollination for musicians, artists, and behind-the-scenes creatives.

LVRN was founded in 2012 by five Georgia State University students, two of whom got their start with Ludacris’s label, Disturbing tha Peace. In 2017, the agency opened a studio in West Midtown. LVRN now manages talent—like “Broccoli” rapper D.R.A.M. and East Atlanta’s 6lack—while producing, marketing, publishing music, and running a joint-venture label with Interscope Records. New clients include SpaceJam Bo from Montgomery, Alabama.

WERC began in 2014 by producing live events, which spawned a collective of performing artists, visual artists, designers, producers, deejays, and event coordinators.

Mikael Moore, managing partner at Wondaland, credits Atlanta’s culture and diversity with helping collectives thrive. “You have so many people on all different levels who can lead.”