Hatelanta: Music Issue 2012

Haters are going to hate this music issue

A couple of months ago, a random scientific study came out, complete with confusing maze-like graphs and mathematical data that was crunched together by a couple of research physicists, presumably while wearing funky white lab coats. The findings they published in a paper titled "The Geographic Flow of Music" confirmed what we've all feared far too long: Atlanta is responsible for setting some of the worst music trends in the country.

OK, that wasn't exactly what the study concluded. But close.

Turns out, our fair city is North America's ground zero when it comes to early adopters predetermining what music the rest of the continent will vibe to in both the hip-hop genre and in the "all music" category.

All of which seems to set us up for an inordinate amount of hate — which is the theme of this music issue, in a roundabout sort of way.

While I highly doubt that this study pissed other cities off — especially since the data was compiled using the music-"scrobbling" social media network Last.fm (what the hell is scrobbling, anyway?) — it gave serious cause to consider Atlanta's taste in music. And you can't talk about musical taste without mentioning the word "hate."

Why all the hate, anyway? NPR did a whole piece on it — proof in itself that it's become the defining sentiment of our time.

Thanks to the Internet, there hasn't been this much hate circulating in the ether since that snake in the grass took Eve's virginity and left Adam with a big lump in his throat. Of course, the present-day "hater" trend has its roots in hip-hop. Back in the early '90s, E-40 was the first rapper to use the term "player hater" on a track. (I could be wrong about that because, as you can imagine, Googling "player hater" for factual confirmation sent me down a never-ending rabbit hole.)

Yet never in the history of hater-ism — throughout all of the various forms it's taken: racial, cultural, sexual, personal, political — has it ever been so easy to hate in complete hiding. In a strange way, Internet anonymity has somehow made us naked to the world again — free to reveal, and hide behind, our unchecked emotions.

As a result, hate has taken on a more ubiquitous form. We have PC words for it now. We call it snark, cynicism — we even use it as a defense mechanism: Call someone a hater and you've hijacked that person's right to critique and create meaningful dialogue. Our politicians, our religious leaders, even our cultural heroes — all guilty of being haters, or wielding the term for their own gain.

So what does all this have to do with music? Well, apparently you haven't heard that new Justin Bieber album.

It's no secret that there's a special brand of derision reserved for certain Atlanta-bred artists — both at home and abroad. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that this town has been synonymous with Billboad hits for so long that it drives people crazy. Or maybe it's that we're so damn crunk about it. With the lack of a winning tradition among most of our major league sports teams, the only home team we've consistently taken pride in over the past two decades has played not on a field, but from our speakers.

We've swelled up with so much conceit over our domination of pop music that it's pigeonholed us, left us vulnerable to outside attack, and deaf to what's happening in our own backyard. The South is wack, they say. And we hate them for hating, even when we secretly agree.

So this is the issue where we let down our guard, not to encourage more uninspired hatred — trust us, that's the last thing we want to do — but to acknowledge what we already know. We want to laugh at our guilty pleasures and dissect our love/hate relationship with them. To hold our sacred cows and indie heroes up to the light in search of our own reflection. To talk about how a town once known as the City Too Busy to Hate became Hate City on the low. And, ultimately, to remind ourselves that sometimes feeling passionate enough to hate something is better than not caring at all.

— Rodney Carmichael