Straight Outta Stankonia - Big A Car Wash
Be activatin' that Lo-Jack cause the Fleetwood has been stolen
Campbellton Road is open, the B-I-G has spoken
— "Benz or Beamer," New Jersey Drive, Vol. 1 (1995)
The self-service Big A Car Wash was to southwest Atlanta what Walmart parking lots frequently are to suburbia: a place where teens hang out unsupervised. In OutKast's 1995 "Benz or Beamer" video, Big Boi sits on the roof, legs dangling over the sign as friends buff their cars, including Mr. DJ's white Beamer, and do the Bankhead Bounce below.
Mr. DJ didn't just lend his car to the shoot. In a 2012 interview, he told Complex how the song for car-jacking flick New Jersey Drive was informed by his own past as a car thief. "Everyone was in the studio one day just talking about what kind of cars they would steal. Like, 'You either want a Benz or a Beemer [sic],'" he said.
Locals say the car wash has now been closed for a decade. The "BIG A" is missing from the sign. Litter dots the grass. Three spray booths offer a clear view of the back lot, where caution tape pulled between bollards cordons off a large slab of rock that has been shattered on the ground, as if out of boredom.
"It was just the hot spot to get your car detailed," says Fernando Gordon, 50, a returning southwest Atlanta resident who rode his bike nearby as a child.
Big A sits on the sparse Campbellton Road corridor, once a thriving, historically black commercial district. "What we were speaking to was the community that was already on the decline. Marco's, Mr. V's — Campbellton Road be going on like Auburn Avenue," Dungeon Family ringleader Rico Wade says, comparing the nightlife of his parents to that of his grandparents. Gordon hopes to help revitalize the area by renovating the property he owns next door to Big A — a former Exxon that Hank Aaron used to frequent, now an auto shop called Gordon's Automotive.