atlanta’s young dreamers sound off on their city’s renaissance
Follow Tyler Mitchell's lens to the Dirty South and meet the fresh new guard of artists, designers, and musicians putting Atlanta on the map.
Name: Josiah Rundles. Age: 20. What do you do? I'm a stylist and all-around creative person. Describe yourself in three words. Adaptable, balanced, nappy. Why do you love Atlanta? Atlanta is birthing new talent every day. How is Atlanta changing? In the past few years, some of Atlanta has become more overtaken by drugs, but there are many creative people that are doing constructive things for the city. What's the best thing about being young and creative in Atlanta? Once people notice that Atlanta's youth is making the new trends, they start to pay attention and respect us more. What are some of the biggest challenges you face here? Graduating, sleeping couch-to-couch, and figuring out what to do to survive for a while.
Name: Dash Romero (aka Awful Mama). Age: 26. What do you do? I'm a photographer, videographer, and creative director for Awful Records. What's the best thing about being young and creative in Atlanta? The world is your oyster. Especially with the Internet, you can be who or whatever you want to be and make a name for yourself. You can be hands-on with your craft. What are some of the biggest challenges you face here? It's such a boys club. Awful has five or six women in high positions doing big things, but that's so rare to see. You'd be surprised how many people come up to us and think we had to do certain things to get [where we are]. Awful has respect for us and want to see us succeed. With hard work, you can make stuff happen for yourself. Why is the spotlight on Atlanta now more than ever? We've always been the "weirdos." Back in '95 when Outkast came out, they were the essence of Atlanta. It's about being an individual, and not adhering to a mainstream thing. We just have the sauce! It comes natural here. @awfulmadre
Name: Dax Rudnak (aka Dr. Dax). Age: 39. What do you do? I'm a visual engineer. I mostly do murals, but I've done everything: directed rap videos, art direction, interiors for clubs. Why do you love Atlanta? I moved here when I was nine-years-old and fell in love with it. I got that feeling that a lot of people have when they first get to Manhattan; it was just the energy. There's a really big graffiti community, especially in the South. There's a trifecta, the "3050404": Miami, New Orleans and Atlanta. People from the South didn't get a lot of recognition outside LA, New York, and the Bay Area, so we kind of just started being our own world. What makes it different from other cities? Atlanta is the center of the Southern Universe. The music here helps out the art scene; I painted Young Thug's car today for his birthday — that's music industry money just for being creative. How is Atlanta changing? There's Old South and New South. When the Olympics came in 96, it changed the whole city — poverty, gentrification, and development. But that brought in the New South, which was when people started to mess with each other more; white folks started to hang out with black folks, make money together, and genuinely be friends. The New South exudes a lot of racial harmony. @snortthis
Name: Raury. Age: 20. What do you do? I make songs about love and revolution. Describe yourself in three words. Wind, omni-directional, Gemini. Why do you love Atlanta? I love Atlanta because it made me. It's one of the most creative and diverse places I've been to, and I've been on tour through Australia and Europe. It's a predominantly black city, and I love it here. I leave, and I'm just making my plans to come back. How is Atlanta changing? The kids I'm around grow up, and I can notice how we've come to who we are because of our environment. The kids I grew up with are my Atlanta. I just want to see Atlanta have the infrastructure to be the amazing place that it is at heart. I had to go to LA just because there wasn't enough infrastructure here for me to execute what I wanted to execute. We're producing far more than what our city's bones allows us.
What's the best thing about being young and creative in Atlanta? If you're a successful artist in Atlanta, you're the coolest person around. Also, you get to create with all of your friends. It's the community. Atlanta is a playground because of all the people you can get through to. What are some of the biggest challenges you face here? Comparisons. Being as unorthodox as I am, I can't be anything else but myself. In interviews, I always get asked "How will you fit into the Atlanta scene?" by someone who isn't really cultured about what that scene is. The challenge is to shed light on the culture of Atlanta that's been overshadowed by one thing [trap music]. Why is the spotlight on Atlanta now more than ever? Because we're in the renaissance — a love renaissance. People are zipping out of here every month with fire shit. If you pay attention, we have a really high production rate of people that make really good work — music that makes you want to move, that makes you want to live. @raury
Name: Zaida J. Age: 26. What do you do? I perform as a trans-burlesque performer, I curate a femme-centric party called Powder Room, and I'm the features editor of Wussy Mag. What makes Atlanta different from other cities? The South sucks. It just does. But this is where Civil Rights happened. I think if we can make changes here in Atlanta, we can make life so much better for some other [queer kid] in the middle of the Southeast. You don't have to cross five state lines to escape hell; we want people to see welcome in Atlanta. Kids as young as 15 reach out to Wussy, and tell us how hard it is for them. But they find our stuff! That's worth something. We know how much it sucks to be young and queer in the South. If you can give kids something to stay here for, that's worth it. What are some of the biggest challenges you face here? There's a reason I write about trans issues a lot. People still don't really get it, and it's just willful ignorance at this point. I feel trapped sometimes because I can't just really leave. It's not always safe; it's anxiety-inducing. You never know how far hostility can go, even in the city. Why is the spotlight on Atlanta now more than ever? There's something here. It may not always be the most sophisticated or prolific, but people live for this shit — they get to have fun here. But we take ourselves seriously, too. The way we handled our Black Lives Matter protests is a testament to that. wussymag.com
Name: Ke'juan Valentine. Age: 24. What do you do? I BMX and I'm in culinary school. Describe yourself in three words: Impulsive, redundant, unapologetic. Why do you love Atlanta? I love the diversity and the culture. I'm a native, so it's home. How is Atlanta changing? The music is changing, and it's what's changing Atlanta. I've seen it go from music of substance to just vibing with the instrumentals. Right now, people aren't really caring about the lyrics anymore, but I think Atlanta is great how it is now. What's the best thing about being young and creative in Atlanta? You've got all your life to be creative, but being young is such an experience. We have to endure a lot, but we get to enjoy so much. There's an abundance of opportunities here in Atlanta, and you can come in and do something creatively brave.
Name: Betts DeHart. Age: 20. What do you do? I do all the business for Lucid FC. I have a twin, Chet DeHart, who does all the design. It's proper streetwear; we create clothes that are unique but anyone can wear. Why do you love Atlanta? I'm fascinated by all of the cultures that live here and how fast they grow. What's the best thing about being young and creative in Atlanta? It's a lot less judgemental and a lot more open-minded than any other city than I've been to. What are some of the biggest challenges you face here? Finding the resources to make 10,000 jackets. It's hard to find the quality we want here, but we're lucky enough to make it work. Why is the spotlight on Atlanta now more than ever? The world knows it's growing. It's economically skyrocketing because of how many films are now being shot here; the music has always been popular. But as far as fashion goes, hopefully Lucid FC is helping it make a name for itself. lucidfc.us
Name: Adam Babar. Age: 26. What do you do? I organise shows at The Cleaners, do sound design, and play a lot of music. My band Faun and a Pan Flute is jazz and avant-garde; I also have a noise band called Suffer Dragon. Why do you love Atlanta? There's a lot of caring, politically-minded people. A lot of young people are really proactive in ending that shitty culture that's ingrained in the South. How is Atlanta changing? My peers in the arts community have their own spaces and can do big things. I'd love to see the trap scene and experimental/indie music scenes come together and create a unique Atlanta sound. What's the best thing about being young and creative in Atlanta? Everyone is open-minded. I've worked at The Cleaners for three years; my parents owned it for 20 back when it was still just a laundromat. When we have shows, I know so many people. There's a real community of creatives that feed off of each other, because it's all being built up by us. @silverdollarcleaners
Name: Allie Bashuk. Age: 29. What do you do? I'm a director at The Goat Farm Arts Center. My job is to visit studios, and help artists connect within the Greater Atlanta area. Also I own my own art studio, Brutal Studio. Describe yourself in three words: World's tiniest flashmob. What makes it different from other cities? Gritty, unbelievable desire to change. It feels like for so long we've been fighting so much. There's obviously scars of racial tension and segregation and socioeconomic distress. But I think, at this point in the zeitgeist, we have all these resources at hand to grow. What are some of the biggest challenges you face here? Changing people's perception. I know what's going on because it's my job to see it, so I want to have a megaphone to tell people in Hong Kong and Australia what's going on in Atlanta. People just think of the racist South, and they're kind of right, but there's a new Atlanta that needs a voice. alliebashuk.com
Name: Adam Alexander (aka Demo Taped). Age: 18. What do you do? I'm a musician, a producer, and a singer. Why do you love Atlanta? It's a lot of what I know. The people, the atmosphere, the general vibe is really nice. You can get a sense of creativity in the air. What's the best thing about being young and creative in Atlanta? There's too much to do. People just have so much passion, and are so into whatever they do. What are some of the biggest challenges you face here? I've gotten kind of pigeon-holed because I'm from Atlanta. Whenever I tell people at a party that I'm a musician, they automatically assume that I rap or produce rap. I don't want that to be the only thing that pops up into people's minds. There's so much more. Why is the spotlight on Atlanta now more than ever? Everybody that's young here is so focused on what they want to do, and everyone's trying to break out. soundcloud.com/demo-taped
Names: Taylor Nave and Claire Toothill. Ages: 20 and 22. What do you do? We make music under the name Coco and ClairClair. Coco makes beats; we both sing and rap. What makes it different from other cities? Coco: The arts scene is tight-knit. You can become best friends with someone overnight, then the next day, they're working with Drake. It's very small with a large reach. How is Atlanta changing? ClairClair: There's a lot of passionate people trying to create new art spaces, which is really cool for the young people that are moving here. We need that. But a lot of these new developments have torn down important spaces. What's the best thing about being young and creative in Atlanta? Coco: Being reckless. ClairClair: The opportunities. Ever since we started, people [have been] willing to help and let us play shows with them. In New York it would have been harder, because we wouldn't have been anybody. What are some of the biggest challenges you face here? Coco: Some people attack us because they think we're an easy target. Our songs are lighthearted, but it's because we do this for fun. People want to write us off really quickly. ClairClair: Yeah, our two biggest critics are white guys that are our age, like Soundcloud artists, or older men. I think that people here are open-minded, forward-thinking, and progressive, but they only see so much. Why is the spotlight on Atlanta now more than ever? ClairClair: Makonnen, Lil Yachty. Those two guys blew up, and now people think there's all these hidden gems in Atlanta. It's true! They really helped get youth from the Internet into the spotlight. soundcloud.com/coclair
Name: Danielle Deadwyler. Age: 30. What do you do? I'm an artist, performance artist, actor, filmmaker, and dancer. I like to explore issues of black womanhood, black motherhood, and sexuality. How is Atlanta changing? We're still a very black city, but we're shifting. We're in a really malleable phase. I can't define it yet. There's an old Atlanta that's clinging for dear life, though. What's the best thing about being young and creative in Atlanta? You have the ability to navigate through a few worlds. You can be in these very formalised settings, and actually do work there, but there's a very DIY quality too. I can be doing art at City Hall one day, then I'm on Broad Street performing at Mammal Gallery or Murmur. Why is the spotlight on Atlanta now more than ever? Everybody likes newness. It was established already, but now it's new to everyone else. There's a rugged diversity about the environment, too. You can come here and you can make an impact, and people are thirsty for that. You can be impactful, but you can be impacted, too. There's something to feel here. danielledeadwyler.com
Photography Tyler Mitchell
Text and assistance Annie Armstrong