Atlanta’s contribution to the American music scene is unparalleled. The talented, eclectic bands and musicians that have Georgia roots have been shaping the music scene for decades. The “city that is too busy to hate” has produced an array of music – from soulful R&B to hip-hop and rock, here are 20 iconic musicians that hail from or live in Atlanta, Georgia
Originally born in Illinois, Ludacris has been a proud Atlanta resident since he was a child. Ludacris started making a name for himself in the music industry as a DJ at Atlanta’s Hot 97.5 (now Hot 107.9) under the name “Chris Lova Lova.” His debut album, Back for the First Time was released in 2000 and reached #4 on the U.S. Billboard 200. Ludacris has been making hits ever since. He has starred in countless movies including the Oscar-winning hit, Crash. Ludacris is also co owner of the restaurant, Chicken and Beer, located in Hartsfield Jackson Airport in Atlanta.
Comprising of André “André 3000” Benjamin and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton, Outkast came on the music scene in 1994 with their debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. One of the most successful hip-hop groups of all time, Outkast has sold over 25 million records and won six Grammy awards. Outkast is credited for bringing the southern hip-hop movement to mainstream. The duo’s success helped launched their individual projects including acting and solo music albums.
Formed in Atlanta in 1990, TLC is comprised of Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. The iconic group has broken multiple records to become the best-selling American female group. Selling over 65 million records worldwide, the original TLC recorded four multi-platinum records. The fifth album was recorded after the untimely death of Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
The Black Crowes
Formed in 1989, The Black Crowes have sold more than 30 million albums. Hailing from Marietta, Georgia, the band’s musical reign include eight studio albums, four live albums and numerous charting singles.
Born and formed in Atlanta, hip-hop outfit Goodie Mob has put out five hit albums and collaborated on numerous others. Their debut album Soul Food was certified gold in 1995.
Formed in Atlanta in 1988, Arrested Development won two Grammy Awards in 1993 for Best New Artist and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, and were also named Band of the Year by Rolling Stone magazine. Founded by Speech and his former friend Headliner as a Afrocentric alternative to the gangsta rap popular in the early 1990s, the band has released 12 albums.
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers make up the Grammy awarding-winning band, The Indigo Girls. The duo first met in grade school just outside Decatur, Georgia and have been performing together since 1985. They released their first self-produced record in 1987 before being signed to a major label in 1988. The iconic folk band is also celebrated for their environmental, LGBTQ and political activism. The band has successful solo projects including albums, a local restaurant and a book.
Atlanta native T.I. has been recording music since 1999. T.I., born Clifford Joseph Harris Jr, has released nine studio albums, with seven of them reaching the top five of the US Billboard 200 chart. Perhaps best known for introducing trap music to mainstream, T.I. has collaborated with other iconic musicians including Justin Timberlake, Destiny’s Child, Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams and Rihanna. Alongside his reality television show, the rapper has also garnered a successful acting career starting in the films ATL, Takers, Get Hard and American Gangster.
An Atlanta resident since her teenage years, Ciara debuted her first hit album in 2004. Discovered by Atlanta’s own, Jazzy Pha, Ciara has recorded six record albums. Her first album was certified triple platinum and garnered four Grammy nominations. Ciara has also been featured in major hit songs by Missy Elliott and Bow Wow.
Born outside of Atlanta in Albany, Ray Charles is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and composer. His smash hit “Georgia on My Mind” won him four Grammys. In April 1979, the track was proclaimed the state song of Georgia.
You can’t talk about iconic music in Atlanta without mentioning Jermaine Dupri. Record executive, recording artist, record producer, songwriter and rapper, Jermaine Dupri has helped launch numerous musical careers and contributed to the success of others. After the launching the successful teen duo, Kriss Kross in 1992, he established his own record label called So So Def Recordings. He discovered and signed Atlanta natives Xscape and launched the career of Da Brat. Dupri also worked with Usher on his hit album, Confessions, co-writing and co-producing three consecutive singles Billboard Hot 100 number one songs “Burn”, “Confessions Part II”, and “My Boo”. Jermaine Dupri collaborated with Mariah Carey on numerous tracks including “We Belong Together,” which stayed at number one for 14 non-consecutive weeks, becoming the second longest running number one song on the US chart. Jermaine Dupri is also behind the smash hit “Welcome to Atlanta,” featuring Ludacris.
Formed in 2000, the heavy metal group is comprised of bassist Troy Sanders, guitarists Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher, and drummer Brann Dailor. Mastodon has released seven studio albums, has four Grammy nominations and a Grammy win for the album Emperor of Sand’s opening track, “Sultan’s Curse.”
Discovered by Jermaine Dupri who signed the group to his So So Def label, Xscape is a female R&B group hailing from Atlanta, Georgia. Xscape’s debut album Hummin’ Comin’ at ‘Cha, which generated two of their largest hits “Just Kickin’ It” and “Understanding,” was certified Platinum in 1994. After the release of their second platinum album, the group split up to pursue solo careers.
Born in Atlanta, Brenda Lee is a rockabilly, country and gospel artists. Best known in the United States for her 1960 hit “I’m Sorry,” and 1958’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” Brenda Lee was inducted Rock and Roll, Country Music, Rockabilly Halls of Fame and is also a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.
This musical icon’s music career started when he and a college friend decided to leave college and move to Atlanta. The two played in coffee houses and club venues such as Eddie’s Attic. Experiencing musical differences, the two parted ways for solo careers. John Mayer went on to have a successful solo career winning a Grammy and touring with other major artists.
Residing in Atlanta since he was twelve, Usher is one of its best-selling musical artists. Rising to fame in the late 1990s, his first album My Way sold eight million copies worldwide and won him two Grammys in 2002 and 2003. Selling 20 million copies worldwide, his smash album Confessions solidified him as one of the best-selling musical artists of the 2000s decade. He was also inducted into the Georgia’s Music Hall of Fame. Usher and talent manager Scooter Braun founded the record label Raymond-Braun Media Group (RBMG) and signed Justin Bieber in 2007.
Consisting of singer-songwriters Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush, Sugarland was founded in 2002. The country music stars have five chart-topping albums under their belt, a Grammy, Country Music Awards and have performed with major recording stars including Beyonce and Lady Gaga. After a five year hiatus, the band announced in 2017 it is reuniting for another album.
Born and raised in Atlanta, Monica began performing at the age of ten. She rose to fame after her debut album, Miss Thang, went multi-platinum. The first two singles, “Don’t Take It Personal” and “Before You Walk Out of My Life,” made her the youngest recording act to ever have two consecutive chart-topping hits on the Billboard Top R&B Singles chart. Her second album The Boy is Mine, which featured the Grammy award-winning song featuring Brandy, catapulted her to one of the most successful R&B female vocalists to emerge in the mid to late-1990s.