By Shawn McFarland
How have your past 365 days been? Did you get a raise? Make Dean’s List? Meet the love of your life? Find an onion ring in your Burger King french fries?
Hey, maybe you pulled off all four of those things – it’s still not topping the year that the city of Atlanta had.
With a population of just over 440,000 people, Georgia’s largest city sits 40th in the nation size-wise (as of 2012, at least). In this case, size isn’t an issue; Atlanta is pumping out the best music in the country, and there isn’t even a close second.
The past year has seen an unprecedented run of albums, hit singles and storylines coming from Atlanta natives. It continued this past Thursday when Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn – known by most as Future – released FUTURE, a self-titled 17-song album, and his first solo-studio album since EVOL (2016).
FUTURE is, well, vintage Future. From top-to-bottom, it’s difficult to find a song that doesn’t carry its weight. “Rent Money,” “Draco,” and “Scrape” have a What a Time To Be Alive/March Madness vibe, while “Outta Time” mixes piano and smooth vocals, ala “Used to This.”
But FUTURE is less about the self-proclaimed trapstar’s ability to put together a quality album for the second consecutive year, rather what it symbolizes for the ATL: absolute musical dominance.
Despite FUTURE’s impressive first-week debut, it may not even crack the top tier of stories to come from Atlanta in the past year. Here’s the best Atlanta had to offer in the past year, whittled down to the top three moments.
DISCLAIMER: Please, whatever you do, don’t let this list distract you from the fact that the Atlanta Falcons blew a 28-3 lead in the 2017 Super Bowl.
3: Donald Glover rides musical and television success to glory
Is there a human being more talented on this planet than Donald Glover?
Seriously. This man acted in a major television comedy (Parks and Recreation), had his own Comedy Central stand up performance (Weirdo) and has been tabbed to play Lando Calrissian in the next Star Wars movie, and Simba in the upcoming Lion King remake.
That’s just his acting career, too.
He also found major success under the pseudonym Childish Gambino, where he released two hit studio albums Camp and Because the Internet, as well as a litany of mixtapes.
But despite all of that under his belt, Glover’s 2016 might just be his best year yet. On Sept. 6, his FX comedy Atlanta (yeah, that’s the name of the show, I’m not even joking – he’s making this too easy for me) debuted. Just over four months later at the 74th Golden Globes Awards, Glover’s show picked up two awards – Best Television Series (Musical or Comedy) and Best Actor in a TV series (Glover).
All while producing and starring in one of the year’s best new shows, Glover also had time to record and drop a third studio album. Awaken, My Love! came out Dec. 2, 2016, and while it was initially met with some skepticism due to its style (there was more soul, funk and R&B compared to the rap/hip-hop style of his previous two albums) the results still came up positive for Gambino. The album made it up to No. 5 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200, while “Redbone” was considered one of the top songs of the year.
3. Gucci Mane is a free man
To quote Young Thug, “Big Guwop home.”
Flash back to May 13, 2014. Gucci Mane pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm by a convicted felon (listen, I’m not going to defend Guwop here, but we’ve all got our vices. I really like double-stuffed Oreos. He really likes handguns). Point being, he found himself behind bars for just over two years.
Jump back to May 26, 2016, and Gucci Mane is out of jail. To say he hit the ground running is an understatement. One day following his release, he released his first single with Atlantic Records, fittingly titled “First Day Out the Feds.”
Just under two months later, he released Everybody Looking, a studio album which featured the likes of Drake, Kanye West and Young Thug. Three months later came Woptpber followed by St. Brick in December.
He also had a verse on Kanye West’s “Champions,” a verse on Rae Sremmurd’s hit single “Black Beatles,” and he even got engaged to his longtime girlfriend Keyshia Ka’oir on the jumbotron at an Atlanta Hawks game. A little tacky for my taste, but when you’re covered in diamonds and gold chains, tacky is far in the rearview mirror.
Sure, Gucci Mane should probably have never gotten himself jail-time in the first place. But he had arguably one of the most productive 2016’s of any rapper in the game – half of which was spent behind bars.
1. Migos become everybody’s best friend
To the avid rap fan, Quavo, Offset and Takeoff – who work under the collective name Migos – weren’t new in 2016. The group had already released several studio albums, and had songs like “Versace” (featuring Drake) and “Fight Night” reach major success.
But 2016 proved to be pivotal for Atlanta’s fastest rising rap group, and Quavo’s individual success paved the way. The Lawrenceville native dipped his toes in just about everybody’s water. He performed the hook on Kanye West’s “Champions,” a song which featured the likes of Big Sean and Gucci Mane. He found himself on Travis Scott’s hit “Pick up the Phone,” as well as 2 Chainz'”Good Drank” and Lil Yachty’s “Minnesota.”
But while Quavo stepped into the spotlight, he didn’t leave Offset and Takeoff behind. Late in 2016, the group dropped the song “Bad and Boujee.” The song gained steam and became a hit on its own accord, but as is often the case, the internet immortalized it.
The first three words of Offset’s chorus will go down in rap history: raindrop, drop top. Just four simple sylables: who knew what power they had?
Well, the good folks over at Twitter sure knew. That’s right, it became a meme. Once you become a meme, ala Crying Jordan or the confused Mr. Krabs photo, you never die. Memes have a higher place than religion, law and western medicine in our modern culture, and whether that’s good or bad, it worked for Migos, as it helped catapult them to the top of the Billboard Top 100 (they still sit at No. 2 as of Feb. 21).
Napoleon give me some of your tot tots pic.twitter.com/DB9JFXuTCx
— Pickle (@PicklePluta) December 24, 2016
Sweet, sweet internet fame.