King: 2 Chainz
Crowning Achievement: His entire 2012.
Royal Court: Future, Gucci Mane, Young Jeezy, Pastor Troy
Where other cities have the luxury of having a "king" hold court generationally, Atlanta has a new king every other year. Kilo was the first, OutKast shared it after him and the title has rotated among Pastor Troy, T.I., Young Jeezy, and Gucci Mane after them. Ludacris held the the title at one time, but now a rapper who was once a pawn (or jester depending on whom you ask) in his court has ownership of it.
2 Chainz (formerly known as Tity Boi) seized the throne at a time when it was more or less left vacant due to frequent jail visits by T.I. and Gucci Mane, Jeezy's decline and creative lull, and Luda's Hollywood ambitions. But the crown didn't just land in his lap by default; he earned it. In a city where mixtapes come a dime a dozen, Chainz put out projects that had big name features and club anthems that eventually became radio hits. He supported the music by giving the city memorable events that included the theatrical release of his DVD documentary Codeine Cowboy and his 2011 birthday party, where he arrived by heliocopter and announced the release of his breakthrough Gangsta Grillz mixtape T.R.U. REALigion. From there he put together an impressive 2012 run that saw him become an in-demand feature artist (G.O.O.D. Music's "Mercy," Nicki Minaj's "Beez in the Trap") who now had the former kings of the city calling him for looks. His official debut album Based on a T.R.U. Story went gold-plus, powered by the singles "No Lie" featuring Drake, "Birthday Song" featuring Kanye West, and the DJ Mustard-produced "I'm Different," earning him a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album of the Year. In the midst of it all, the Atlantan has grown from an opening act to a tour headliner, closing out just about every “Summer Jam” concert this year and setting the stage for the America's Most Wanted tour alongside T.I. and Lil Wayne.
T.I. is a perpetual claimant to the throne, as evidenced by his appearance on Robin Thicke's summer smash "Blurred Lines," but Tip is in some ways a victim of his past success. He was so clearly King of the Mid-'00s that his current status pales in comparison. While Future’s backstory is almost identical to 2 Chainz', Chainz tops the “hair-weave killer” based on right-this-moment-buzz. (Whither
Future Hendrix Honest?) Of course that could all change in a Hotlanta Minute; the pace of change is definitely not slow in the ATL. —Maurice Garland