It’s devilishly difficult to pick apart the tangled knot of policing, gentrification, and economics that besieged so many Black communities — but Justin A. Davis does so with agility and insight in this analysis of the deeply flawed criminal investigation against rapper Young Thug unfolding in Georgia.
In a city that’s been shaped by redlining, white flight, and crisscrossing transportation lines, Atlanta’s Black neighborhoods form a complex network of cultural transmission. This cultural network has led to the huge aesthetic diversity that’s defined Atlanta hip-hop, especially in the past decade. And it’s a huge contrast to the way these same neighborhoods are often politically isolated: deprived of city funding, resources, and infrastructure. Beneath these two trends—cultural diffusion and political isolation—there’s YSL’s Atlanta, a place built by the Black working class and urban poor in the shadow of state abandonment. This is a place built on the sensibilities of contemporary trap, where the everyday war stories of Bush-era Jeezy and T.I. have mixed with more than a decade’s worth of experiments in production and vocal style.