Stephen Kearse at Bookforum:
A MONTH BEFORE Atlanta hosted the first hip-hop-focused spinoff of the BET Awards in 2006, an executive at the cable network joked the event would likely not benefit the local economy. He was probably right. Rap dollars already coursed through the Southern city like its ceaseless traffic, bankrolling recording studios, propping up nightclubs and music-publishing companies, and sustaining a vast corps of DJs, strippers, bodyguards, and lawyers. After the inaugural BET Hip Hop Awards aired and nearly half the honors went to Atlantans, local rapper T. I.—who won four awards that night, the largest individual takeaway—described the show’s location as the city’s due: “We control and monopolize so much of this hip-hop industry, it’s only right that they start bringing these awards down here.”
BET’s programming choice followed a sea change happening across rap. Steadily in the 1990s and then decisively in the early 2000s, rap’s cultural and commercial axes shifted away from Los Angeles and New York City and toward the south.