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ArtsATL

Your Source For The Arts In Atlanta

Soul Food Cypher

ArtsATL’s Creative in Residence guest-editor program seeks out diverse voices in Atlanta’s arts.

Atlanta has many nicknames: Hotlanta, A-Town, the Hollywood of the South, Wakanda, the Black Mecca and, most notably, the hip-hop capital of the world. 

In 1995 when André 3000 declared at the Source Awards, “The South got something to say,” the world began to see Atlanta in a new light, and Atlanta did not disappoint. 

In the past 25 years, Atlanta has been the epicenter of hip-hop culture, influencing both the world outside I-285 and those who call Atlanta home.

Hip-hop’s influence can be seen all around the city. From the working creative who DJs at night to the event coordinator who fuses music and community, it’s a part of us just as much as we are a part of it.

Today we celebrate four talented women who have worked in Atlanta’s hip-hop industry. 

This story closes out the November residency of Soul Food Cypher’s Alex Acosta. To see other stories in this Creative in Residence project, go HERE.

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Lisa HurstonLisa Thurston

  • Medical assistant by day; DJ/creative contributor by night. 
  • Cofounder of the El Dorado Hotties and founder of Wax Fundamentals.

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My first taste of ATL’s hip-hop scene began in 2001 with Mic Club at Apache Café on Tuesday nights hosted by Dres the Beatnik and at Somber Reptile hosted by Fort Knox. During those times, shows were happening every weekend, which allowed me to meet like-minded people and establish numerous friendships. In 2004, I met my late husband Christopher “JAX” Thurston of BINKIS RECS at their album release party.

His legacy in the ATL community helped me cultivate lifelong friendships, like with Mike Flo of Dead Prez, who played a significant role in me being where I am. 

My role in the Atlanta hip-hop scene became more prominent when I took over the Almighty Wax Fundamentals crew, formerly known as Taste the Music. This crew of phenomenal vinyl DJs has helped me grow in my role as a creative and leader. We are always encouraging each other with constant dialogue and support.

I grew up witnessing DJ Jazzy Joyce, DJ Cocoa Chanelle, DJ Spinderella and hearing Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Boss, YoYo and Salt-N-Pepa. The strong presence of women in hip-hop during that time was eye-opening to me. The power these women possessed onstage and the screen was extraordinary, and they’re still making a significant impact today.

This journey through music has been one of growth and self-acceptance. I had to seriously get over my fear of failure and move to the next level. When I put my self-doubt and fear to the side, I pursued my passion with no safety net and developed immense patience with myself. My confidence increases daily because of the greatness I surround myself with. My tribe makes me believe in my magic.

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Cidnee RichCidnee Rich 

  • Artist manager. Events coordinator. Tarot card reader.
  • Manages Queendom and is production director of “Sushi for Breakfast” with American Sushi recording studio.

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I volunteered with A3c in 2015 and, from there I made connections inadvertently to the executive director and the program director. The following year I got hired as the special-events activation manager. When I worked for A3c, I did a lot. I switched to program manager from being the account manager, then the activations manager, special events to production manager. I dabbled in the production and programming sides of things. 

The social club — a monthly event for influencers, artists and the greater Atlanta hip-hop community to connect, share ideas and build — was my baby. I really enjoyed the social club because it connected me with the community, to the artists, DJs and fans. It allowed me to cultivate my relationship with people and give people space where they felt seen.

I love music and small independent shows. When artists are independent and have that feeling of excitement and connectivity, it draws me in. I’ve learned how to create cool and exciting experiences that allow an artist to just shine without all of the glitz and glamour.

At my core, I’m an events curator and into production. All of the behind-the-scenes stuff making the event happen, that’s what I’ve realized I love. I want to continue, especially post-COVID. I don’t know how things will look or how the event world will look, but I would love to work with brands and do more activations.

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Dee Dee Murray

Dee Dee Murray

  • Former manager for Organized Noize Productions.
  • Owner of Murray Media Production Partners, LLC.

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I am the owner of Murry Media Production Partners, LLC. We are a boutique agency that provides niche services to the entertainment industry. Most notably, I am the former Organized Noize Productions manager, which included the artists OutKast, Goodie Mobb and Dungeon Family collective. 

I started my career in 1985 volunteering. I had to give before I received, I had to prove myself, and I had to prove myself by working for free. A lot of people don’t prescribe to that. I worked at Dungeon for free for two or three years before they could afford to pay me, but that’s what I had to do to get into the places that I wanted to be. I had to prove myself and work hard to get my feet in the door and kick that thing open to let people know that I’m here. 

Before COVID-19, the primary responsibility for my consulting agency was to facilitate all of the film permits that came through DeKalb County so people could film. It was my personal responsibility for the East Side to get some work. The same opportunities that people get on the North Side of town, it was my commitment to my community to make sure that they got the same thing. 

Working in the entertainment industry, I’ve always been very clear about my role: This is what I do, this is how I can help you, but you have to do the work, too. The artists I work with have to work harder than me at their craft. I’ve been able to help artists by being that trustworthy person who can negotiate their deal and help them deliver their products, whatever they may be. 

I consider myself part of the true adult hip-hop generation; you know “we 50 and over” and love hip-hop as we grew up with it. We’re not faking. We raise our kids on it. We can’t help ourselves, and neither can our kids. 

We’re going to be who we are, and we’re going to be who we are unapologetically. We’re going to live our culture and represent it, whether it’s all in the boardroom or the hood, on the trap, on the scene, we can do it all.

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Divinity RoxxDivinity Roxx

  • Female bass legend.  
  • Bass player/music director for Black Girls Rock on BET. (Photo by Marc Mennigmann)

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I started my music career with a hip-hop group called DATBU (Divinity and the Breakfast Unit), and we were produced by DJ Kemet. We were a techno, underground hip-hop group. We opened for Jerry the Damager. We went on tour with the Alcoholics, and we opened for The Roots. We released our music independently and marketed ourselves around town. We became extremely popular in the underground hip-hop scene around ’96, ’97 and ’98. Around this time, I started focusing on the bass guitar, which brought me to play with one of the world’s best bass players, Victor Wooten.

After attending a bass camp led by Victor and touring with him for five years, I became the bass player and assistant musical director for Beyoncé. I am the bass player in the Black Girls Rock! orchestra, which airs on BET. I recently finished recording and writing a children’s Christmas song with the Latin Grammy award-winning artist 123 Andres. It’ll be out soon. It’s called “Zoom Holiday Party,” so look for that and request it on your Sirius FM Children’s Radio Shows.

I’m really resourceful in that I try to find opportunities to make money any way I can as an artist. I capitalized as much as I can off of every opportunity that affords itself to me, and I encourage all artists to do that. I’m an artist 24/7. I’m working 24/7. My brain is going 24/7. I learned from Beyoncé that you could outwork anybody as long as you keep going.  

Growing up in Atlanta, Atlanta is blackity black, black black. That really gave me confidence in a place where I never thought I couldn’t do something because I was Black. My Blackness was never a factor and was always celebrated, not just during Black History Month.

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