Travel – A-Town ghetto FABULOUSNESS

2012-07-06 12:26

Hotlanta. That’s the nickname given to the main city of the US state of Georgia, Atlanta – a city that has produced some of the hottest stars of the American black entertainment industry.

I arrived on a Friday, right in the middle of a sweltering heat wave and humidity bordering on unbearable. However, I wasn’t complaining since it was an escape from chilly Joburg.

A drive to the Marriott Marquis Hotel in town took no more than 10 minutes and along the way, I was treated to some of the most colourful hues seen on cars.

From a blinding bright orange on a huge GMC SUV to a candy blue Chevrolet Impala with an all-white interior – it was evident that the louder the paint, the more swag your car has.

It felt like I had walked onto a music video set of local musicians like Keri Hilson, Usher and Ciara; or rappers T.I, Gucci Mane, Jermaine Dupri, Ludacris and many others who never fail to mention their hometown.

Once I settled, I walked downtown through Peachtree Street. Exploring the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jnr and former US president Jimmy Carter, and the place where the novel Gone With The Wind was penned, would prove to be a hilarious experience.

I started my leisurely walk near Emory University where Gladys Knight and Ron Winans’ Chicken & Waffles restaurant stands.

Outside was a winding queue of families waiting to taste the soul singer’s cuisine. Not that she was cooking, but I found out that Ms Knight does make an occasional appearance. It wasn’t my lucky day.

All along the street stood elaborate church buildings with manicured lawns. Just as Atlantans swag out their cars, it’s pretty much clear that their churches’ facades are just as important.

But the most curious sight of all was the fashion.

I’m not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, but the heat brought out the shortest shorts and skirts I’d ever seen.

The guys were dressed in sagging designer jeans held under their butts by belts sporting Louis Vuitton and Hermes buckles.

The copious amounts of jewellery on the necks, wrists and fingers made my eyebrows reach for my hairline.

Be that as it may, blinging to the max with three to four gold chains with heavy faux diamante pendants was the order of the day.

The one must-have accessory in Atlanta is the styrofoam cup everyone carries and sips from. Judging by the heat, it was safe to assume the liquid inside wasn’t coffee or tea.

Being versed in hip-hop music, I had seen this phenomenon on music videos of rappers like Drake and Lil’ Wayne, who sang: “Two white cups and I got that drink. It could be purple, it could be pink.”

The drink in this case is called “lean” or “purple drank”, a popular illegal concoction of Sprite and cough syrup. Don’t even ask.
If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I’d never have believed that people actually drank it and proudly walked around with styrofoam cups full of it on the streets in broad daylight!

Atlantans are not exactly a shy type. While many men claim that it’s difficult to approach a woman, in Atlanta no woman will walk by without at least one man macking her.

Along the way, I heard every pick-up line from “I’m from out of town, can you show me around?” to “I like the way you sip that Coke, can I take a sip of you?” The only way to get through the walk was to put on headphones and listen to a song – Welcome to Atlanta by Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri – that put me in the mood to explore more.

Downtown Atlanta, near Marta train station, is where the real ghetto action is.

There are barbershops where men spend up to an hour shaving and trimming, and there are beauty shops where you can get a pedicure for only $14 (about R114) and listen to Atlanta natives catch up on the latest street gossip.

Hawkers offer “diamonds”, jewellery and socks, and groups of young men engage in rap battles.

Doubling back, I walked past the city’s main attractions – the CNN head offices, the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola.

I stopped for an ice cream break at the Centennial Olympic Park and basked in the wholesome sounds and chatter of children playing in the Fountain of Rings’ water jets.

It occurred to me that Atlanta’s celebration of all things black is exactly what makes it appealing. It’s worth it to finna (want to) come visit again, if you know what I’m talm boudd (talking about).

» Seabi was a guest of the Tim Tebeila Foundation
» Follow me on Twitter @Mokgads

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