How Faith Shows Up in Atlanta's Hip-Hop

For decades, Atlanta's artists have wrestled with their city's spiritual foundations while producing its biggest export: hip-hop culture

Pastor Troy by Floyd HallBottom of the Map Podcast

Asking the original Pastor

"Mom, Dad...I'm about to be a professional rapper... One more thing, my rap name is Pastor Troy."

Refraction of Hope by Nolan Huber-Rhoades and The Creator HubBottom of the Map Podcast

The wilderness

In Atlanta, whatever cardinal direction you go in, there's probably a church somewhere. And yet, many hip-hop artists don't see church as a go-to place for self realization. Instead, their music reflects the wilderness, the gnashing of teeth, and the ways in which younger generations wrestle with religion.

Killer Mike by Cam KirkBottom of the Map Podcast

We missed a lot of church

"I've never really had a religious experience, in a religious place" says Killer Mike on "R.A.P Music." "Closest I've ever come to seeing or feeling God is listening to rap music."

Big Boi and Sleepy Brown by Cam Kirk and Cam Kirk StudiosBottom of the Map Podcast

The Dungeon

Goodie Mob's "Thought Process" and OutKast's "Liberation" (featuring CeeLo, Big Rube & Erykah Badu) can be considered prayers.

CyHi the Prynce by Cam KirkBottom of the Map Podcast

No dope on Sundays

"They say gangsters don't pray – I beg to differ," says CyHi the Prynce on "No Dope on Sundays." "We pray every night, we pray every night to make it out of these struggles."

Zaytoven by John Canon and Cam Kirk StudiosBottom of the Map Podcast

Moral standard

Zaytoven is one of the most sought-after producers, especially for his signature trap sounds. He's also deeply rooted in the church and evokes it in his music.

Killer Mike by Cam KirkBottom of the Map Podcast


"I just need the junkies and the liars and the thieves. I need the pimps, prostitutes and pushers out the streets. That's where I'm seeking God, cause that's where He found me," Killer Mike says on "God in the Building 2."

Pastor Troy with Bottom of the Map hosts Dr. Regina N. Bradley and Christina Lee by Floyd HallBottom of the Map Podcast

Vica Versa

"It was my first time having to pray for myself," says Pastor Troy, reflecting on the life experiences that led him to write "Vice Versa."

Creation of Man by Manasseh Johnson @manasseh_artBottom of the Map Podcast


This is music that has not only put Jesus and other higher powers front and center, but that has also openly wrestled with them.

Credits: Story

This exhibit is based on "Faith is What You Make It," an episode of the Bottom of the Map podcast.

Bottom of the Map is hosted by music journalist Christina Lee and hip-hop scholar Dr. Regina N. Bradley. In each episode, they explore, explain and exalt Southern hip-hop culture.

Cam Kirk Studios provided the photography. Additional images provided by The Creator Hub and Manasseh Johnson.

Bottom of the Map is produced by WABE, Atlanta's NPR station, and PRX, and made possible (in part) by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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