Once upon a time in a universe far, far away, HipHopDX used to host blogs. Through Meka, Brillyance, Aliya Ewing and others, readers got unfiltered opinions on the most current topics in and beyond Hip Hop. After a few years, a couple redesigns and the collective vision of three different Editors-In-Chief, blogs are back. Well, sort of. Since our blog section went the way of two-way pagers and physical mixtapes, Twitter, Instagram and Ustream have further accelerated the pace of current events in Hip Hop. Rappers beef with each other 140 characters at a time, entire mixtapes (and their associated artwork) can be released via Instagram, and sometimes these events require a rapid reaction.

As such, we’re reserving this space for a weekly reaction to Hip Hop’s current events. Or whatever else we deem worthy. And the “we” in question is me, Andre Grant, and our Sr. Features Writer Ural Garrett. Collectively we serve as HipHopDX’s Features Staff. Aside from tackling stray topics, we may invite artists and other personalities in Hip Hop to join the conversation. Without further delay, here’s this week’s “Stray Shots.”

Does Atlanta Hip Hop All Sound A Like?

Andre: Whenever you have a situation where a bunch of culture comes out of one place there’s bound to be some cloning. Atlanta is no different. So of course there’s crop sharing between artists down there. Well, at least in certain scenes. ATL has a shitload of them. On one side, you’ve got the ratchet stuff in Peewee Longway, Young Thug, Waka Flocka, Future, and the empire that Gucci built. That stuff is kin to but not derivative of old ATL shit like Jeezy, Shawty Lo, Young Jocc and T.I. And that stuff is trumped by classic ATL like OutKast, Ludacris, Freak Nasty, Goodie Mob and Crime Mob which was heavily influenced by up north trips to NYC titans Wu-Tang Clan et al.

Now, ATL has the hipster art rap buttressed by Father, Key! and ILOVEMAKONNEN as well as group dynamics from folks like Two-9 and others. In fact, ATL has gone through so many iterations it’s surprising that the nexus of Hip Hop still revolves there. But the grip is strong. Ciara, Jagged Edge, Usher, Rico Love and that’s just R&B alone. Jermaine Dupri and L.A Reid are legends at pulling strings behind the scenes. Then there’s the producer culture, which is some of the best in Hip Hop’s history. Look, all ATL artists don’t sound the same. Of course, they don’t. The Hip Hop scene in Atlanta is vibrant-as-fuck. All you have to do is look around. But, in an attempt to be nuanced, I will say that the stuff being celebrated coming out of new ATL does sound very similar to each other. Is that about who controls which outlets break artists, though, is another conversation entirely.

Ural: There has to be greater context to A$AP Rocky’s claim that “All them ATL niggas sound the same.” Especially coming from someone whose career was built musically on scenes outside of his own in New York. Matter of fact, his biggest hit to date is “Fuckin’ Problems” which features 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar and Drake. It’s almost on some pot calling the kettle black shit when one considers how much mainstream New York Hip Hop has been influenced by the south in general. The area’s true sales queen(and king) Nicki Minaj, got her first career break in Atlanta before joining YMCMB. Miles away, the biggest hit this year is Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” which doesn’t need much explanation considering the title. At this point in time, Atlanta just so happens to be the mecca of not only commercial Hip Hop at the moment but popular music in general. So, it would make sense for people from that particular city to have similar sounds. Music trends like today are perfectly normal. New York Hip Hop reigned supreme during the late 70s, all of the 80s and a nice time during the early 90s. At that time, boom bap ruled and rap delivery evolved. The same thing eventually happened to West Coast Hip Hop at one time, more notably when gangsta rap found its way into the mainstream.

Bottom line, there are moments in time where one particular scene takes over. Hell, in the next five or ten years from now, another area is going to create a sound and movement that attracts outsiders. These things happen. But, that’s beside the point. Was Lord Flacko right? Do all ATL niggas sound the same? Nah. Sure, there are core similarities such as primary usage of 808s but there are drastic differences between most popular ATL artists. Despite the unified front at all levels, Father doesn’t sound like Migos. Future is a drastically different beast than OG Maco. Someone has to be tone deaf in thinking 2 Chainz and ILOVEMAKONNEN are the same. Young Thug sounds like Key!? Plus, the artists mentioned above are what some consider “New Atlanta.” That doesn’t count the area’s diverse history ranging from Arrested Development to T.I. Comments like those come off as cheap and lazy. Having similarities doesn’t mean everyone in ATL are clones.

The Official End Of Cash Money?

Ural: The release of the Free Weezy Album on Independence day was symbolic as Lil Wayne officially gave the grandest statement of his career. As Tunechi transitions into his post-Cash Money life, the label that birthed him is now at a complete standstill. Sure, Baby found himself managing Young Thug, but the Atlanta rapper is signed to Lyor Cohen’s 300 Entertainment. So, where does the label that gave the world Juvenile and Weezy go? Let’s be real clear here, there isn’t anyone currently attached to the Cash Money roster that’s worth anyone’s grain of salt. Outside of Juvi, there aren’t even any legacy artists for nostalgia purposes considering everyone that’s given the label platinum albums and singles has left the label. Considering the financial problems that have sprung up throughout the label’s history, there probably isn’t even enough cash to even build a successful artist at the moment.

As Wayne starts his new beginning, maybe the home that Baby and Slim built is set for a reinvention. A quick look at the label’s artists roster has Caskey, Veronica V, Chris Richardson, Jacquees and even Paris Hilton. Can any of these folks save Cash Money? There’s a snowball’s chance in hell but anything possible. No one expected the same guy who created “Bling Bling” to become the superstar that he is today. No one really expected that same individual to help cultivate both Drake and Nicki Minaj. The ball is in Cash Money’s court and from the looks of things, it’s crunch time. There should be some hope, however. Birdman still managed to make Forbes’ top five richest Hip Hop artists this year despite rumors of financial instability due to home foreclosures. With that said, a new era of Lil Wayne could also mean the same for Cash Money as well.

Andre: If Empire were to make a real life version of the show that thing should sure as hell be based off the goings on at Cash Money Records. My God. Baby is a legend. Both famous and infamous for his misdeeds and his gargantuan triumphs. Wayne is a legend. He, for quite a while, held down Cash Money by his damn lonesome while people went unpaid, to jail, whatever. But now we are at a crossroads for the brand. Can, as Jigga famously put, Baby make another Wayne? He looks like he’s trying. But if he thinks Young Thug (who is officially signed to 300) or Jacquees can be the next Weezy he’s got another thing coming. Wayne was and is special. His throwaways are more terrible than most people’s mediocre attempts are good. The kid swings big and misses big.

But, that said, the empire need not stop here. It will slow down, however. Right now, Cash Money just doesn’t have the firepower in their pen that can create hits on the level of Wayne. And Baby may have made so many enemies by not paying folks that no one with cache´ will ever go work for him directly. Would Nikki and Drake have come to Cash Money if it weren’t for Wayne? The answer is probably no. He was more than just its flagship artist and ambassador, he was the buffer between artists and Birdman. He was a buffer allowed to be effective because of his long history with him, and he cannot be replaced. So is this the end of Cash Money? The answer is probably not just yet. But is it the end of a spectacular era? Yes. Yes it is.

Andre Grant is an NYC native turned L.A. transplant that has contributed to a few different properties on the web and is now the Features Editor for HipHopDX. He’s also trying to live it to the limit and love it a lot. Follow him on Twitter @drejones.

Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based journalist and HipHopDX’s Senior Features Writer. When not covering music, video games, films and the community at large, he’s in the kitchen baking like Anita. Follow him on Twitter @Uralg.