ATLANTA—When Dick Williams heard his city’s new anthem, he was aghast. The 60-year-old Fox television host—who sings in a choir—could understand only one line: “Get ‘em up, get ‘em up, get ‘em up, get ‘em up, get ‘em up, let’s go . . .”
“Not,” he said, “a good line for a city with a high crime rate.”
Now that Atlanta is the first city in the United States to have an official hip-hop anthem, residents are agonizing over the meaning of the song.
Mayor Shirley Franklin commissioned Dallas Austin, a hip-hop producer based in Atlanta, to write the anthem as part of her Brand Atlanta campaign to attract tourists and businesses to the city.
Yet ever since “The ATL”—an up-tempo hip-hop and R&B fusion song—debuted in front of 70,000 football fans at an Atlanta Falcons game in October, Atlanta residents have critiqued its rhythm, its melody and its lyrics.
One suburban reader of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution complained that the song told the world to “bring your boom-box and your bling-bling to Atlanta,” and another said he could no longer identify with a city that had abandoned family values in favor of “gun-blazing, Ray Lewis-admiring thugs.”
Sarah Lattimer, a partner of LattimerMoffitt Communications, the marketing firm that conceived the idea of an Atlanta anthem, admits she was shocked by the critical interpretations of the song. “ ‘Get ‘em up’ is a club reference,” she said. “In a dance club, people throw their hands in the air.”
Lattimer said she still believed that “The ATL” articulated the soul of Atlanta. She expected the song, which is performed by contemporary R&B artists including Monica, Ciara, Jagged Edge, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins of TLC and Sammie, to enter the Billboard Top 40 and become part of the repertoire of Atlanta’s high school bands, orchestra and nightclubs.
She cannot explain why suburban residents took offense. “I can’t speak for the suburbs,” she said. “I don’t know what goes on there.”