Saturday, May 2, 2009

The closing-- and expansion of SugarHill

About a year or two ago, my manager, Richard Dunn, came to me and asked my opinion on a business decision he was about to make. he was planning to collab with some partners to create the club, SUGARHILL. He told me the risks associated with forming this place in the ATL underground, with it's past history and the success that eludes that place. He also asked my advice from the perspective of an artist of what makes a great atmosphere for the performers, and the audience.What I described, fit that venue to a tee. A stage with great views from many angles, and a sound system to match, as well as just an overall sexy atmosphere, not too bougie, not too juke joint. A place where people could enjoy the artist, and be a part of the experience.

When I saw the room, it was a no brainer. Atlanta, with the great live music scene it has, didn't have a place quite like this. All props due to some of my favorites such as the World famous Apache, Smith's Olde Bar, Sambuca, and Vinyl , all great rooms who are welcoming to what we do, among many others. Those are all great spots to get started, and eventually an artist can get to play something as big as The LOFT or even the main room in Center Stage, The Tabernacle, and so on. The problem was, the first rooms I mentioned are 200 or so capacity, and the large rooms are 600-2,000 seaters. An indy artist on the grind who can maybe sell out Apache, gets thrown into a huge room, and it suddenly looks . . . empty (echoechoecho LOL).

What's the in between? Where would an artist like myself play as I continue to grow my audience? Eric Roberson, Dwele, Bilal, Janelle Monet? Sugarhill was the perfect size for what we had to offer and it had an intimate feel that brought out the best of a live performance. On top of that, from what I understood, the underground was giving incentives for new nightlife spots, and perks, like closings at 4AM-- the true A town way.

We looked at those pros, weighed against the cons of what we are all familiar with about the underground. It's kinda in the hood, a lot of the bars down there are cool with that, and it could be a bit grimy. Well, Richard and I are both GA boys, him from Atlanta, me from Savannah. Honestly, part of what makes Georgia folks so fresh, is that we can take a little hood with our classy shit- we actually PREFER it-- so knowing the risks that some folks may be scared away by the underground tag- plus wanting to be a part of the big change that can happen organically, instead of a complete gentrification overhaul, I said to Richard-- "the risk is what makes the reward worth it-- GO FOR IT!"

Richard, J Carter, Freddy Luster, Tom Cook, Josh Antenucci-- all major promoters with a real history of involvement in the scene, put their necks on the line to bring ATL something we all needed; the next level in live entertainment. J brought his legendary event, Sol Fusion there and set it off. Harmony N Life found a home there. In no time, every serious artist graced that stage, and classic performances happened. Even the uber stellar drummer, Little John Roberts felt compelled to "get the band back together" and make Tuesday a reminder of what the Yin Yang was for us all in the 90's with DJ Kemit, and now Salah. I remember walking in and hearing a woman on stage who I thought sounded like Jill Scott-- turns out, it WAS Jill Scott. I saw Raphael Saadiq,John Legend, India, Algebra, Donnie, Omar, Tweet,J Davey PJ Morton -uh, dude from Blackstreet who wasn't Chauncey (LOL),Big Boi,PK,Keisha Jackson, and of course the Underground Queen, JOI--- all putting their sweat equity into the building, cuz we all knew what it meant. Shout out to the bringers of that NEW energy----Hollyweerd,Jazspects, Chante Kahn, Brittany Bosco, Eva Kennedy, Dawn Mclain, Stephanie, Rahbi, of course Janelle, Foreign Exchange, Muffy, Dane Harris, Mikhel and Sepsenahki-- all bringing it the way it's supposed to be brought!

But -- and yes, there's a BUT-- not ERRBODY can take the grime I suppose. No hate, but some people really are scared of their own people, and just couldn't make the trip down to support. As much of a draw as many of these artists are, I have actually had conversations where I'm hyping up a show, and when I mentioned where it was, I get the "uh-uuuuh, I don't go down there!"

I'm not making this up, and I'm not saying it to offend, it's just what it is. I suppose you guys have a right to have it all the way as you like it, but sometimes, you have to be a part of creating it as well. That's what brings it around the whole 360.

So, Sugarhill -- in that location. . . is closing DOWN. Keep your eyes and ears peeled, because it will rise again. I remember when the Yin Yang closed before it. It encouraged us all to spread our wings, and make something bigger happen. That would be India's albums, my albums, Donnie's albums, Joi's albums, and on the venue side-- Sugarhill was born. It will only come back bigger and better. That's how serious the spirit of it is. It's a part of an ongoing evolution that we are all a part of. So we roll with the punches.

I give my personal thanks to everybody who is down for good music, period. My personal most meaningful night in there was the night dedicated in memory of Ms Peach, who left us with this spirit to keep it moving- if some of you only knew.. .I hope we show the influence she left.

There's so much to say in this blog about that place. A lot of people may not understand the convergence of things that were happening there. Atlanta, we know, is a city overflowing with transplants these days. This was a place where newcomers could mix with a little bit of the Westsiders , Eastsiders, Southsiders, who BEEN HAD the flavor that people came to recognize about this city. I know, I know, It's NOT NY, it's NOT LA- and this is how you can dip your toe in it, and get your first lil taste of what it IS. Sugarhill, as a concept, represents that to me, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

The last night in that location is this Tuesday. Bring some money, and bring your ass, cuz it will be historic, and a foreshadowing of what's to come. You'll prolly still catch me down there in Motions from time to time, that is if you aint too scary LMAO!

I was gonna post some youtubes, but there are too many- thank God for that-- just enter Sugarhill ATL, and you can see gigabytes of hotness. Be lazy today, surf.

P.S. can't forget my dude, Dres Da Beatnik and The World Famous Mic Club!!


  1. Well said Brother. Just learned about this myself and its truly a sad day for the music scene in Atlanta. Big love to Richard, Freddy, & J for making it happen to begin with. Got love for all of ya's.

    Let's blow up Sugarhill Tuesday night!!

    Mister James
    Gritz & Jelly Butter

  2. very well said. I have had some glorious times performing and str8 grooving in the audience at Sugarhill. I will miss it...the way that I still miss what YinYang was. I got my first taste of the ATL music scene there. Donnie & I were friends but I had no idea his talent was so major until he invited me to his concert there...and I got to meet India. wow. Bigger and Better to come. I shall await the rebirth

  3. What a great and wonderful spirit Sugarhill holds...I only had the pleasure of experiencing an evening there just once in 07...
    For a Harmony In Life event with Erro, Ndambi, PJMorton, Carmen Rogers, Carol Riddick and my gurl Yahzarah...and forgive me if someone else was up there and I forgot...the experience was close to heaven...all of those great artists in one nite onstage back to back...Wow!
    I look forward to the rise of Sugarhill and will surely hop a plane down to support... Keep pushing!!! We're creating our legacy here!

  4. Believe it or not I've only passed through ATL like once where I actually spent a day so I don't know your neighborhoods all that well personally/physically.

    I do know my folks though. DC was similar where folks "made it" and didn't want to come back to the hood for anything. Now that it's being gentrified folks complain how "they" just take things over and make it too expensive and push our folks out.

    It's too bad that like minded entreprenuers and patrons didn't put more support into this area and build it up. You can class a place up the same way "they" do and have and will continue to do. Like you said, it requires support, belief and losing the fear.