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Strip Clubs: Launch Pads For Hits In Atlanta

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Strip Clubs: Launch Pads For Hits In Atlanta

Strip Clubs: Launch Pads For Hits In Atlanta

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AUDIE CORNISH, Host:

But there is one big difference in Atlanta. As NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports, the struggle to turn a new song into the next bit rap single begins in the strip club.

ELIZABETH BLAIR: Consider this...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLAIR: On their way to the top of the charts, most of the major hip-hop hits of the last 10 years spent time in Atlanta strip clubs. Lil Jon's "Get Low."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "GET LOW")

LIL JON: (Rapping) (Unintelligible).

BLAIR: Songs by Ludacris, Young Jeezy and Usher.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

USHER: (Rapping) Yeah. (Unintelligible).

BLAIR: Strip clubs in Atlanta were their first focus groups. Wendy Day is founder of the Rap Coalition, which helps broker deals between artists and record labels.

WENDY DAY: They'll test the record literally right there, not mixed, not mastered, just in its rawest form, and they'll test it to see how the patrons react to it, how the girls react to it in terms of dancing, and it's a very inexpensive way to test a record.

NICK LOVE: Atlanta strip clubs work for one big reason. You have everybody from all walks of life in the strip club.

BLAIR: Veteran promoter Nick Love says in Atlanta, nobody thinks twice about going to a strip club. He says, you want to get a bite to eat? Go to the strip club. A night out with friends? Go to the strip club.

LOVE: You've got the nine-to-fivers who might have snuck off from work, just got paid. You got the dope boys who hung out in the streets all week. You got record label executives in the strip club. You got DJs in strip club. You got other artists in the strip clubs. So if you're a nobody, and that song is working, everybody who you could possibly want to hear your music is probably in the building.

BLAIR: To get your music into that building, here's how it works. First, relationships. Wendy Day hooked me up with LuQman, the founder of Pure Pain Records. He says his first stop is with the dancers.

LUQMAN: You know, I don't like to say stripper. I say dancers. And just be cordial with them, spend a little money and then let them know what you're trying to do.

BLAIR: Unidentified Announcer: Hey, (Unintelligible).

BLAIR: The patrons include older professionals and younger, college-age kids, mostly men but also some women. LuQman takes me to Sweet Pea, one of the club's main dancers. Petite and charming, and wearing nothing but heels, jewelry and a thong, Sweet Pea is very enthusiastic about her place in the hit-making process.

SWEET PEA: The guys have to come up with, like, a hot song at first, and once they come up with that song, we just ask the DJs to play it on our stage set. We just request a song, and we just start it from there.

BLAIR: So later that evening, Sweet Pea and the Snack Pack, four other dancers, perform to LuQman's record by rapper Roam Bad Daddy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BLAIR: He says sometimes it works because even a mediocre song can be a turn-on when a woman's dancing to it.

DJ SCREAM: There's nothing like seeing women dance to a record. There's records I hear that I hate, and then I see women dancing to them - oh, it's not that bad.

BLAIR: Strip clubs are now hip-hop's second skin. Videos are shot in strip clubs. Songs by big name rappers like T.I. and Ludacris are devoted to strip clubs.

JELANI COBB: Strip culture has bled over to popular culture in general.

BLAIR: Mr. COBB It was very strip-club influenced. It involved like a kind of mock lap-dancing and overtly erotic, you know, performance. And it was a family event. And so people really did not take lightly to it. But I thought it was the perfect example of how that culture has, you know, made this connection.

BLAIR: Elizabeth Blair, NPR News.

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