Rodney Carmichael Rodney Carmichael is NPR Music's hip-hop staff writer.
Rodney Carmichael.
Stories By

Rodney Carmichael

Morgan Noelle Smith/NPR
Rodney Carmichael.
Morgan Noelle Smith/NPR

Rodney Carmichael

Hip-Hop Staff Writer, NPR Music

Rodney Carmichael is NPR Music's hip-hop staff writer. An Atlanta-bred cultural critic, he documented the city's rise as rap's capital outpost for a decade while serving as music editor, staff culture writer and senior writer for the alt-weekly Creative Loafing. During his tenure there, he won awards for column writing, longform storytelling, editing and reporting on cultural issues ranging from gender to economic inequality. He also conceptualized and co-wrote "Straight Outta Stankonia"—an exhaustive look at Atlanta's gentrifying cultural landscape through the lens of OutKast—which was voted as one of the Atlanta Press Club's Top 10 Favorite Stories of the Past 50 Years.

A former Poynter Fellow for Young Journalists, Rodney started his professional career in Waco, Texas. He was enticed by the opportunity to cover religion in the same small town where the infamous Branch Davidian standoff occurred almost a decade earlier. What Waco may have lacked in charismatic cult leaders during his time there, it made up for with plenty of rich stories, and people, that enabled him to explore the cultural crossroads at the center of the Southern Baptist stronghold. He was nominated Rookie of the Year within the Cox newspaper chain for his coverage of religion, health and social services.

Rodney returned to Atlanta and enrolled in his alma mater, Georgia State University—where he'd previously earned a bachelor's degree in journalism and playwriting—to pursue further studies in cultural communications, with an emphasis in hip-hop studies. He was enamored by a new wave of scholarship from the likes of Tricia Rose and Mark Anthony Neal that paired hip-hop criticism with urban sociology and cultural ethnography. It would influence his approach to writing and criticism, even after ditching academia to return to journalism. After covering red carpets (BET Awards, MTV VMAs) and interviewing big names ranging from Quincy Jones to Rick James during his three-year tenure at the fast-paced urban weekly Rolling Out, his passion for storytelling called him to the alt-weekly world. During his first five years at Creative Loafing, he entrenched himself in local music coverage as music editor. He put a young Janelle Monae, already talented beyond belief, on her first cover for the publication's annual music issue. He watched Bankhead, the disadvantaged neighborhood on Atlanta's west side, become the epicenter of a sonic snap-and-trap boom that would overtake the nation and, eventually, the globe. He oversaw coverage of the scenes from the ground-up, as they emerged and submerged around an ever-evolving soundscape of micro-genres and spinoffs.

During the next half-decade, Rodney dug deeper by covering the city's music and culture scenes with an anthropological bent, historical arc and a critical eye. As the city began to be reshaped by cultural upheaval and shifting socioeconomics, he focused on Atlanta's creative economy—expanding from music to include film, TV and tech—and the ways it impacts the character of a city that has long grappled with its identity as a New South gateway, black mecca, human rights hub, strip club capital and hip-hop hotbed. Rodney attempts to make sense of that nexus and all the intersecting identity politics. Now, covering hip-hop from a national perspective at NPR, he's working to expand that lens with regionally-focused coverage. The stories he tells combine reporting, storytelling and criticism to focus on race and place, industry and economy, as well as issues around social justice and its impact on communities of color. As rap music has now risen to become the most popular genre in America, he keeps his ears and eyes trained on hip-hop's indigenous communities and the influence they bear on America's long, storied relationship with black cultural production.

[+] read more[-] less

Story Archive

Joelle Avelino for NPR

'The South Got Something To Say' Is A Celebratory Canon Of Southern Rap

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/899849680/900279767" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

NPR's series The Formula features five acclaimed hip-hop producers breaking down how they use sampling to create new classics. NPR hide caption

toggle caption
NPR

Sampling Ain't Dead: Hip-Hop Producers Break Down The Formula

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/848488734/848666682" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

A view of the entrance to Rikers Island penitentiary complex. Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

'You Just Get Written Off': One Inmate On Life On Rikers During The Pandemic

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/837923621/837974900" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Four of the most-nominated artists at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards — (from left to right) Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Lil Nas X, and Finneas O'Connell — pose in the audience during the broadcast. Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy hide caption

toggle caption
Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Rihanna performs with Pharrell Williams at her fifth annual Diamond Ball on Sept. 12, 2019. This January marks four years since her last full-length release. Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

From Dixie Chicks To Rihanna: Our Music Predictions For 2020

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/793951296/794044719" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Raphael Saadiq with Lucky Daye performs during Tiny Desk Fest, on Oct. 31, 2019. (Mhari Shaw/NPR) Mhari Shaw/NPR hide caption

toggle caption
Mhari Shaw/NPR

Raphael Saadiq Speaks With NPR's Rodney Carmichael

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/784786360/785160889" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Pianist and producer Robert Glasper has spent much of the past decade reconnecting jazz with popular black music, transforming the work of artists like rapper Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and Brittany Howard. Peter Van Breukelen/Redferns/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption
Peter Van Breukelen/Redferns/Getty Images

The 2010s: A Jazz Revival In Black Music

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/767904625/775890287" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For Parkwood Entertainment