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

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Rodney Carmichael
Christian Cody/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 helped document the city's rise as rap's reigning capital for a decade while serving on staff as music editor, culture writer and senior writer for the defunct alt-weekly Creative Loafing.

During his tenure there, he won several Association of Alternative Newsweeklies awards for column writing, longform storytelling, special projects, investigative and feature reporting on gender and economic inequality issues ranging from strip club class-action lawsuits to harm reduction needle exchange programs. "Straight Outta Stankonia" — a cover-to-cover look at Atlanta's gentrifying cultural landscape through the lens of OutKast, which he conceived and co-wrote — was honored as one of the Atlanta Press Club's Top 10 Favorite Stories of the Past 50 Years in 2014.

A Georgia State University alum (journalism/playwriting) and former Poynter Fellow for Young Journalists, Carmichael started his career in Waco, Texas, where he received a Cox Rookie of the Year nomination for his enterprise reporting and feature writing on religion, health and social services at the Waco Tribune-Herald. Even then, race and culture lay at the heart of his coverage.

Back in Atlanta, a three-year stint at the urban lifestyle weekly rolling out deepened his commitment to cultural reporting. After covering red carpets (BET Awards, MTV VMAs), profiling Black business leaders and penning cover stories on artists ranging from Ciara to Andre 3000, his passion for storytelling led him to the alt-weekly world. During his first five years at Creative Loafing (Atlanta), he led local music coverage as music editor of the alternative weekly with the third-highest readership in the nation. During the next half-decade, Carmichael dug deeper by covering his hometown from the underground up. As it underwent cultural upheaval and shifting socioeconomics, he used Atlanta's creative economy — expanding from music, film, TV and tech — as a lens to explore the city's oft-competing identities: New South gateway, human rights hub, Black Hollywood, strip club capital and hip-hop hotbed.

Now, covering hip-hop from a national perspective at NPR, he continues to work at the intersection of race and culture. The stories he tells combine reporting and criticism to focus on black cultural production and all its sociopolitical implications. As creator and co-host of the podcast Louder Than A Riot, he and co-host Sidney Madden trace the collision and interconnected rise of hip-hop and mass incarceration in America.

Story Archive

Top row, left to right: Rita Payés, ILoveMakonnen, Flock of Dimes, Zao, Toumani Diabaté, Pom Pom Squad. Courtesy of the artists hide caption

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Courtesy of the artists

Digital Underground, led by Shock G, shown here in 1990, was one of the early rap groups to follow the example — in sound and energy — set by George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic. Raymond Boyd/Getty Images hide caption

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Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

Rapper DMX Is On Life Support At New York Hospital After Heart Attack

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Mac Phipps, the rapper formerly signed to No Limit Records, has been granted clemency after 21 years in prison. Dale Edwin Murray for NPR hide caption

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Dale Edwin Murray for NPR

McKinley "Mac" Phipps at Lousiana's Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in 2011. Courtesy of the Phipps family hide caption

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Courtesy of the Phipps family

Rapper Mac Phipps, After 20 Years In Prison, Is One Step Closer To Freedom

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Bobby Shmurda at Brooklyn's Barclays Center on Oct. 30, 2014. Taylor Hill/Getty Images hide caption

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Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Bobby Shmurda Is Coming Home. What Happens Next?

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In Podcast Finale, 'Louder Than A Riot' Looks At Prison Reform

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Rapper Noname and activist and organizer Mariame Kaba joined Louder Than A Riot to discuss hip-hop's role in a prison-free future. Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images and Giancarlo Valentine hide caption

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Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP via Getty Images and Giancarlo Valentine

DJ Drama. Dale Edwin Murray for NPR hide caption

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Dale Edwin Murray for NPR

The Mixtape Drama

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Nipsey Hussle is part of a mural painted by Moses Ball featuring other local notable people on the wall of a bank in the rapper's Hyde Park neighborhood. In the wake of Hussle's March 2019 death, many murals of the beloved Los Angeles musician were painted in the Hyde Park neighborhood near his Marathon Clothing store. Tara Pixley for NPR hide caption

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Tara Pixley for NPR

Killer Mike. Dale Edwin Murray for NPR hide caption

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Dale Edwin Murray for NPR

Alt.Latino Introduces You To Louder Than A Riot

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Bobby Shmurda at BET's year-end special 106 & Party on Dec. 12, 2014 in New York City. Just days later, the rapper and his entourage would be arrested in an NYPD raid. Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET hide caption

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Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET

Killer Mike Dale Edwin Murray for NPR hide caption

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Dale Edwin Murray for NPR