The year in Black culture: ATL′s biggest moments that mattered in 2023

AJC reporters on which stories shifted the culture
Keith Lee arrives at the Streamy Awards on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP

Keith Lee arrives at the Streamy Awards on Sunday, Aug. 27, 2023, at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

As the world looks back at 2023, AJC staff members are taking stock of what mattered in Black culture. In this story and others, we’re reviewing ATL’s year that was, for what it meant for the Black community and what might be next, because what happens in Atlanta never stays inside 285.

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Happy Holidays!

What was one of the biggest moments for Black culture in 2023?

Keith Lee excoriating Atlanta’s brunch restaurant culture of places that care more about looking good on social media than the food or how they treat customers. Maybe something will shift from the massive conversation Keith’s videos triggered. — Mirtha Donastorg

Despite a few technical glitches, the Atlanta Falcons celebrating Hip-Hop 50 was a big one. Over 60 artists from the city squashed beefs and came together for music, sports and the city. Plus, who is going to forget Ludacris hanging from the ceiling rapping “Move B****.” It was a very Black Atlanta moment. It was the ATL-filled halftime show we never got during the last Super Bowl here in ATL. A close runner-up would be Andre 3000′s “New Blue Sun” album, the build-up, debates, memes and one of the city’s greatest creatives releasing something new. — Gavin Godfrey

Ludacris descends from the top of the stadium while performing during the game.  The Atlanta Falcons celebrate Hip-Hop 50 with performances and appearances during their NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the New Orleans Saints in Atlanta on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023.   (Bob Andres for the Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Credit: Bob Andres

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Credit: Bob Andres

I think when Keith Lee came to Atlanta for his viral food tour was a big moment for the city. Although he’s popular for doing food tours across the country, his stop in Atlanta gained the most traction, and it exposed some holes in Atlanta’s restaurant scene. — DeAsia Paige

The continued celebration of hip-hop as a global cultural movement whose current epicenter is the city of Atlanta. — Ernie Suggs

Lil Jon (left), Ludacris (center), and Jermaine Dupris perform togetheri, during Dupri's "The South Got Something to Say" show at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans. The Essence Festival is celebrating its 29th year, and the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. (TYSON HORNE / TYSON.HORNE@AJC.COM)

Credit: Ryon Horne / Ryon.Horne@ajc.com

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Credit: Ryon Horne / Ryon.Horne@ajc.com

The bizarreness and attention surrounding the high-profile YSL trial has been a huge talker this year. Young Thug, one of Atlanta’s biggest rap stars in recent years, has been accused of spearheading a street gang, and prosecutors are using his rap lyrics as evidence. The case has sparked conversation about racial stereotyping within the criminal justice system and the negative influence hip-hop can have on the culture. — Najja Parker

Andre 3000′s flute album was a big one that I think we’re going to see continue to create change even in 2024. But for me the biggest story was Atlanta’s Black brunch culture in general. This seemed like the year that we all realized how big of a monster this segment of restaurant dining in Atlanta has become. We’ve long been a brunch town, maybe just because we’re a Southern town and our folks do love a societal eating experience. But even the fact that Keith Lee mattered so much tells you that dining while Black is a very specific thing, and brunch is probably the most popular aspect today. Those chicken and waffle dishes have made people millionaires, and I don’t think it’s gonna slow down soon. — Mike Jordan

The Georgia Peach chicken and waffles from ABC Chicken and Waffles Nitro Counter.

Credit: Courtesy of Madelynne Ross

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Credit: Courtesy of Madelynne Ross