Johns decided to pair two previous guests he liked and knew from the indie literacy scene: 35-year-old Kennesaw State University professor Regina Bradley who teaches a class on Outkast and 32-year-old freelance music journalist Christina Lee, who has written for the Washington Post, Pitchfork, the Guardian and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He felt Bradley’s academic background and Lee’s journalistic chops complemented each other. And he figured having two women of color discuss such a hyper-masculine video might add layers to the conversation.
It worked. The result was instant chemistry, palpable on air. WABE radio chief Christine Dempsey was immediately intrigued.
“They not only had great energy together but they were knowledgeable, passionate and entertaining,” Dempsey said. She was seeking a podcast that was different from the station’s first narrative-driven “Buried Truths,” which focuses on old civil-rights-related cases, a serious blend of crime and history.
So Dempsey brought Lee and Bradley in to design the concept that would become the “Bottom of the Map” podcast, which is named after a song by Young Jeezy, an Atlanta rapper both women love. Over a span of months, WABE also worked with Public Radio Exchange, a nonprofit web-based platform for radio programs, to help refine the show.
In contrast to “Buried Truths,” the podcast is loose, conversational and sometimes salty. Yes, the women curse casually and Bradley brings very particular Southern vernacular.
When describing Organized Noize, a seminal Atlanta hip-hop production company, Bradley said, “They get together and say, ‘We’re going to do some dope s***!’ ”(Podcasts are not under any Federal Communications Commission regulations.)
It’s notable the podcast is hosted by two women in a world dominated by men.
“In many cases on radio,” said Lee, “the women serve as referee, telling opinionated men to calm down. We’re usually on the sidelines. I think it’s an honor to be able to lead this conversation with someone like Regina.”
Also, most hip-hop podcasts emanate from New York or Los Angeles. The Dirty South, the women said, deserves its own quality podcast. And these two feel they are uniquely qualified.
Lee on Bradley: “She always has a new story. She bowls me over with knowledge and back stories to the music. It’s always an adventure.”
Bradley on Lee: “She can speak on things I can’t speak on, the trends in the industry, what’s going on now. She keeps me grounded.”
The podcast is not for neophytes of the genre and not geared for the typical older NPR listener. The target audience, according to Public Broadcasting Atlanta director of marketing Je-Anne Berry, is an 18 to 39 year old well versed in Southern hip hop who attends music festivals, is college educated and likes raw and laid-back conversation.
“This is how public radio can enter a brand new space,” said Lee, who moved to Atlanta a decade ago from Maryland. “It can take a different tone without dumbing things down.”
The first episode focuses on "trap music," a distinctive style made famous by T.I., Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane and emanates from drug culture. But it's now so deeply embedded in popular hip-hop music today, there is now trap music yoga and trap music brunches.
The women go deep into trap's Atlanta roots and its nuances, visiting an actual Atlanta Trap Museum and debating whether going mainstream has been a positive or negative development.
So far, most listeners like what they hear. In just over two weeks, the podcast has received an average four out of five stars from more than 250 listeners on Apple Podcasts.
“Rowsbelle” wrote on June 4: “I feel heard. This is how my friends and I talk about the music we love. The hosts are engaging, fun and know their stuff. They fan girl but manage to infuse thoughtful critique and cultural insight throughout the show.”
Future topics include Freaknik, cannibis, faith and spirituality and strip clubs.
Producer Floyd Hall said he likes that Bradley is from rural Georgia, Lee is a Northerner who has invested in the South and he is an Atlanta native. "Me being from Atlanta, I'm able to make sure some of that kind of gets in there," Hall said, "a little bit of the glue to make sure it feels right."
“Bottom of the Map,” new episodes every Monday, available on NPR, WABE’s website and Apple Podcasts.