It’s not unusual to see a female musician on stage, of course. But behind a soundboard, or sitting at the head of the table at a major label? Not so much. But Atlanta is slowly bucking the trend, with women playing powerful roles.
That history dates back to the early ’90s, when Dee Dee Hibbler served as general manager for Dungeon Family production trio Organized Noize. She did everything from registering music with publishers to braiding André 3000’s hair for OutKast’s first album cover photo shoot. (Today, she works in Atlanta’s film industry as part of the DeKalb Entertainment Commission.) That decade also saw Shanti Das climb the ranks at Capitol, Sony, LaFace, Arista, Columbia, and Universal Motown Records, marketing foundational artists like Goodie Mob and Jermaine Dupri. “This is the first music executive to ever believe in me,” Ludacris once said of Das.
“In Atlanta, there are so many great women who are helping these guys, and they don’t get enough credit,” says Malia Murray. She should know: She is Hibbler’s daughter, with Organized Noize member Ray Murray.
Through her digital agency maliaSHUTup, Murray has run social media for artists like Raury, D.R.A.M., and 6lack. But she isn’t always the only woman in the room. She often meets with Amber Grimes, a senior manager of urban music for Spotify, who oversees the streaming platform’s promotional campaigns for select artists. (For example: when 2 Chainz held a pop-up nail salon in Buckhead for his 2017 album Pretty Girls Like Trap Music.)
Any artist who records in Atlanta might bump into Hannah Kang, who has run T.I.’s Grand Hustle Records for more than a decade. Or Dina Marto, whose Twelve Studios doubles as a hub for labels like Epic, Empire, and Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group. There’s Mali Hunter, who—as partner, chief operations officer, and resident chef at Tree Sounds Studios in Norcross—has hosted and even cooked for rapper Future and his mix engineer during the making of several no. 1 albums. Atlanta also has Kesha Lee of Means Street Studios, a go-to audio engineer for DJ Drama, Don Cannon, and multiplatinum-selling artists Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti.
To be sure, the music business has a long way to go before achieving gender parity. (“Hey guys, when you walk into a room full of men and one woman, acknowledge her presence too!” Grimes tweeted in February.) But women in Atlanta are setting the stage for a future that will be decidedly more female.