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.
One inspiration behind Flamagra, the sixth album by the L.A. musician, was the wildfires in his hometown. It became another opportunity for the musician to reckon with ideas of death and rebirth.