Joseph Veazey has always loved maps, particularly the illustrated kind. He finds inspiration anywhere from amusement park brochures and National Geographic magazines to the brilliant Nightlife Map of Harlem by Simms Campbell (1932) or Springstreets by Dan Cassaro (2010). For his own map, Joseph wanted to create something “that would really mean something to people [...] that would honour and document something that often goes overlooked”. The map documents the rich hip hop history of Atlanta, from the old studios where rap history was made, to the countless locations across the city which have been memorialised through lyrics. The rap gods of Atlanta appear in the form of portraits surrounding the map, looking down benevolently on the city in which they made history.
In Joseph’s 11 years of designing and illustrating he has worked for a range of major clients: Apple, Adult Swim, Coach, Nickelodeon and Tribeca Film Festival, to name just a few. We talked to him back in 2015 when he was still in the early stages of this impressive career. Since then, Joseph has had a few chances to work on the kind of highly detailed poster projects he really enjoys. But when working for clients on these projects, deadlines were tight and the pay never reflected the amount of time he put in. Working without a client on the Atlanta Rap Map project allowed Joseph to go at his own pace, dedicating three years of careful work and research towards this mammoth project. The proceeds are being donated to Hope Atlanta, a charity fighting homelessness in the metro Atlanta area. Joseph explains: “the goal was to honour and document the culture, and use the proceeds to directly benefit and give back to that culture.”
The research for the map took a year, Joseph tells It’s Nice That. “As I listened to each song I would write down location references, and if any location was mentioned in a hit song, even a minor one, it was added to the map.” But this was just the beginning. For music made in the early era of hip hop and before Joseph became an “avid fan” he had to start getting archival. He dredged through old interviews from podcasts, online articles, old blogs, and “picked the brain of several legendary DJs, rappers, and writers who were around since the beginning.” Sourcing visual references for some of the older buildings also provided a challenge. But by sifting through the archives of the Atlanta Housing Authority, Joseph managed to find images of almost every building he wanted to include on the map.
When it came to interpreting the research into visuals, Joseph was worried that it would turn into an “eyesore”. So before he could begin painting, he needed to determine “what does and doesn’t work visually on a map”. For reference, he compiled a massive collection of illustrated maps from eBay and Google Image Search. Next he began a painstaking process of plotting locations over screenshots of Google Maps in Adobe Illustrator and configuring everything into the history-rich yet legible piece.
As well as paying homage to a detailed history which “often goes overlooked”, the map documents cultural spaces which are disappearing as buildings get sold and redeveloped. “Like every city across America, the inner city of Atlanta is rapidly gentrifying. Many residents are waking up to see their property tax has multiplied and they can no longer afford to live in the house they grew up in.” The map’s proceeds will go towards economic support for people who live in the very areas which the map documents. Joseph wants to continue this support long term and plans to update the map each year as new history is made in Atlanta. As the project develops he hopes it will become an “iconic piece of art for the city”.
Veazey Studio: Atlanta Rap Map (Copyright © Veazey Studio, 2021)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.