When an offbeat daydreamer is sent by the God of Rap to save the world from an epidemic of trap music, he travels to its Atlanta source in search of a hip-hop savior: OutKast, the pioneering Southern rap duo that all but vanished from the music scene a decade ago.
Described by director Mathieu Rochet as an “accidental portrait” of Atlanta and its vibrant hip-hop industry, “Chasin’ ATL” offers an unconventional tribute to trap—the dark, minimalist rap genre that’s conquered airwaves around the world. Produced by Sara Brucker for Temps noir and Resistance Films, and co-produced with Arte France with the support of CNC and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region, the 10-part 6’30” web series is taking part in the IDFA Forum this week.
Starring Belgian comedian Kody Kim as the unsuspecting rap naïf Larry, “Chasin’ ATL” plots the evolution of trap while exploring the underground of Atlanta, a city that moved from the fringes of the hip-hop scene in the ‘90s to its very epicenter. “Atlanta came up pretty late [for hip-hop],” said Rochet. “Now they are the number one city in the world for rap. And maybe the most influential city in the world, period, if you think about music, if you think about entertainment.”
A former DJ and co-founder of the French hip-hop magazine “Gasface,” Rochet took part in the IDFA DocLab in 2010 with “New York Minute,” a short-form doc web series about hip-hop’s birthplace that was distributed by Arte France. With “Chasin’ ATL,” he hopes to not only give a fresh look to the trap scene but to the city of Atlanta, home of the country’s first African-American universities and a city Rochet described as a center of “black excellence.” “It’s pretty much an excuse to go deep into the roots of the culture, to the core of things,” he said.
Rochet began scouting the city in February, when he met the renowned graffiti artist Dr. Dax, a member of Atlanta’s influential Dungeon Family music collective that includes OutKast. Bringing him onboard the series as artistic director, the helmer quickly found himself welcomed into the studios and nightclubs at the heart of the trap world.
Just as that encounter with Dr. Dax offered Rochet an all-access pass into the local music scene, “Chasin’ ATL”’s Larry somehow finds himself interviewing Atlanta’s most influential rappers and producers. “His luck allows him to bump into the right people,” said Rochet, who added that the hapless explorer eventually overcomes his skepticism to embrace the music. “The whole thing is an excuse to discover how amazing trap is.”
After shooting a pilot in February, Rochet recently wrapped a frenetic fortnight in Atlanta, lensing nine episodes in 13 days. The series has already gotten interest from a number of European public broadcasters for their digital platforms, while producer Sara Brucker is at IDFA looking for additional commissioning editors and broadcast partners overseas.
For his part, Rochet said there’s enough footage to produce a “Chasin’ ATL” feature. “We got carried away,” he said. While the series offers a gritty, street-level view of the trap world, the director admitted he got more than he bargained for when his crew was robbed at gun-point on one of the shoot’s final days. “I was feeling good about all this, feeling lucky and all,” he said, “and now it’s like, ‘O.K, let’s wrap it.’”