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Gospel artists flock to Atlanta to advance career

By Jonathan Landrum Jr.

Associated Press

Published: Friday, June 1 2012 6:50 a.m. MDT

Lecrae has made it his destination. Since he has lived in city, the rapper has become one of the most popular in Christian hip-hop. He also co-founded his own record label with Ben Washer, Reach Records, which is based in Atlanta. Other labels launched by artists based in Atlanta or in the state of Georgia include Christian rock group Third Day's Essential Records; singer/rapper Canton Jones' Cajo International; Dottie Peoples' DP Muzik Group; and televangelist Creflo Dollar's Arrow Records. Warner Music Group's Taseis Distribution is located in Atlanta as well.

"It's easy to come here because of all the industry people are already here," said Henry Panion III, whose record label, Audiostate 55 Entertainment is based out of Birmingham, Ala., and is distributed through Taseis. "Atlanta has become an entertainment draw, and gospel is following suit."

Atlanta is also host to BET's "Sunday Best," a gospel talent competition that awards the winner with a recording contract. It's hosted by Franklin along with judges Mary Mary and Donnie McClurkin.

Tyler Perry's sprawling TV and film studio has also become a player in Christian music. Perry's inspirational-based stage plays and movies have provided an avenue for gospel singers to gain exposure. Tamela Mann, known as Cora in Perry's plays, movies and TV show "Meet the Browns," is also a gospel singer and won a Dove Award last year.

"If you look at the underlying story of his movies, there's always something that talks about the goodness of the Lord," said Crabb, who won artist of the year at the Doves in April. "When you have a state like Georgia that's spiritually deep-rooted, more are going to want to be a part of what he's doing."

Georgia has the most mega churches in the country behind California, Texas and Florida, according to the Hartford Institute for Religion Research's recent database. The number of mega churches in Georgia gives artists a chance to perform in front of congregations ranging from 2,000 to 20,000. Several high-profile pastors such as Andy Stanley, Creflo Dollar and Paul Morton normally offer live music without a traditional setting of a choir before a preacher's sermon.

Lecrae feels he's in Atlanta at the perfect time.

"It's been really good here," he said. "Just seeing people within the music industry from mainstream and even what others call secular music come together to use their talents for the Lord, it's great."

Online:

Gospel Music Association: http://www.gospelmusic.org

Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office: http://www.georgia.org/media

Dove Awards: http://www.doveawards.com

Gospel Music Channel: http://www.watchgmctv.com/music

Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mrlandrum31

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