If you’ve been grooving to B.o.B.’s breakout hit “Nothin’ On You (Beautiful Girls)” this summer, you can tip your hat to Atlanta’s SMKA, a production, marketing and media company formed by a trio of friends and music lovers – Mike Walbert, Blake German and Kyle King.

SMKA were producers on B.o.B.’s debut album, The Adventures of Bobby Ray, which topped the Billboard 200 chart in April. King – who goes by the stage name 7King – is playing guitar on B.o.B.’s world tour.

Walbert, a Paidea High School grad, said SMKA made a big splash when it released The 808 Experiment, a compilation of up-and-coming hip-hop Atlanta artists in 2008. The record was met with critical acclaim and was named Creative Loafing’s Mix Tape of 2009.

The second volume featured a who’s-who of hip-hop including Yelawolf, Nappy Roots, Gripplyaz, Pill and more. A third volume is in the works now.

Walbert said he grew up listening to jazz and blues, then later hip-hop  and rock, but he said SMKA wants to work and blend more musical genres, including classical music.

Last year, SMKA was commissioned by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra to remix a piece for their “Concerts for Young People” series. The song Blake German (a.k.a. 808 Blake) produced was called “Music is My Life,” written and performed by SMKA’s next big star, Aleon Craft, who just released a new SMKA produced single “Donkey Kong.”

SMKA is also producing the debut album for a new band called The Soviet Rockets, which features a classically trained concert pianist and jazz singer, who create low-fi, ambient music.

Walbert said he and the team are always looking for new artists to work with and have an intern who is specifically “keeping an ear to the ground” for new artists.

Walbert said Atlanta continues to set trends started by artists like OutKast and, more recently, Janelle Monae who aren’t afraid to blend genres.


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Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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