Ten years ago, VH1 introduced reality TV fans to the Atlanta installment of its successful franchise, Love & Hip Hop, and it quickly became the highest-rated city in all of the show's history. From jaw-dropping moments to impactful conversations to new slang and style, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta has become a cultural phenomenon in pop culture and beyond, and a decade after its debut the beloved city is still giving us a reason to look forward to Monday nights.
After a year-long hiatus, the highly-anticipated show is back for an all-new season with an intimate look at the lives of its dynamic cast members – including fan-favorites like Rasheeda Frost, Kirk Frost, Karlie Redd, Yung Joc, Spice, Momma Dee, Sierra Gates, Bambi, Erica Mena, Safaree Samuels and Scrappy. New faces we'll also see this season include artists like Yung Baby Tate, Renni Rucci, Omeretta The Great, as well as original New York cast members Yandy Smith-Harris and Mendeecees Harris, who recently made their way down to the A.
Ahead of the new season's premiere, Shadow and Act caught up with Rasheeda, Kirk, Yandy and show creator Mona Scott-Young to talk about the show's decade long history on the air, its global impact on pop culture, their lives as well as what fans can expect to see in season 10.
"Mondays have not been the same!" Mona exclaims to us when asked about the year away from filming. "We've been lucky enough to have a couple of specials that aired during the pandemic but yes Mona Mondays are back!" Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta has been notorious for holding down the primetime spot on VH1 on Monday nights, but due to the pandemic filming was suspended indefinitely. In the meantime, the franchise debuted a few remote shows with some of the OG cast like VH1 Family Reunion: Love & Hip Hop Edition, Love & Hip Hop: Secrets Unlocked and VH1 Couples Retreat. Though these specials helped hold fans over until regular seasons of the series resumed, everyone is happy to see VH1 Mondays finally return to its regularly scheduled program. "You know, you do feel like something is missing, especially when you've been doing it for nine seasons," Rasheeda shares on being away from the show for a year. "Then all of a sudden [COVID-19] just came and took over everything and it was a shocker. It was definitely a big change, but it's good to be back up and running outside. A lot of [the cast] hadn't seen each other so getting back to the business, back to work and back to doing what we do is a good feeling."
Not only does the new season mark the city's grand return on the air, but the timely occasion is also a celebratory moment for the show installment that helped shift the course of reality TV for Black culture. When Scott-Young helped bring this new narrative to life back in 2011, she had no idea what kind of impact it would soon have on the world. Alongside the iconic personalities of the show, the creator expressed her gratefulness for paving the way for history to be made. "It's always been a collective effort. I always credit the talent because without them being so open and letting us into their lives day in, day out, there would be no show," she shares. "We are lucky and blessed to have had over the course of the 10 years of Atlanta, 11 years of New York and all the other cities, some amazing cast members and some amazing team members. I just feel lucky to have been a part of all of that storytelling, history-making, culture creating, and we did some things that hopefully will go down in the book. I feel honored, I feel proud, but definitely always very, very blessed and grateful for the success and longevity of the franchise."
As far as how she wants the show's legacy to be remembered, she simply said it should be recognized as a game-changer in the TV world. "We changed the way television looks in terms of seeing so many more Black faces and so many more lives that had not been represented – whether it was in the hip-hop community, [the] aspirational music artist space or [the] LGBTQIA+ community. We dealt with topics that people were afraid to deal with, but we [tackled] them head-on, did it unapologetically, furthered the culture and opened hip-hop up to so many more homes and spaces that we wanted part of the conversation. This is a global franchise that has success in parts of the world where they don't even speak English and [so] I want to be remembered for having changed the look of reality television."
Love & Hip Hop itself has changed a lot of the cast's lives for the better, allowing them to pursue their dreams as entrepreneurs, music artists and influencers. For Atlanta in particular, it's helped a lot of women on the show jumpstart their businesses and keep that momentum going. "If you're doing everything correctly, it definitely helps elevate any of the business ventures that you're doing," Rasheeda says. "[And] whatever your career path is, if you're showcasing it, it does help elevate that. Also, just the impact that us displaying our lives has had on the culture. [It's] something that you really don't know is happening at first and then all of a sudden when you're out in the streets, people are like, 'oh my God, I love you [because] you dealt with this and I went through the same situation and you helped me get through this.'"
Yandy – who's been a part of the original show from day one – reflected on her own path on the show saying, "It means so much because I can look back and I can see the growth of my family. When I was [first seen] on the show I was a single, dating woman. This show has watched me get engaged, get married, and grow my family so I can look back and truly see how the [progress] of my life and how much has happened. I'm proud of the transition of my life and I think that that is something that I will forever be grateful for."
Being a part of the show has allowed every cast member the opportunity to open up about their lives – from conversations around family dynamics, relationships, mental health, sexuality, domestic violence, social justice and more – in a way that viewers can actually relate to. In a way, Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta offers cast and fans a therapeutic method to work through their issues knowing that they're not alone. "You realize that [the] situations that you're going through, help people get through their situations and they could have similar things [going on]," Kirk tells us. "It's also a little bit of therapy. You get to let a lot out, reflect back and just move forward as you go."
The series has never shied away from these important discussions and over time we've seen how its effective approach has been duplicated and repeated on other reality TV shows. People like Yandy have been able to use Love & Hip Hop as a platform to amplify her community activism, and now joining the Atlanta cast, she looks forward to bringing that element to the forefront more to showcase how the show can be used to affect change outside of entertainment. "The thing is they're following our real lives and activism is a part of my real life and always has been," she says. "I'm so thankful that the show and this world has deemed it important enough to highlight."
Season 10's theme is once again bringing back the true essence of Love & Hip Hop that places the women front and center tackling issues in their lives, careers, businesses and families, set in the world as it is today. In a time where so much discourse has occurred in America, the franchise felt like it was important to amplify the voices of Black women now more than ever. "I feel as though it comes full circle to be honest because it is the time for women," Rasheeda says. "We have women who are being successful, making a lot more money now and having great opportunities and it's also the reign of women in Hip-Hop. If Love & Hip Hop didn't [capture] females coming up, trying to come up in the game and use this platform to showcase that, then it would be crazy for that not to happen. I know we've [been dealing] with a lot of things culture-wise in the world, but with those things that are our [downsides] we also have to look at the up, which is the evolution of the Black woman."
According to Yandy, this time around Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta is "opening [up] the book of families like never before." She adds, "I think this year it's more about us really fighting for our families, fighting for our relationships, and it's no more of us being able to pull the wool over your eyes and make it look good on Instagram because we get in and dirty with it. Things in conversations we've never had we're letting you guys in." Scott-Young added to those expectations sharing that we'll be "seeing the cast in their natural environment and what their whole lives are really like."
After a year locked away in quarantine, the Atlanta installment wanted to take the show inside the homes of the cast to emphasize the reality everyone around the world has been dealing with. "We deal with the effect of life as we're living it today – in the height of a pandemic, how that's impacted [the cast] financially, how it's changed who they are as people, the civil unrest and the racial divide that we've [all] experienced as a community – we're diving into all of that and it's raw, honest and definitely real," Scott-Young reveals. "Hopefully the fans embrace the evolution of the franchise, the evolution of Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta and show up and support the show that they've done so for the past 10 seasons."
Season 10 of VH1’s Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta premieres Monday, July 5th at 8/7c.