Do you love Hip-Hop, or just a particular style of the genre? Since human beings love to simplify, separate, and categorize things, Hip-Hop music has seen itself fragmented to catch phrases meant to signify the output of entire regions and/or movements. Dirty South. Gangsta rap. Hipster rap. Conscious rap. These are loaded terms in themselves, and rarely do justice the musical output of the artists they’re attached to. Every year, Atlanta’s A3C (All 3 Coasts) Festival seeks to break down those barriers we e#### on the culture. As the largest Hip-Hop festival in the Southeast (over 200 artists), the organizers bring together the best from around the country to celebrate Hip-Hop over 3 days and several venues within walking distance. And this year, A3C did not disappoint.
Day 1 (Oct. 1) featured a loaded lineup of well-known acts such as Skyzoo, 9th Wonder, and Big Pooh. Fans also got the chance to check out fledgling
artists like New Jersey’s Kosha Dillz, who impressed many with his ability to rhyme fluently in Hebrew.
The night was highlighted by former Artifacts member El da Sensei and Black Sheep. El kicked off matters, and got the crowd hyped courtesy of the memorable singles from the Artifacts’ catalogue like “C’mon Wit Da G## Down,” “The Ultimate,” and of course “Wrong Side of Da Tracks.” Likely due to financial constraints no doubt exacerbated by the Recession, the selected venues were small bars and lounges with low lighting and smoky atmospheres. This helped manifest an intimate setting that conjured up memories of the Hip-hop’s early jams on the rooftops and parks.
Black Sheep’s set was much appreciated by the 25 and up crowd, who sung along verbatim to the Native Tongue group’s classic singles “Flavor of the Month,” Similak Child,” and “The Choice Is Yours.” Dres was in high spirits, and made sure everyone in the building reenacted the latter single’s “engine, engine, number nine” chant before wilding out and closing the night’s performances.
There was no fall off in day 2 (Oct. 2), which saw a vast array of acts during the evening from Finale, Tanya Morgan, Chip the Ripper, and Stahhr. However, the centerpiece of the night was the invasion of Duck Down Records. The label brought all of their acts that released albums this year, and got the crowd’s energy raised with the melodic thump of 9th Wonder and
Skyzoo’s work on The Salvation. Things took a harder edge with Marco Polo and Torae, whom got the crowd into a frenzy with the selections from their critically acclaimed LP Double Barrel.
Later, the Duck Down family closed with sets from Seattle’s Blue Scholars, Chi-town’s Kidz in the Hall, and BK’s Buckshot. With so much talent hitting the stage, there is always the danger of crowd burnout, and wisely the sets were mostly confined to no more than a half hour. This allowed each artist to get warmed up and work their biggest hits without draining the crowd’s entire energy for those that followed.
In addition, the Beatminerz held court between sets with classic 90’s Hip-Hop along with comedic anecdotes from founding Black Moon member Evil Dee, who had words for former Gang Starr member Guru.
“And you can tell him I said it. Guru, you sounding real wack right now without Premier,” Dee stated. “I think it’s about time you come on back!”
With a festival this big and spread over different venues, there will always be an issue of time conflicts. During sets, it was a common occurrence to see fans bolt after hearing their favorite song to try and catch another act set to perform a few minutes later. Since Hip-Hop shows tend not to start on time, those time synchronization attempts rarely worked, and many would break their necks rushing to another venue only to find the schedule was two artists behind.
Curren$y has been burning up the mixtape scene for the past 2 years, and the New Orleans native was highly anticipated. His conversational flow and distinct, melodic rhythms were perfect for the party atmosphere, and the majority of the fans in attendance were familiar with his work from This Ain’t No Mixtape, How Fly, and Fast Times at Ridgemont Fly. His brisk set was highlighted by the thumping bass of tracks like “In the Middle” and “Blown Away,” to the smooth synth arrangements of “Modern Day Hippie” and “Elevator Musik”. Curren$y was genuinely touched with his reception, and made it a point to state this was his first official Atlanta appearance (dismissing a previous Spring Break stop with BET).
Day 3 (Oct. 3) culminated with a headlining performance from the legend known as Rakim Allah. The Ice House venue was selected, and issues with attendance became problematic as thelcoation swelled past capacity. But this historic Hip-Hop night would not be denied, and threats of shutting down the venue were quelled as Mike Bigga (aka Killer Mike) took the stage to open. Mike was in rare form, and took fans through the every facet of his career. Longtime followers were hit with his work under Outkast (“Whole World,” “A.D.I.D.A.S.”) to his recent Grind series and Underground Atlanta projects(“God in the Building, “I’mma Fool Wit It.”).
Backstage, Mike expressed his hope that festivals like these would help in expanding the minds of Hip-Hop fans. As an example, Bigga referenced to me his own ease in equally enjoying Gucci Mane as much as Immortal Technique.
As expected, Rakim’s set was centered on his groundbreaking album run with former partner Eric B. The smart fans in attendance made it easy for Ra, reciting all his lyrics word for word and handling adlib duties where needed. When you see a legend perform, you start to see their influence illuminate right before your eyes. Throughout the performance, various fans young and old would shout out requests for their favorite Rakim songs over the past 2 decades. The ladies got their attention courtesy of the songs “What’s On Your Mind’ and “Mahogany.” The 5% followers in attendance got their shouts on “In the Ghetto.” Whatever song you were waiting on (“Move the Crowd,” “Don’t Sweat the Technique,” “Microphone Fiend”), Ra blessed you with it.
Truth Hurts made a surprise appearance for her hit single “Addictive.” The singer’s voice was initially badly out of the key with the rhythms, but the former Dr. Dre signee hit a groove just before Rakim Allah knocked out his verse. The night closed strong with four of Rakim’s biggest singles: “Paid In Full,” “I Know You Got Soul,” “Eric B. for President,” and Juice (Know the Ledge).” Rakim was flawless on each song, serving up a concert that no doubt wetted everyone’s appetite for his December comeback LP The Seventh Seal.
For the fifth straight year, the A3C Festival delivered the most comprehensive Hip-Hop experience in the region. And as long as continues to operate, Atlanta as a city will continue to be a powerful, eclectic force in Hip-Hop culture.