ATLANTA, GA — For better or worse, the A3C Festival had been branded as a “real Hip-Hop” event. It’s a loaded term that’s both inclusive and highly restrictive and conservative. It can champion the unknown but passionate rapper who fights to have his voice heard while isolating others whose aesthetic is deemed “unworthy” or “embarrassing” to the culture. A3C had never advocated any type of division in Hip-Hop. And on the second day (October 7) of the festival, the organizers showcased arguably their most diverse cultural lineup of emcees.
Outside, the Jagermeister Stage treated fans to an intriguing blend of international emcees. A few like Toronto’s Eternia were known, but most were young, unknown artists coming from as far away as Norway. By whatever means and sacrifices got them here, it was evident on their faces the joy they got just from being able to perform in front of people. The most intriguing aspect of these sets was the production, which ranged from calypso rhythms to minimalist, boom-bap reminiscent arrangements from Europe. If anyone forgot that Hip-Hop is a truly international culture, this was their reminder.
Inside and upstairs on the Creative Loafing stage, there was a showing of an excellent documentary on the life of 9th Wonder entitled The Wonder Year. Chronicling one year (2009) of 9th’s life, Kenneth Price’s intimate film touches on the many layers that define 9th’s existence — fatherhood, university teacher, husband and the search for music that gave him the joy he initially heard from Digable Planets, Tribe Called Quest and others. Several times during the film, the crowd burst into wowed applause when 9th’s beat-making process was detailed. A Q&A session was held before 9th took the stage to showcase his Jamla label (Heather Victoria, Big Remo, Actual Proof, Rapsody etc.). 9th would stick around behind the boards for the remainder of the night, and in-between sets did a excellent job of keeping the crowd hype with classic tracks like Naughty By Nature’s “Uptown Anthem” and Black Moon’s “Who Got Da Props?”
Outside of the iHipHopDistribution stage, Maybach Music Group’s Pill brought some ATL dope boy music to the forefront. Not everyone in the crowd was familiar with his mixtape material, but tracks like the Rick Ross-featuring “Pacman” got good reactions. Fully aware of the “real Hip-Hop” standard, Pill admitted that he had apprehension about how he would be received.
Jean Grae could care less about what your definition of real Hip-Hop is; she was going to make you feel her music regardless. Not one just to be stared at, Grae used her trademark oddball humor to get the crowd more vocal. Fans of the NY emcee know that for over a year, she’s been working on an album entitled Cake Or Death. She gave a sample of the mature, reflective direction that LP may take with two tracks. The first, with the late Steve Jobs used as an example, focused on people “getting out of their own way” and putting their dreams into action. The second was a bittersweet reflection of a woman realizing a relationship had become devoid of any love outside of the physical.
Unquestionably, Big K.R.I.T. was the man everyone was waiting to see. The Mississippi upstart could be picked out easily behind the scenes from the swelling crowd of bloggers and hardcore fans that followed his route to the stage. The fans were very knowledgable of K.R.I.T.’s work, finishing the lyrics to tracks like “Return to 4eva” and “Just Touched Down.” For those who have bemoaned the state of southern Hip-Hop for the last few years, Big K.R.I.T. stands as a shining example that the music is now in good hands.
Inside, the Perfect Attendance stage arguably showcased the most eclectic lineup. Mixed together were swag rappers (Jarren Benton), spitters (Jon Connor) and a self-proclaimed “Kush God” (Smoke DZA). As a result, the crowds drastically changed nearly every set. Action Bronson had a short set where he showcased his humorous side with a self-deprecating track on his weight. With Ras Kass, who performs tomorrow, making rounds in the room, DZA closed this stage with a surprise second appearance from K.R.I.T. on “Gotta Get Paid.”
Well past midnight, it would be the Creative Loafing stage that closed the night’s performances. Sets from Skyzoo, Cory Gunz and Kid Daytona kept the room filled as many awaited the final set from Freddie Gibbs. With 9th Wonder back on the boards, Gibbs hit the stage with his CTE family in tow. The most impressive aspect of Gibbs’ set was his flow, which has been used to devastating effect on most of his features. The performance showed that it was no studio tricks of punching in — Gibbs’ rhymes sounded just as flawless as the records. To make sure this was emphasized, Gibbs dropped the music on tracks like “Rob Me a Nigga.”
It would be well past 1 AM when some fans began filing out of the Masquerade to get a good night’s rest and prepare for tonight’s final sets. And with a lineup that includes Big Daddy Kane, M.O.P. and Dead Prez, A3C is certain to have a memorable end to their 2011 festival.
$20 tickets for today are still available HERE.