Thanks to A3C, Hip-hop was alive and well in Atlanta last weekend. For the latest and greatest installment of the ninth annual boom-bap rap extravaganza, half the industry was mixing and mingling down in the magical city, looking to network with insiders and catch any of the many talented MCs in town building their brand.
Spread over five days and multiple areas throughout ATL, the festival was bigger than ever, which provided both ups and downs. With TSS Crew members like Julie J, Gotty, Trackstar and myself all making the rounds on behalf of the Fresh, we wanted to share the moments that stood out most.
1. A3C Is Becoming SXSW For Hip-Hop
After being completely regulated to the Masquerade – Atlanta’s massive and slightly creepy performance complex – for years, A3C expanded last year into numerous hubs throughout the city. This year, the event bypassed the venue altogether and spread into numerous venues within four areas – Little 5 Points, Old 4th Ward, Downtown & East Atlanta Village. Shows and panels were all day, every day and scattered across the city.
In a way, the expansion makes the event seem to feel a lot like SXSW, which is a double-edged sword. While you can’t complain about more artists making the bill or the Pro Audio set-up being expanded into the extremely awesome SAE institute, traffic in Magic City is sheer hell and getting back and forth was exhausting. Plus, bouncing between shows at the Masquerade used to be effortless. This year, they were spread out to the point where they competed with each other and were so far away that missing key showcases was unavoidable.
We understand growth is good. However, A3C used to feel like a backyard picnic. This year, the event was more like a log jam.
2. Hosts Are A Must
My Friday at A3C was based around the fact Do Or Die – a legendary group in my eyes, who I still listen to regularly – was performing at the main 4th Ward stage. Yet, after finally tracking the venue down and seeing official A3C Twitter messages confirming their presence, the Chicago trio never hit the stage and my first chance to see them live was nixed.
Now, I’m sure there are numerous reasons D.o.D.’s AWOL status was not A3C’s fault, but the fact no one told the crowd was disheartening, to say the least. If there had been a host in between sets, managing the crowd and keeping fans updated, the blow would’ve been easier to bare and I could’ve moved to see another show. Instead, I was caught off guard by 36 Mafia, sans Juicy J and missed Jon Conner – who I planned on hitting afterwords.
Realistically, Fort Knox should’ve been the host. For every show at A3C, really. After seeing the ATL OG manning shows for both Bun B and DJ Burn One, the man’s energy couldn’t be registered on the Richter scale and crowds never missed a beat as a result.
3. The #TurnUp Is Real
Everywhere you went for A3C, people were mentioning how they were turned up or planning to get turnt, in general. At shows. In casual conversation. During panels. Standing in parking lots. Especially, downtown on Peachtree, by the MARTA station. This trendy diction became so redundant by the end of the event, it was comical.
We’re not mad, we’d just be down for some synonyms once in a while.
4. Creative Promo Pays Off
Sure, in most instances, freebie CDs and promo cards allow artists to get their message across fairly easily. Yet, at an event extravagant as A3C, standing out meant stepping up your game, which is exactly what Doorway did.
After renting out a spot among the food trucks in the middle of Old 4th Ward and setting up a trailer-turned-stage with a merch booth, this St. Louis crew performed in front of thousands of dedicated hip-hop fans for an hours on end – often garnering as many fans as the actual A3C shows. Were not sure if they made they’re money back, but we’re damn sure everyone at A3C could knows exactly who we’re referring to right now – which is half the battle.
5. Bun B Owns The South
Sure, Bun B sitting atop the Southern hip-hop’s food chain isn’t exactly news. But, it’s not until you see the UGK legend rocking a tight knit crowd of less than 200 people, performing half your favorite songs, that you begin to realize the man holds the spot down because he’s tenured into the spot. And rightfully so.
The Port Arthur OG effortlessly rocked notable verses from about 30 different tracks, engaging the crowd the entire time and never letting up until the show was over. Plus, bringing out Big K.R.I.T. only helped his cause. Best show I saw at A3C.
6. Artists Going Into The Crowd Is A Double Edged Sword
Two of the opening acts for Bun B’s headlining gig at The Earl were Spree Wilson and Go Dreamer. Seeing as they’re both next generation Stankonia artists and equally eclectic, the pair naturally combined their efforts for the final song of Spree’s set, “Right One.” After numerous efforts to get the crowd involved with their uptempo live-friendly jam to no avail, the pair went directly into the crowd at the intimate venue and had the entire venue rowdy within 30 seconds.
On the flip side, Jarren Benton was rocking to a crowd twice the size on Saturday on the big outdoor stage at 4th Ward and did the same thing for the last song of his set, going into the fray for his fan favorite “Shut Up Bitch.” However, seeing as the crowd was relatively big and there aren’t video screens, people in back like myself didn’t see him perform one word of the song.
If rappers are going into the crowd, they need to consider whether or not the movement is applicable to their surroundings. Both shows above were dope. But, at the outset, one left me with a much better taste in my mouth than the other.
7. You’re Never Too Big To Put On Your Game Face
Certain artists put on great shows, no matter the setting. That’s why people like Tech N9ne make the Forbes list. Then, there are other artists who take their crowds for granted, half-assing like performing for stacks is something to scoff at. Unfortunately, ScHoolboy Q was that guy last Saturday, when he headlined the outdoor 4th Ward Stage.
Sure, during his songs, he rocked his songs right and the crowd enjoyed themselves. Myself included. However, in between those performances, he was acting like a 10 year old en route to Church, just looking for things to be upset about. When the TDE ruffian wasn’t calling out specific crowd members for looking ugly, he was sitting down on the stage or literally sulking in his oversized hoodie. Performing looked like the absolute last thing he wanted to do. At one point, Q seemed to realize how he was projecting himself, then blamed the lull on having ‘smoked too much.’
We know dude is dope and his career is next level these days, but with so many artists in the fray, going that extra mile is what makes acts stand out. And, quite frankly, if there’s anyone that needs to work on standing out from their peers, it’s ScHoolboy. His performance at A3C was far from that.
8. Rappers Shouldn’t Take Anyone For Granted
One of the funniest moments of A3C had to be after the panel that Gotty spoke on for creating a buzz. As Julie J was standing near him, trying to get his attention as if she was one of the rappers, Gotty told the crowd of them, “Give your music to her! You have a much better chance of getting heard!” While this is true, most of them just peered at her, and only a couple handed over their CDs. The majority, however, ignored her and turned back to Gotty with hearts in their eyes like that one emoji.
Rappers, do your research! And more importantly, listen to Gotty when he’s giving you advice!