The sixth annual A3C (All Three Coasts) Hip Hop Festival takes over the Masquerade this week (Oct. 7-9). With more than 200 artists from around the country performing, 2010 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for what has become the largest indie hip-hop festival in the nation.
It seems ironic that this stronghold of intelligent beats, rhymes and life flourishes in Atlanta, the capital of swag-happy rap and thug clichés personified by many of our city's biggest musical exports, including Gucci Mane, Soulja Boy, T.I. and Waka Flocka Flame (who happens to be the subject of this week's music feature). With A3C falling only one week after the BET Hip Hop Awards took over the Atlanta Civic Center, and the city by and large, Atlanta's hip-hop extremes feel even more polarized than usual.
While the annual BET gathering is viewed as a commemoration of materialism, celebrity worship and ringtone rap hits — all of which have pretty much defined Atlanta hip-hop for a long while now — A3C positions itself as a beacon of quality music, culture and emerging artists rarely highlighted in the mainstream media.
In the grand scheme of things, A3C covers a much wider swath of talent than Atlanta offers, but the acts performing speak volumes about the differences between the way the world views the so-called hip-hop capital and the true aim of its underground soldiers.
In addition to headlining performances by Jean Grae, Camp Lo, MURS, Rhymefest, and Erick Sermon of EPMD scheduled throughout the weekend, A3C is also hosting panel discussions on topics ranging from social networking's impact on the industry and hip-hop journalism.
Here's a sampling of the slew of showcases you should include on your to-do list.
Perfect Attendance — Promoter Fadia Kader helped set the blueprint for A3C showcases with last year's Perfect Attendance, which was like a festival within the festival. It spans all three days again this year, with up-and-comers from various regions positioned alongside Southerners on the rise. Highlights include Nesby Phips, Jackie Chain, Hollyweerd, Emilio Rojas, Laws, Diz Gibran, Pac Div, Wil May, Gotta Be Karim, Willie the Kid and many more. Thurs.-Sat., 7 p.m.
Red Bull 45s — Red Bull Music Academy pits DJs Applejac, Diamond D, Evil D, Rhettmatic, Scratch, and Rob Swift against one another in a battle of break beats and skills spinning 45s. Fri., 9 p.m.
Okay Player — J-Live, Spree Wilson, Diamond District, STS, and Truck North are just a handful of worthy acts to check out. Sat., 4 p.m.
2DopeBoyz — The hip-hop blog brings Playboy Tre, CunninLynguists, Sha Stimuli, Tanya Morgan and several other indie hip-hop acts to the stage. Sat., 6 p.m.
A3C's indie push is not so much a revolution as it is a renaissance — or a platform for MCs who know that the pen is mightier than the sword. As ATL continues cycling through the thug life clichés, it's encouraging to know that even though A3C isn't keeping the South dirty, it is keeping it real.
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