When the A3C Festival made its inaugural appearance in 2005, the list of performers and participants on the bill would have led you to think that it was meant to offer an alternative to everything that was popular at the time. The next two year's bill didn't do much to dispute that assumption as most of the independent artists featured either rhymed about how dope their rhymes were or how wack their mainstream peers were.
But in 2008 the festival took a turn in its approach and invited artists who tasted major label success (or struggle depending on how you ask) to perform as well as artists who were independent and underground but were gaining mainstream attention. Since then, the festival that boasts itself as "the largest Hip Hop festival in the Southeast," has morphed into a musical celebration where the people who listen to commercial radio and watch BET can co-exist with the bloggers who post music from artists you never heard of and the commenters who decide their Internet fate.
This was proven as soon as you walked into the Masquerade's gate and saw local favorite 4-Ize performing his "lyrical beastiality" outside, and then saw Chicago street guys L.E.P. Bogus Boys rap about gats and ski-masks inside.
The West coast rappers who occupied the popular Perfect Attendance stage affectionately rapped about the same kush, money and bitches that many people hate Gucci Mane for.
Fem-cee Boog Brown rapped about "grinding" and being one of the baddest bitches you'll ever come across while many of the female patrons (easily the sexiest crop of female fans the A3C has EVER drawn out) walked from stage to stage dressed like the young ladies you might have taken a gander at during last weekend's BET Hip Hop Awards weekend.
An age gap was also bridged as hip-hop heads drifted down memory lane with Buckshot going through his early-90's Black Moon catalog as youngsters downstairs sped through the future with PacDiv and Aleon Craft to name a few. Further more, everybody seemed to be comfortable in their own skin, dressing their age and not attempting to be a hip-hop expert who new of EVERY artist that performed. Really, the only times you got a sense of uncomfortableness was when militia-minded MC Bambu denounced (a white) Jesus Christ to a crowd of (non-minority) fans, or when a popular rapper who shall remain nameless joked, "there's alot of hip-hop ass niggas here."
Many questions were answered on this night as well. Especially the one of "ATL, are you fucking with us tonight?!?" Which was asked by just about every artist who noticed the crowd's body language saying the complete opposite. A longtime argument may have been put to rest too. The Luniz' "I Got Five On It" just might be the most popular and recognized song in West Coast Hip Hop history, more than Dr. Dre's "Nuthin But A G Thang." Damn near every Cali MC on the bill last night incorporated the anthem into their set. Some smoked to it, others danced to it, one rapped over it.
With the first night in the books, the choice to have this year's A3C at the Masquerade has proven to be a good move. Unlike last year's inconvenience of having to drive to two different venues, patrons can simply bounce from room to room with relative ease. Friday and Saturday's crowd will probably be larger since people don't have to work the next morning, but the attitude should remain the same.
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