A3C is a hip-hop fan's fantasy. The annual festival is getting bigger every year. Check out this story of one fan's 2013 A3C experience.
Needing a break from the Detroit daily grind, I called my friend Kashka in North Carolina to see if she was up for a visit during her fall break. My friend, and underground Atlanta hip-hop artist and chef, Dillon announced that he had gigs at A3C with artists I wanted to see. Kashka was down to meet me at the festival. I left Detroit super late Wednesday night with my girl Nicole for the ATL. The 11-hour drive wasn’t too bad, the scenery is quite pretty and like with every trip to the South, a Waffle House stop was made.
Kashka made it into town and we checked in at The Highland Inn. A pretty garden waterfall greets guests outside and the building has quaint character like any hotel from 1927 should. We upgraded to the king-sized suite, a last-minute change that the front desk hooked up at a killer rate and we weren’t disappointed.
Next step was to pick up an A3C wristband from one of the redemption locations. It was a bit confusing; we went to the boutique in East Atlanta Village where the online map sent us, only to be sent down to the entrance of another venue. I also found it odd they did not have any physical festival programs at the “will call” location. After some slices at Grand Central Pizza it was time for the Left Field Experiment at 529. At the end of the night Paten Locke and Edan brought one of the most creative hip-hop shows I’ve ever seen, hands down. I had a big stupid grin on my face the entire time. Bucket list show, check.
Kashka wanted to dip to see Ghostface in the Old 4th Ward, but getting around didn’t seem so easy. There was an A3C shuttle, but we didn’t want to split up and we didn’t know exactly how often the shuttle was running, or from where. The festival revamped to take place in different neighborhoods this year and the way it was so spread out was the biggest complaint I heard all weekend. If everything was nearby, that quick detour to see Ghostface might have happened.
Friday, we had lunch at Soul Vegetarian No.2 next door to the hotel. We landed in Little 5 Points to window shop and to meet up with Uncle Herm and his son Junior. Uncle Herm J. Dilla’s uncle who is in the process of opening Dilla’s Delights, an organic doughnut shop in downtown Detroit.
We headed over to the Karmaloop Stage at Star Bar to see Dumbtron (Paten Locke and Willie Evans, Jr.) share the stage with J-Live, Black Spade, P.SO the Earth Tone King and more. It was a great showcase from High Water Music but we had to split to make it to Space 2.
I met Boog Brown before she went onstage, greetings with a big hug. She repped hard for the hometown Detroit but she’s Atlanta’s sweetheart now. She owned that mic and stage like second nature. As soon as she finished her last verse a guy behind me said to no one in particular, “Murder she wrote.” He spoke the truth. Dope girl magic, for sure.
On Saturday Kashka, Nicole and I made the pilgrimage to the MLK Historic site, a place everyone should visit while they are in Atlanta. Unfortunately, the museum and Second Ebenezer Church were closed because of the partial government shutdown. It’s really a sad day in the United States when the historical and educational gems of this country are suffering due to government inefficiency. Fortunately, the privately-owned display rooms above the gift shop were open. Timelines and artifacts and a wealth of information made up for the government's tomfoolery and we were also able to pay respects at the reflection pool where Dr. King and his wife are at rest. We grabbed a bite at the nearby Corner Tavern and headed downtown to the SAE Institute for the Pro Audio Experience.
We hurried upstairs to listen to “3 Questions with DJ Premier”, but the studio room was already full. Now why on Earth would they put this great man in such a small room was completely past me, perhaps to keep it intimate but it just seemed more claustrophobic. There were other workshops with Ableton demos, promotion lectures, and even beat critiques with professional feedback for your tracks. Nicole spotted Detroit artists Ro Spit and Marvwon walking around, and that was the only time we saw any artists from The D at the festival.
We met up with Uncle Herm and Junior then headed downstairs for the producer’s battle. In front of a large room sat about eleven of the world’s greatest producers onstage including Ill Mind, S1, DJ Needles, Focus, and three members of The Olympics. A line-in mic was passed down as each producer participated in a discography battle and beat battles. The room was packed with standing room only on either side and shout-outs were given to the likes of DJ Kool Herc and Diamond D in the room. We left for dinner at Argosy and went the next show.
That night at The Earl was our anticipated show of the weekend with Madlib and Aesop Rock. The Full Plate Fam (Dillon, Paten, and Willie) opened and hosted the night. They shared Full Plate cider and Dillon grilled up pesto Panini sandwiches between acts. They had a good time, performed well together and kept you full for the whole show.
Madlib was definitely who everyone came to see. The place was packed by 10pm. He played a classic set, but with CDs...I was really hoping for vinyl. Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic hit the stage with DJ Big Wiz but the crowd had thinned out considerably. Which I couldn’t understand because it was Aesop, but maybe the kids weren’t hip to the crew’s new project, Hail Mary Mallon. The vets made it look easy, and then the night was a wrap.
Sunday, the ladies and I had our last meal at Six Feet Under, a delicious seafood joint with an upstairs deck overlooking the historic Oakland Cemetery. We got to the OkayPlayer “Best Block Party Ever” and finally everyone was in one place. D.R.E.S. tha BEATnik hosted the party while Diamond D played 45s. DJ Scratch from EPMD cut up Eve’s “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”... “This is called, ‘Mary Had A Little Lamb,’” he said right before he cut the beat on the fader to play the childhood song. The crowd went crazy.
Backstage was a little crazy too. Behind the stage was a fenced off area for VIPs, artists and press. It was a bit chaotic and I didn’t realize Young Guru was right behind me. Or that Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek were just a few feet away. Or that 9th Wonder was meeting with fans. Interviews were springing up all over the place, and I didn’t want to get in anyone’s way. I dipped to find my friends and they were on the way to see “Kung Fu Bum” showing at the Music Room down the street, and we made it just in time. It was hilarious and Tarantino-esque. We stepped out to the street to find it was pouring rain. Our car was blocks away and we made a dash for it. Had to get Nicole to the airport and Kashka would be leaving for home. We make it to the car and...it wouldn’t start. Called AAA and wondered out loud how such a perfect weekend had to end with a reality slap from Ma Nature. Never fear, Uncle Herm, his son and his nephew Mario came to the rescue and got Nicole to the airport on time. Kashka and I waited for the service truck and jumped into Unc’s rental when they returned. Total gentlemen all around. AAA showed up and made it work. Kashka took off for home and I went with the boys back to The Sound Table, where Premier was supposed to be playing.
We walked in to a semi-packed house to see the backbone of Gang Starr on the decks and Greg Nice rapping in the middle of the crowd. Sang along loud as hell when they played “Dwyck”. Was this really happening? The whole weekend felt like a house party with family. It was obvious at all the shows how much fun everyone was having, just a comfortable environment. We headed next door when it ended for a nightcap, and DJ Ramone Rawsoul was playing house music on the decks. A little 4/4 with a shot of whiskey to end an unforgettable weekend.
Can’t wait for next year.