Nas, Fool’s Gold & Just Blaze Put On Definitively For Hip-Hop at A3C [Recap]
Once billed as “hip-hop’s biggest stage,” this year’s A3C Festival and Conference became the definitive place for all things fueled by the culture.
Nas headlined the thirteenth year of Atlanta based A3C Festival and Conference. The event once billed as “Hip-Hop’s Biggest Stage,” now includes everything from well-known headliners to new artist showcases to panels on everything from the music business, holistic health and fighting racism. The conference portion was held on Oct. 4-6, while the festival took place on Oct. 6-8. The event has grown so much that attendees of either the conference, festival, or both face logistical impossibilities of choosing from multiple interesting events happening simultaneously often too far apart for walking.
Our trip around A3C found us enthralled with the many different opportunities that were on the bill. For instance, the focus on women has become a big part of A3C programming.
Thursday’s surprise standout came in the form of The Carefree Black Girl Stage on the rooftop of the Delightful Eatz restaurant. The host, Quanna, a rising rapper, wanted to take the popular hashtag #carefreeblackgirl from the internet to live events. The party started off as a chill vibe with bubbles, raffles and hair care product giveaways, to a full-on artist showcase. Vocalists CHLO and Kiya Lacey, showed promise. Rappers Amazin and Brax gave crowd bouncing, confident performances.
Friday’s Women in Charge event featured a panel of professionals including Angela Yee from the Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club and Bossip’s managing editor, Janée Bolden. They discussed the challenges of their respective career paths and the ways in which women must remain supportive of one another.
Later that night, OutKast’s Stankonia Studios, got a piece of the action with the Playlist Party, featuring a very solid artist showcase. Tuki Carter, formerly of the band Hollyweerd and later Wiz Khalifa’s Taylor Gang affiliate, performed alongside, newer, younger artists like Svnday, Johnny Apollo and E Chapo. Apollo’s style brought a fresh take on the rock-rap hybrid.
For newcomers, even those who have amassed a solid social media following, standing out is not an easy feat. There are hundreds of artists performing in scheduled showcases or at spontaneous cyphers throughout. The absence of professional artist development has given way to DIY crews replete with their own producers, managers and marketing to support burgeoning talent. For many, if not most, the rewards of success, fame and money will remain elusive. If nothing else, they always have the experience of rocking one of the largest hip-hop festivals in the world.
Saturday began the first day of performances at the Georgia Freight Depot with indoor and outdoor stages.
The indoor Spinrilla House, gave festival goers a VIP feel with a stage one side and an on bar and lounge with limited seating on the other side. On the stage end, the showcase of artists and producers concluded with Sonny Digital. Across in the lounge area, Pastor Troy, wearing his trademark championship belt, awarded independent artists with $1,000 to advance their crafts.
Back at the outdoor stage, The Fool’s Gold Day Off set gave fans a wide variety of artists, including the crowd pleasing Project Pat. Rich Homie Quan showed his hometown love, closing his set with “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)”. The crowd welcomed DJ Drama and Don Cannon and as they introduced Playboi Carti, Young Dro and 24hrs. The rain began to pour and the show came to an abrupt end as the crowd scattered.
The festival wasn’t a total wash, though Sunday’s rain and heavy winds kept most fans away from the outdoor daytime sets. The venue allowed umbrellas and event sponsors passed out ponchos.
The rain stopped after 6:00 p.m. as dead prez wrapped their indoor set. Fans later rocked out to Just Blaze who opened with Jay-Z’s “PSA”. He was also joined by DJ Toomp and Jermaine Dupri in a super-producer collective.
A drizzle of rain started right before Nas hit the stage, but no one budged an inch. The headlining act opened his set with “Get Down” and “N.Y. State of Mind”. Nas never lost the crowd’s attention as the ageless MC performed his staple hits: “If I Ruled the World,” “Hate Me Now,” and “Got Ur Self a Gun”. The crowd participation peaked with the Bravehearts chant on “Made U Look”. Nas paid homage to Main Source and Large Professor who celebrated 25 years of music. In closing, he asked the crowd to remember Mobb Deep’s Prodigy who died this year of complications from sickle cell anemia, and the victims of “police cowardice.”
Absent from Nas’ set was the title track from his eighth album, “Hip-Hop is Dead”. Sure, the art form has changed; there are more corporate sponsorships and a marked shift in lyrical styling, but hip-hop is far from dead. It is in yet another iteration whose legacy remains to be seen.
If A3C could weather storms, literally, and move crowds for legends, then hip-hop still has a lot to look forward to.
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Shannon Barbour is an Atlanta-based writer whose work can be found at Creative Loafing Atlanta and The Boombox.