The second and final outdoor show at the A3c main stage on Saturday was billed as a Pimp C Memorial Concert. As such, it featured an all-star cast of rappers who had known Pimp C, worked with him, or been influenced by him, from relatively new Texas rappers like Doughbeezy and Killa Kyleon, to legendary artists like Twista, TMo Goodie, Bigg Gipp, Eightball & MJG, Trae The Truth and Bun B himself. Most of the artists performed their classic and well-known material, and that was especially true of Eightball & MJG, who did classic material from their first album Coming Out Hard. I also noticed that the DJ played Playa Fly’s “Getting’ It On” at the beginning of the event.
The Saturday afternoon event on A3C’s main stage was billed as the DuckDown Bar-B-Que, which provoked a fair amount of consternation, as there wasn’t any bar-b-que, only the usual food trucks. But it was sponsored by DuckDown Music, and was basically a concert, at which Jarren Benton, someone from Louisiana named Young Roddy, and Smif-N-Wessun performed. Jarren Benton I had seen before, a couple of years ago at SXSW, but I was far more impressed with him at this performance. He is quite lyrical and satirical, and at times is reminiscent of early Eminem. Young Roddy I was not at all familiar with (and I usually try to keep up with Louisiana artists), but I thought he was a decent performer. Obviously it was Smif-N-Wessun that most people came to hear, and when they started doing Black Moon material, I was especially thrilled, as I hadn’t expected that, and as Black Moon was one of my favorite rap groups and albums of all time. Hearing such gems as “Enter the Stage” and “Shit Is Real” made my day.
Over the last couple of years, much concern has been expressed about what some see as the growing commercialism of A3C as a festival, and there is no doubt that major national brands like Red Bull, Reeboks and Heineken have discovered the event, and that there are a lot more mainstream artists being programmed to appear. But all of the corporate involvement is not entirely negative. This year Heineken sponsored a pyramid at the festival area that was a template for a number of graffiti artists to create works of art during the days of the festival. Everyone involved created beautiful and interesting works, including Atlanta’s own Paper Frank, whose birthday party I had inadvertently stumbled into last fall in East Atlanta Village. Perhaps the interest in A3C on the part of larger brands won’t have a negative impact if the companies approach the culture with a degree of respect, as Heineken seemed to do this year.
The Saturday of A3C was a little different this year, and somewhat more difficult, in that Georgia Tech was having a football game at their stadium, which was just across I-75/85 from the conference hotel, so parking was extremely expensive if you could even find any. I finally found parking at Emory Hospital (and they hadn’t raised the rates for the game, I suppose out of concern for visitors and families), so I was able to make my way to the hotel for the day’s activities. But no sooner was I up in the 25th floor lounge than it started raining, and not just a little bit, but heavy downpours. We could see people leaving the stadium in droves from across the way, and I feared that the outdoor showcases would be cancelled as well, but after an hour or so, the rain ended, and I caught the shuttle out to the A3C Main Stage on Edgewood Avenue.
P. Dibiase was the last artist to appear on the Fresh Out The Box showcase at A3C, and the only one on the lineup that I had ever heard of. That being said, there’s not a whole lot of biographical information out there about him, other than his being from Chicago, and a lot of videos, songs and mxtapes, the most recent of which is called the Steve Jobs Mixtape. Like all the performers I heard, Dibiase is extremely talented, and perhaps more lyrical than some of the previous artists, and has definitely garnered a little more attention from the blogs and websites. P. Dibiase may be positioned to be the next big thing from Chicago.
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Weasel Sims has a famous (or infamous) name in Chicago, a name that belies his young years. His dad, Rufus “Weasel” Sims, also pursued a rap career, but was better known as one of the city’s most notorious drug lords, once allegedly purchasing a mansion with solid gold plumbing fixtures. Now the young Weasel Sims and his rap group the RAN Nation are poised to take Chicago’s rap scene by storm, and they certainly shook up the Fresh Out The Box showcase at the Music Room in Atlanta during A3C, showing more energy than just about any other act I witnessed on that stage. While I’m not always a fan of hardcore street rap, I couldn’t help but admire the stage command and level of enthusiasm they showed. Weasel Sims and the RAN Nation are definitely a group to watch in the future.
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Chicago’s Saint Millie began rapping at age 8 while living in a gritty West Side neighborhood and dealing with his mother having been sent to prison. Since he felt he was “living in hell”, he chose the name Saint Millie, and has proceeded to release two highly-acclaimed mixtapes. He has also performed at South By Southwest in 2013, and his style of rap shows a strong difference from other artists, even artists from Chicago. Millie places more emphasis on inspirational stories of struggle and success, and is definitely one of the Second City’s rising stars.
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Young Chicago artist Chi City chose music as a way to avoid the gangs and drugs around the area where he grew up at 45th and Drexel. Beginning to write at 11, he eventually got an opportunity to tour with Freeway, contributed to songs by other artists, and has now for the last four years started getting the attention he deserves as an artist in his own right. His performance at A3C this year was definitely impressive.
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I have left the event that my homeboy Fort Knox was hosting before it was over, because I had hoped to catch Juvenile’s performance on the A3C Main Stage on Edgewood Avenue, so I was surprised and disgusted to find that the stage had already shut down when I got there. So I made my way down Edgewood Avenue, checking out some of the venues where A3C showcases were going on, but most of them had horrendous lines waiting to get inside. I briefly peeked inside a hip-hop clothing boutique and mixtape shop called Tops Boutique, where a DJ was mixing in the shop, and then continued down the street. I ended up at The Music Room, where a showcase called Fresh Out The Box was taking place, which consisted strictly of Chicago artists. Few of the artists I saw were familiar to me (the exception was P. Dibiase), but I was impressed with Chi City and Saint Millie, and especially with Weasel Sims and the RAN Nation, a hard-core street rap group that would not be at all out of place in Memphis. Altogether, the showcase was a great introduction to the Windy City’s rap scene, and the artists chosen represented the highly diverse style of rap found in Chicago.
Like CBone, the artist that proceeded him on The Real A-Town Experience line-up, Witchdoctor is a member of the Dungeon Family collective, and an artist with a large Atlanta following. He has released six albums since 1997, as well as a book of poetry. A seventh album is in the works.