When I got to Atlanta, I went immediately to the Crowne Plaza Hotel, which last year had been the Melia Hotel, and registered for the A3C conference. Although it was only the first day of the event, the hotel was already crowded with rap artists, industry people and fans. After getting checked in at my hotel, and eating dinner, I headed down to the Edgewood Avenue area to attend showcases, ending up first at the upstairs stage of a building called Erosol or the Department Store, where an artist named Nate was on stage. He was soon followed by a Maybach Music Group artist named Torch, but the venue was extremely crowded, so I walked down Edgewood to the Music Room, where the Atlanta rapper Money Makin Nique was on stage. I had heard him first several years ago, but I was extremely impressed with the new material he performed this year, and spent some time talking with his manager on the sidewalk outside. But my homeboy Fort Knox was emceeing an event at Enclave, a club on Spring Street not far from the conference hotel, so I got the car and drove back over to the hotel, but ended up going into the Quad instead of the Enclave, and saw the rapper Cash Out on stage with his entourage. I realized that Fort Knox wasn’t hosting that event, and decided to go around the corner and into Enclave, but by then, the latter venue was closing and wouldn’t let me in. I got a brief chance to speak with Knox before he headed out, and I rode back to my hotel as well.
I had not heard of Jae Tips prior to his performance at the Beer and Tacos stage at A3C, but I did notice his performance. He definitely stood out on a day where I had heard quite a few artists performing. Doing some research afterwards, I found out that he is from the Bronx, as of yet unsigned, and has a mixtape out called South of Houston, which has nothing to do with the city in Texas. It’s rather a reference to Houston Street in New York City, from which the SoHo neighborhood derives its name. Download and enjoy!
Even the best things end eventually, and Monday morning was my last morning in Atlanta before going back to Memphis. A3C was over for the year, but I called my homeboy Fort Knox and invited him to breakfast at a place called ADios Cafe, which I had seen during Flux Night. The cafe is affiliated with the No Mas Hacienda and Cantina, which is a Mexican housewares store and restaurant in the Castleberry Hill neighborhood, so the cafe, which sells coffees, desserts and breakfasts has a pronounced Mexican theme. Nevertheless, they do sell traditional American style breakfast items as well, but the interesting things are the dishes with a slight Mexican twist, such as blue corn pancakes. The coffee is imported from Mexico, very delicious, and available to take home ground or in whole bean pound bags. It was too early to try desserts, but they looked absolutely incredible, and the ADios Cafe also features fine chocolates under the brand Chocolate of the Gods. The cafe is open every day from 8 AM-10 PM.
180 Walker St. SW
Atlanta, GA 30313
Starting at 3 PM, there were two large block parties taking place along Edgewood Avenue as part of A3C, and these drew some of the largest crowds of the week since they were free and did not require wristbands. The one on the large Old Fourth Ward stage was hosted by Questlove of The Roots and featured DJ’s playing nothing but classic old-school hip-hop all afternoon. The other block party was behind Noni’s Deli and was sponsored by an Atlanta event collective known as Beer and Tacos. This event was hosted by my good friend Fort Knox, and featured a line-up of hip-hop performers on the outdoor stage. As the afternoon wore on, however, clouds began to gather in the west, and the day soon grew overcast. At about 5 PM, I made the decision to drive down to Six Feet Under (a seafood restaurant) for dinner, and I made the right decision just in the nick of time, because the storms and heavy rains broke while I was eating dinner on the outdoor roof. From there I headed to the Sun Dial bar on the 72nd floor of the Westin Atlanta for coffee and dessert, although the view of the city was obscured by so many storms. Seeing lightning directly outside the windows was interesting though!
Sunday was the last day of A3C, and I was invited to a breakfast at the Melia Hotel with the conference staff. Afterwards, I drove over to the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood for the Soul in the Hole basketball tournament sponsored by the Atlanta Entertainment Basketball League. The AEBL runs a recreational basketball league for artists and performers in the Atlanta area, and A$AP Rocky was one of the artists who came out to participate. The tournament also gave us an opportunity to try something called Grind Hard Endurance Drink since they were a sponsor of the tournament, and the drink didn’t taste bad at all, particularly when chilled in a cooler full of ice on such a hot day. Since I wasn’t hooping, I can’t speak to the endurance part of it!
A cryptic message posted on saxophonist Kebbi Williams’ Facebook profile suggested that the Castleberry Hill neighborhood was going to be the location of “musical mayhem” at the hands of the Wolfpack on Saturday at midnight. And just what exactly is the Wolfpack? Judging from YouTube videos and what I could gather online, in one sense the Wolfpack is a musical flash mob consisting of a fairly large number of wind instruments. The Wolfpack seems to have taken over neighborhoods, MARTA stations and night clubs, and often the locations of their upcoming escapades are revealed to social media through an indirect message such as the one that brought me out to Castleberry Hill on this particular night. But the Wolfpack is also something else. As a large marching band of tubas, trombones, trumpets and saxophones (it is unclear to me whether marching percussionists ever take part), the Wolfpack also resembles an Atlanta take on the New Orleans brass band tradition, not that the music played by the Atlanta Wolfpack much resembles that of the New Orleans bands, but rather that the bands seem to fill the same community functions in both cities. At any rate, I got my car from the hotel and drove out to the Castleberry Hill neighborhood where a one-day art event called Flux Night had been going on all evening. Fortunately, I had no problem finding parking, and I gradually walked up to Elliott Street, where a crowd of several hundred young people were gathered in front of a bar called the Elliott Street Pub. I had to walk under some sort of art installation that functioned as an arch, and soon encountered a group of four or so drummers who were bashing away on as many drum sets. One electric guitarist seemed to be playing with them, and on the opposite side of the street was a man juggling flaming batons, and I gradually began to notice that a group of people were attacking an SUV with pickaxes and sledgehammers. Apparently, the SUV had been acquired from a junkyard for the purpose of being torn up, and was thus part of a performance art piece that was being done. If there was a theme to all of this, it seemed to be chaos. Perhaps these artists were into Dadaism, or maybe Futurism.
In the event, I suddenly heard the low bass of tubas from the other end of Elliott Street, and soon a large brass band was marching into this cauldron of confusion. Although it was somewhat hard to hear due to all the yelling and laughing and SUV-bashing, they seemed to be playing a kind of crunk, Atlanta hip-hop groove. Gradually the drummers on the sets nearby began to line up with what the Wolfpack was playing, as did the guitarists. Much of the crowd shifted its attention away from the battered SUV and toward the musicians that were playing just outside the pub’s door. When the musicians had played in this manner for awhile, the music began to break down into free jazz, centered around the drummers, guitarist and a trumpet player (was that Russell Gunn?) and a saxophonist. Soon that came to an end as well, and all the musicians were walking through the crowd, under the big art archway at the corner and were headed away from the area, all too soon.
From the Spring & 4th Center, I headed back over to the Melia, and caught the shuttle out to the Old Fourth Ward showcases, and then rode the other shuttle out to East Atlanta Village and the 529 venue before heading back to the Old Fourth Ward. I decided to have dinner at Harold’s Chicken and Ice Bar, which is the Atlanta branch of a famous Chicago fried chicken chain. Unlike the Chicago stores, the Atlanta location is a little more upscale, with an “ice bar” that literally stays frozen to keep drinks cold, big screen TV’s and a dance floor. The place was so crowded when I walked in that there was basically no place to move. I thought the chicken was decent, but didn’t quite see what all the fuss was about. Good chicken? Yes. Best ever? No, at least not in my book. Yet the atmosphere in the place was fun, college football games were on the big screens and a DJ was playing plenty of hip-hop and old-school in the back room so people could dance. And the prices are reasonable in a city where dining out can get expensive.
Harold’s Chicken & Ice Bar
349 S Edgewood Avenue SE
Atlanta, GA 30312-1727
The League of Extraordinary G’z is arguably Austin’s best rap group, one of the best in Texas, and honestly one of the best unsigned hip-hop groups in the United States. I was amazed and impressed with them the first time I ever heard them, which was at South By Southwest in Austin in 2009, and I am still amazed and impressed every time I witness their live performances. Their odyssey has not been without tragedy- one of their members, Esbe the 6th Street Bully died of a wrongly-diagnosed medical condition in 2011, and earlier this year, they lost their drummer Tiny to a congenital heart defect. But all the years of sorrow, struggle and hard work are starting to pay off, and on October 15, the League’s first studio album (everything heretofore has been mixtapes) will be released digitally online. You can stream the new album here or preorder it here.
Perhaps I had been under a rock, but I had never heard of Dallas hip-hop duo A.Dd+ before I saw them at A3C, yet I found them to be very impressive, and not at all what I would have expected in a rap act from Dallas, with a style that is based largely on lyrical skill. So far, they have released a mixtape and two albums, the most recent of which is Loosies which was released in 2011.
Out on the back patio of the Spring and 4th Center, the artists from Austin gathered to take a picture together. It is really great to see that the Austin rap scene has this kind of unity and love.