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.
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.