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.
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.
Keep up with P. Dibiase:
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.
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.
One of the more important Thursday night showcases at A3C was called Double Cupped Fears, an event held at Space 2 on Edgewood Avenue and sponsored by TRDON, the record label/production company that works with Memphis rapper Preauxx, Select-O-Hits, and Travis McFetridge’s Great South Bay Music. The rather diverse line-up included hip-hop lyricists like J. Sands and Planet Asia, relatively new lyrical Memphians like Tori WhoDat and Preauxx, and classic Memphis headliners like Lil Wyte, Frayser Boy and Miscellaneous. Unfortunately, the showcase got under way about thirty minutes late, and as a result, was cut short at 2:30 AM, when the venue said they were required to close due to a city ordinance. But Lil Wyte and company left the crowd hyped and eager for more.
I had first heard of the up-and-coming rap artist Money Makin Nique a couple of years ago, but nothing prepared me for his outstanding performance at The Music Room in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward on the first night of A3C. Especially impressive was the new single “Rent Money”, the best song I’ve ever heard from Nique, and one of the best new songs I’ve heard in 2014. Its summertime with the windows down vibe is at once beautiful and rugged.
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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!