Two shirts slanged by this here site pretty much summed up the Southeast’s largest Hip Hop festival, A3C, with taglines that read “Hip Hop is NOT dead” and “Independent as Fuck” (the old Def Jux Records mantra). This weekend, Atlanta was served up a robust helping of all the elements of this culture: deejaying, B-Boying, graffiti bombing, emceeing, beat-boxing and fashion. And if Hip Hop was a mind-altering substance, after this high, the city of Atlanta could be found prostrate on the floor of CW Midtown (the venue) simultaneously shaking and doing the wop. Yeah, it went down like that. I’m sorry some of you couldn’t be there but buck up lil’ guy, you can experience the memorable moments through the eyes of thou.

Senor Kaos, backed on the turn tables by Public Enemy‘s DJ Lord, deftly warmed up the crowd for the first performer who happened to be none other then Interscope’s newest signee and D.C.’s own, Wale. Over the live instrumentation of the U.C.B., he’d go on to perform his hits “Ice Cream Girl,” “Nike Boots,” “Back in the Go Go” and a few of his freestyles from 100 Miles and Running. The live band was incredible and sent a few fans into spastic dance-like movements. Backstage, I chopped it up with him and the band. Wale was mad confident but still humble enough to ask me my thoughts on the show. It’s funny because I didn’t hear him the first time he asked me and him and the band thought I just ignored the question because I disliked the performance but we cleared that right up and I told him the performance was dope and we laughed about it. Afterwards, we joked about him getting Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) on his upcoming project the Mixtape About Nothing, which is scheduled to drop at the end of this month, and another mixtape he has in the works with 9th Wonder. He also spoke about his reasoning for joining Jimmy Iovine’s label saying, “Interscope just seemed like they got it all the way. The whole building understood what we’re trying to do…which is the restoration of good music no pun intended.

Fresh off of that interview, I sprinted back to the main stage to catch Jeru the Damaja, whose performance embodied how an emcee should control the stage. His vocals were clear, he ran through his catalogue of classics and newer heaters and he entertained the crowd in between tracks occasionally cracking on innocent bystanders Def Comedy style. He performed like only a vet could with no hype man just a mic, a cup of brown liquor and a deejay.

The highlight of day one for me was seeing Little Brother perform. I’ve seen LB perform probably four or five times and I’m never disappointed afterwards. They ran through about 15-20 tracks—maybe more—damn near doing all of Get Back, dipping into The Minstrel Show and taking it back to The Listening. And the crowd was spazzing. LB responded giving the crowd more energy with singer, Darien Brockington, and Phonte two-stepping hard more vigorously as the night went on.

Despite the different types of people A3C drew out—rockers with Mohawks, backpackers with Jansports, nerds, sneaker heads, etc—the crowd’s head nod was in unison when LB was doing their thing. I caught up with the duo backstage where Pooh and Tigallo humorously interacted with the media talking about Phonte’s whipping up Steak-Ums, Pooh’s signature barbecue chicken, Phonte’s playing God of War, why you should never drink tour bus water as well as their feelings on this upcoming election with Pooh emphasizing, “every vote counts, even if it don’t count (a nod to the fiasco in Florida last election),” and finishing with “it’s important you go out and express yourself by voting and if you don’t, don’t complain about nothing.” They also talked about their upcoming projects including some solo work from Pooh, Sleepers 2, and a sequel to Foreign Exchange coming soon.

Day one ended with me checking out the mellow west coast vibes of Del the Funkee Homosapien [click here to read review…]. Before let out, all the artists who performed were in the halls of the venue dapping up fans, signing CDs, swooping on groupies and pretty much kicking it which is the difference between an independent Hip Hop festival and a major concert. Cats really got to interact with the artists at A3C.

Day two started with me checking out the B-Boy contest. I saw some wicked top-rocking, head-spins and freezes. I made it a point to check out the B-Boy contest because B-Boys have love for this Hip Hop shit like no other, believe me. The main stage combined music and fashion this go round with a runway fashion show going on before and during the performances. The models wore finger-paint, sneaks, bikini bottoms and New Era fitteds. And that was it. It was pretty sweet until the male models came out. Mullet-rocking, local trend-setter Caleb Gage hosted with DJ Klever on the wheels.

Day two catered to Atlanta’s home-grown talent with the likes of Gripplyaz, Holly Weerd, Proton and B.o.B. all respectively doing their thing. Gripplayaz’ set was capped off by an unforgettable moment when he brought out a female with plenty of backside to shake it for his track, “Project Ho.” The people who weren’t paying attention were all eyes for the “Tip Drill”-esque moment. Holly Weerd also picked up some new fans—like me—when they performed the futuristic and melodic, synthed out “Weerdo.” Proton put together a pretty dope set as well with my favorite track being their “Ready to Go.” Collectively, they showed there’s more to the ATL then finger snapping and crank-that dances. B.o.B. stood out though, ripping his brief set. B.o.B. started his performance doing this crazy dance teetering back and forth and jerking his arms about rapidly; like, you really have to see it. And although his set was only four-five songs he easily has one of the most energetic shows I’ve seen in a minute and his voice is so booming it’s crazy. Watch out for B.o.B., who with the success of “Lollipop” and a resurgence of Andre 3000, may see his Rebel Rock/Atlantic debut released sooner than later in ’08.

California up and comer, Blu [click here to read feature…] also threw down on day two. The crowd seemed to be unfamiliar with him when he came out but they warmed up quickly after a few tracks. He performed fan faves “Soul Provider,” “Simply Amazin’” and “No Greater Love”. Blu rocked the mic on and offstage jumping into the crowd passing out some of his discs. You can tell he came to A3C with a few fans but left with a lot more receiving a generous applause upon his departure.

But don’t get it confused or twisted, day two was about the reunion of The Juice Crew. Right after Blu finished his set, he went into fan mode. We rapped briefly about how crazy it was for him to rock before The Juice Crew. Then the crowd was greeted with the presence of the foundation of the crew, deejay and producer, Marley Marl. The deejay then unleashed a few of Marley’s creations that set the crowd into a frenzy. The first member of the crew introduced was Craig G who performed some of his older work but dropped some newness as well including some tracks off of his upcoming project with Marley Marl, Operation Take Back Hip Hop [click here to read…]. Then Marley returns and says “show them some more of the tracks on my resume.” By this time the crowd is so amped it’s unbelievable. Cats are doing the wop like crazy. Marley then introduces MC Shan who—get this—starts his set singing along over Rocko’s “This Morning.” Yes, I said Rocko then, rapping along with the Shop Boyz’ on “Party Like a Rockstar.” It was bananas. MC Shan also brought out Killer Mike and Bonecrusher who performed “Never Scared.” Bonecrusher quickly stripped out of his shirt wearing that angry, deranged look he dons while Killer Mike did the Eastside stomp. I still can’t believe it went down.

MC Shan, of course, couldn’t leave the stage without doing “Queensbridge.” The next Juice Crew member to rock was Roxanne Shante who claims the throne as the undisputed queen emcee and after she wrecks the stage you can’t help but agree. Biz Markie shut it down doing “Make Music with My Mouth,” “The Vapors” and “Just a Friend” and some more hits out of his catalogue. I can honestly say I had never been apart of something in Hip Hop that was so significant and it was an honor to just be there.

Following the performance, I spoke with Marley Marl who related in response why was A3C a good time to reunite The Juice Crew “with all of the emotion [that carried over from The Juice Crew reunion] that A3C was the perfect opportunity to come in do the show and promote our movie [The Vapors] that’s coming out. He also told me that The Juice Crew would be doing the soundtrack for the movie which is filming in a few weeks. So expect some new Juice Crew material in the future. We also spoke about why and how The Juice Crew came together. He said, “[We] came together because we were in a battle against Red Alert and we were just building up our ammo. The Juice Crew was ammunition. We used to bust off in a battle so I had to get my crew together.” And he also told me how his project came about with KRS-ONE, stating KRS gave him a call for a project. Marley said he sent a beat disc and KRS laced them all the tracks. He also went on to say him and KRS had some unreleased tracks on tap, and they would probably surface in the future.

Day three was a little bit disappointing not because of the performances just because it was almost over. On the low, there were mad rappers just there; some pollying while others just supported rappers they dug. Sha Stimuli was in the building. Torae was in the building. I saw Diamond D, NYOIL, 88 Keys and Che Grand. And those are just the ones I could remember. But they were all giving each other props and fellowshipping with the crowd – up close and personal.

Day three’s highlights for me were catching Guilty Simpson put on his set and of course The Clipse. The Re-Up Gang was in full effect, and Killer Mike came just to watch them perform. Now that’s love. Unfortunately, The Clipse and Tanya Morgan [click here to read Donwill‘s blog…] were on simultaneously so I ended up missing their performance which was a bummer. I guess whoever handled logistics didn’t think someone could like both. Nice job guy.

The night concluded with Rasta Roots spinning some Jay-Z and Nas. Overall, A3C kicked ass and if you like Hip Hop and you can swing it next year have your ass in the building. And for those not in attendance, check out the Official A3C Mixtape presented by [click here to listen…] Until next year…