Here’s the coolest thing about A3C. Founder and Managing Partner, Brian Knott ran an independent label in the early 2000s called ArchTheFinger Records. Like most indie exec’s in the pre-Twitter-Facebook-MySpace new millennium, the major challenge was building national awareness around the acts signed to his label. So he benchmarked the brands that figured out how to win without radio. “We were watching what Rhymesayers [Entertainment] was doing and what Def Jux [Records] was doing,” Knott told HipHopDX during this month’s three-day event. “They were the guys we wanted to emulate. They were touring their asses off. Those artists on those labels were doing 100 shows [in the Fall] and then come back and do 100 shows in the Spring. We thought that clearly that’s a [business] model that works.”

Photographs by Michael Hogenmiller for HipHopDX

To put the model in action, Knott – and business partner Kelvin Elphick – reached out to artists in various states nationwide and offered them a trade: If they booked ArcTheFinger acts in their city, ArcTheFinger would return the favor and book them in Atlanta. The strategy worked. Too well. Knott explains:

“We had been doing it for damn close to a year when my business partner at the label turned to me and said, ‘Dude, we owe a lot of people shows in Atlanta and now our guys are never fucking in Atlanta. Everyone is on the road all the time and we owe these artists shows in Atlanta. What the fuck are we going to do?’ [A3C] was a panic attack of us being like, ‘We owe 40 acts shows and we need to call all these guys and say we’re going to do this thing for a weekend. We want you all to come in. We’ll promote the hell out of it. We’ll have the artists on the label help anchor it.’ The first A3C was literally just born out of ‘Oh shit, what are we gonna do? We’re gonna be jerk offs if we don’t give these guys a show.’

Eight years later and A3C is one of Hip Hop’s biggest events. The 2012 edition was no exception. In various venues throughout Atlanta, as its moniker designates, A3C represented for All 3 Coasts and seemingly everywhere in between.

Outkast’s Big Boi and Killer Mike gave a memorable performance of [“The Whole World”] during Big Boi’s headlining set on the BET Music Matters stage at Terminal West – where they were joined by Brooklyn, New York’s Kris Kasanova, Phil Ade, The Kid Daytona, Rapsody, Skyzoo, and Kirko Bangz on Thursday night. 

During a live edition of PNCRadio’s The Combat Jack Show on Friday night, DJ Drama dissected his history with Lil Wayne, and Killer Mike discussed how his grandfather was subjected to the Tuskegee experiments. Over on iHipHop Distribution stage during the HipHopDX showcase, Raekwon, Freeway, Chino XL, Torae, Tom P, and others rocked one of the weekend’s largest crowds. 

1982 (Statik Selektah and Termanology) made Guitar Center stage erupt as part of Saturday night’s “The Circus” presented by The Couch Sessions before !llmind’s B.L.A.P. (Beats Love Alcohol Party) beat makers showcase ushered in a gloriously inadvertent competition between super producers Needlz, Focus…, The Olympicks, Apollo Brown, S1, !llmind, and Just Blaze. If there was one moment that may never be recreated again, B.L.A.P.s was it.

A3C featured dozens more shows, panels, film screenings, interviews, and awesome random Hip Hop moments. Of course, HipHopDX will roll out our exclusive coverage periodically over the coming weeks. But the overarching feel of A3C was unique in the sense that dozens of artists, media members, and investors of all sizes from every region were represented and reveling in the culture. Unlike SXSW, for example, A3C is completely Hip Hop centric. Unlike Rock The Bells, for example, A3C doesn’t travel around the country. Unlike most festivals, for example, A3C still provides free three-day passes to artists who paid to submit to perform but were rejected. They want acts to come and participate even if they can’t rock because, to them, building relationships is as important as a profit margin. It’s a completely unique Rap festival experience in that sense, one that only resonates considering that happy accident which is A3C’s origin.

“After that first one, we were like, ‘We’re gonna do it annually,’” Knott says. “It was divine in a way. The writing [was] sitting on the wall. Like, this is definitely, from a business standpoint, what we should be doing.”                 

Stay tuned for a collection of interviews, exclusives, video and photographs from HipHopDX’s A3C 2012 coverage.

Justin “The Company Man” Hunte is a freelance journalist covering music, politics, and entertainment for The Couch Sessions, The Well Versed, among others. The Brooklyn, New York-resident is also the host of The Company Man Show on and has contributed to HipHopDX since January 2010. Follow him on twitter @TheCompanyMan.