On Oct. 8-12, musicians, producers, entrepreneurs, artists, filmmakers, tastemakers and social thinkers will come together in Atlanta for A3C, the annual hip-hop festival and gathering. After ten years, A3C (All 3 Coasts – East, West, Gulf) has organically grown from its humble roots as a three-day event with fewer than 30 artists at the Loft in Midtown to its current incarnation as a five-day festival featuring over 500 artists, showcases, mixers, panel discussions, pro audio workshops, film screenings, product demos, a style expo and more.
A3C co-founder and partner Brian Knott took the time to answer a few questions for Georgia Music:
Congratulations on your tenth anniversary! Describe what you feel A3C has evolved into today and the value it brings to Atlanta.
Our evolution has been amazing to me and it’s been quite a fun ride. What started out without a very specific agenda or direction has turned into one of the world’s foremost destinations for people who create and love hip-hop music and culture. Along the way, we’ve asked ourselves a lot of questions in order to make choices about how and where to grow and how and where to pull back. Ultimately, I hope we’re being good stewards of hip-hop culture and presenting it in a way and with a wide enough lens that we’re genuinely capturing its spirit.
Atlanta’s cultural identity to the world is as a “hip-hop” city. I think over these 10 years, we’ve been able to contribute to making that a positive connotation and positioning Atlanta as the place for innovation in our genre and culture.
What has been most challenging in keeping a festival alive and thriving?
The hypergrowth. We have never thrown the same event twice. We’ve been growing audience often at 100% or better year over year and trying to still provide people with a specific “family reunion” experience. We find that each year we are tackling the extreme infrastructure questions, first outgrowing our venues and then outgrowing even specific neighborhoods in the city. This places us at a point each year where we really are starting our planning from square one. That challenge, however, also keeps us fresh.
Can you describe a moment or a couple of different ones during the past ten years when you felt that sense of fulfillment, the definitive “Yes, this is why we do it.”
I distinctly remember seeing a tweet in 2012 from an aspiring artist who was walking across the festival grounds and mentioned that over the span of 30 minutes, he was able to meet and shake hands with three producers who had credits on Jay Z records. Honestly, there are almost too many to count where two artists collaborate on a project because they both performed here and met. I love being able to provide a catalyst for all this creativity. I think our event has made a difference in a lot of peoples lives beyond having a great time and hearing some amazing music.
The education component seems to have grown as central to A3C as the showcases and performances. For those who don’t know about the learning opportunities, can you share what the festival offers?
This is an area of our event that I personally take a lot of pride in. We present over 100 panels, workshops, demonstrations, discussions, and round tables. The topics range from how to get a “big drum sound” to “the role of activism in hip-hoop” and everything in between. We have academic panels with some of our country’s foremost academic experts on hip-hop, key notes talks on the business, the craft of making music, and the culture as well as hip-hop’s place in the greater American culture. I don’t think there is anywhere else people are having these types of discussions in this type of environment. What started out as one panel back in 2005 is now five full days of content filling taking place at our Artist Center at the Crown Plaza in Midtown and both floors of SAE (The School of Audio Engineering). We have also introduced Film and Style over the last two years and those areas have proved successful compliments to the backbone of the music-festival-and-conference-type content.
Nothing that lasts ten years happens without the passion and commitment of a team. Can you brag on some of the folks who have been instrumental in A3C’s journey?
The first person that needs acknowledgement is my business partner Andy Harrison. Andy started as the stage manager for a three-day, 27-artist A3C that we thought was the most monumental undertaking ever back in 2005. He has handled every step of our growth amazingly. He’s been a partner now since 2009. He is one of the most intelligent and passionate lovers of hip-hop I have ever met.
The second person is our GM Mike Walbert. In 2009, Mike threw an A3C event along with a longtime friend of A3C, Fadia Kader, that over three nights showcased nearly every artist that broke onto the scene in hip-hop over the next two years. That showcase started to establish our event as the place where hip-hop could find what was coming next. In 2010 Mike stepped in as our artist director and did that for two years before becoming a partner and GM of A3C. Much of the vision of A3C in 2014 is where Mike has taken things on the platform that Andy and I started building years ago.
If I am laying thank yous out there, I owe a huge debt to Kevin Elphick, Josh Antenucci at Rival, Chad Shearer and Caren West at CWPR, James O’Connor and Andy Pitre, Dres THA Beatnik, Janet Smith, Nicole Rateau, Fati Ahmed, Matt Weiss, Typhani Payne, Tom White, Mark Willis, Joel Katz, Jason Jeter, Chaka Zulu, 9th Wonder and many many more who have all embraced us and helped us grow into something that I hope will be a part of Atlanta and hip-hop culture for a very long time to come.
A3C 2014 featured performers include: 2 Chainz, 9th Wonder, B.o.B, Black Thought, Buckshot, Bun B, Ca$h Out, Casey Veggies, Cormega, Cyhi the Prynce, Dyme-A-Duzin, I Love Makonnen, Jarren Benton, Jay Electronica, Jean Grae, Juvenile, Kevin Gates, Kid Capri, Kool Keith, Masta Ace, Mystikal, Nappy Roots, OG Maco, Pastor Troy, Pharoahe Monch, Prince Paul, Problem, Project Pat, Que., Rapsody, Rittz, Rockie Fresh, Rocko, Scarface, SD, Smif N Wessun, Snootie Wild, Talib Kweli, The LOX, Trae that Truth, Twista, Va$hti, Vic Mensa, Vince Staples, Young Dro and many, many more.