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2012 A3C's don't-miss list

From headliners like Big Boi to West Coasters like Ab-Soul to East Coasters like Freeway to ATL's own Danny!, this fest covers every corner of the hip-hop nation

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Photo credit: Courtesy Raekwon

If there's one thing that's been missing from A3C's lineup over the years, it's the presence of big Atlanta hip-hop. Who better to break the ice and fill those shoes than Big Boi? Antwan André Patton, aka Daddy Fat Sax, aka Billy Ocean, aka Sir Lucious Left Foot, has been busy as of late. With his next album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, set to drop November 13 (along with an accompanying coffee table book), via Def Jam, OutKast's G-funk crusader and first-generation Dungeon Family man is primed to steal the show when A3C has barely gotten off the ground this year. Keep your ears peeled for his newer, groove-oriented jams "Mama Said" and "She Said Ok," along with a whole bunch of classics. Thurs., Oct. 11. 11:45 p.m. Terminal West. — Chad Radford

Going under the name Anyextee, Amalgam Digital label owner DJ Next marks his first foray into filmmaking with Egypt Through the Glass Shop. Shot in Cairo during the Egyptian revolution, the film offers an inside look at the civil unrest that swept over the city through the eyes of an enterprising young glass who's literally watching his life's dreams and ambitions being shattered. Thurs., Oct. 11. 5:30 p.m. The Plaza Theatre. — CR

Over the past several months, Sacramento rapper Chuuwee slowly unveiled just a few of the highlights from his Wild Style mixtape, one leak at a time, stirring up an instant, underground buzz from coast-to-coast. Early praise came, in part, due to the expansive and irreverent verses he put on display throughout such numbers as "40oz & 40Sacs/Beastie Boy," "Put it On," and "The What!?" Each one carries a subliminal nod to the Left Coast style and substance of the early '90s, but make no mistake, Chuuwee's smooth but outlandish persona is unmistakably rooted in the post-Internet world of the here and now. He's honed the rich and barreling qualities of his voice at a young age, and it doesn't hurt that a parade a of producers, including JTN15, Tellapath, and Large Professor have all lent a hand to this latest and greatest collection of songs. His A3C performance is not to be missed. Thurs., Oct. 11. 11:30 p.m. Highland Ballroom. — CR

No doubt, Raekwon "the Chef" is one of the most acclaimed foot soldiers of the Wu-Tang Clan, but he's never quite attained the celebrity status of RZA, GZA, Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, or Ghostface Killah. But while his cohorts have, more often than not, settled into mediocrity (or the grave), Rae's beats, rhymes, and dedication to the indie grind have only improved with age, prompting an unprecedented resurgence. For more on this just put the needle on his last proper album, 2009's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, Pt. 2. ... Or press play on that highly coveted, limited edition purple Cuban Linx cassette tape that came out last month, if you got your hands on one before they disappeared. His most recent offering, the Unexpected Victory mixtape, proves that he's still the master of street-hardened and ice-cold Mafioso hood raps that swing like a punch in the gut. The Chef is a true MVP on A3C's lineup. Fri., Oct. 12. 10:05 p.m. Masquerade (HipHopDX stage). — CR

Nearly a decade after dropping his 2003 pseudo-eponymous debut, Philadelphia Freeway, Leslie Pridgen's future in hip-hop has never been brighter. That's taking into account Freeway's blazing career start — marked by early associations with Roc-A-Fella Records as well as working with the likes of Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, and Kanye West. In the seven years following that record, Freeway embarked on a prolific run as he released two more official albums, four collaborative LPs, and six mixtapes. After a few relatively quiet years, the gritty-but-thoughtful wordsmith returns next month with his latest, Diamond in the Ruff — a record that, based on its first single, "Beautiful Music," suggests he'll remain among the City of Brotherly Love's most venerable rappers. It will also be his first release with the NYC-based label Babygrande. Fri., Oct. 12. 9:45 p.m. Masquerade (HipHopDX stage). — Max Blau

Atlanta rapper BigREC and producer Diamond D have been working on their forthcoming album, DoomsDay, which is set to arrive this November — all tracks created by Diamond D and the rhymes are by REC, with very few features. The whole thing was written and recorded in the studio (i.e., no emailing songs back and forth to each other), fostering a gut-wrenching sense of old-school immediacy. If there's a theme tying it all together, it's balance. BigREC will be the first one to tell you that he's a Libra, so being the keeper of the scales is part of his being — after all, "REC" is short for "reconcile." He's about bridging gaps — between young and old, mainstream and underground — and his lyrical emphasis on education, philanthropy, and spiritual enlightenment helps obliterate negative media stereotypes about hip-hop. Keep your ears peeled for a DoomsDay listening party. But more importantly, catch REC at his best when he shares the stage with Wordsworth, Count Bass D, Señor Kaos, Boog Brown, Dillon, 4-IZE, and Soul Khan. Fri., Oct. 12. 7 p.m. Fri., Oct. 12. Masquerade (Creative Loafing stage). — CR

With a refined lyrical prowess that sends her peers, and competitors alike, back to the drawing board every time she takes the stage, Boog Brown is one of the most commanding lyricists to call Atlanta home. The Detroit, Mich., transplant owns the crowd with an ability to navigate whatever the atmosphere may be. Aggressive in one instance, smooth and sultry the next. For her A3C appearance, she'll run through some older numbers along with some new ones from her forthcoming full-length, The Late Bloom. Fri., Oct. 12. 7 p.m. Fri., Oct. 12. Masquerade (Creative Loafing stage). — CR

Of course the Dungeon Family Reunion at A3C will be one for the history books. Featuring an all-star bill, stacked with such ATL legends as Slimm Calhoun, Cool Breeze, Sleepy Brown, Big Rube, Nappy Roots, Backbone, and Generation X, the real name among names is Witchdoctor. The man who delivered 1997's A S.W.A.T. Healin' Ritual, one of the most compelling and spiritually afflicted chapters of the Organized Noise legacy, makes a rare return to his old stomping grounds for one night only. And being that this is Atlanta, there's gonna be a whole lot of superstars on that stage, and there's no telling who else might churn up. Fri., Oct. 12. 7 p.m. Star Bar. — CR

The very name Slum Village carries an awful lot of weight when it comes to underground hip-hop. To this day, the legendary Detroit hip-hop trio keeps the dirty, Bohemian sound moving forward with its current incarnation, including founding member T3, Illa J (J Dilla's brother), and Young RJ. Back in March, the Motor City three was in town celebrating the release of its Mick Boogie and Slum Village Presents the Dirty Slums mixtape. Now they're back from the victory lap. Fri., Oct. 12. 9:30 p.m. Masquerade (Creative Loafing stage). — CR

Born on the mean streets of our nation's capital city, rapper Fat Trel (born Martrel Reeves) was well on his way to becoming a rising star of the DMV hip-hop scene since he was only 7 years old. If the tattoos on his face and body and the thousand-yard stare in his eyes don't already tell his story, the Lex Luger beats and barreling flow of "Respect With the Teck" make it plain: This dude is brutal. Fri., Oct. 12. 12:35 a.m. Masquerade (Jakprints stage). — CR

Earlier this month, Atlanta-based rapper/producer Danny! released his latest album, Payback, via Questlove's newly relaunched Okayplayer Records, featuring appearances from Swizz Beatz, Lil B, Questlove, and more. Danny! has seen some pretty high-profile placements come his way as of late, including an appearance in a SONOS speaker commercial. As a relative up-and-coming artist, he's well-versed in tracking down what he's owed and a strong candidate to sit on a panel discussion titled "Where's My Check!" ... Sounds like an essential panel for all of those younglings in the crowd. Fri., Oct. 12. 3:30 p.m. Masquerade (Heaven). — CR

Devin the Dude screens the world premiere of his new film, Highway, which looks to fall somewhere between Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Friday, and Deliverance. Sat., Oct. 13. 6:30 p.m. The Plaza Theatre. — CR

Hailing from Carson, Calif., Ab-Soul (born Herbert Anthony Stevens IV) has made a name for himself via collaborations with such like-minded cohorts as Talib Kweli and Black Thought. He's also a member of the Black Hippy crew, alongside Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, and others. As an urban intellectual whose rhymes embody a rebellious spirit the likes of which the world hasn't seen since Nas was talking about snuffing Jesus, going against the grain of what listeners expect from a rap song is his M.O. Where sci-fi meets swag sums up his witty style. On "Track Two" from his latest album, Control Systems, he spits, "Just imagine if Einstein got high and sipped juice/Broke rules/got pussy, beat up rookies on Pro Tools," likening himself as the late genius reincarnated. References to the pineal gland, Andromeda, and seeing Hitler's face in the Twin Tower's debris make him seem like a conspiracy theorist, but the truth is that he's simply not your typical rapper. When touching on more sensitive topics (e.g., politics and religion), he's edgier than most. He knows this and his intellectual deviance is good brain food to get your head nodding, or for just plain using your head. Sat., Oct. 13. 12:20 a.m. Star Bar. — Joseph Tiller

When people ask Mr. Muthafuckin' eXquire about his name, he speaks about duality. Muthafuckin' obviously means bad, while eXquire alludes to his good side. This two-sided mind-set goes well beyond his name, informing his personal approach to hip-hop and his larger understanding of rap music. A former parking lot security guard who wrote rhymes on the job, the Crown Heights, N.Y., native worked his fierce-yet-restrained, foul-mouthed flow into Brooklyn's vibrant underground scene — trading verses with El-P, Danny Brown, and Das Racist on his 2011 highly touted debut mixtape, Lost in Translation. His lyrical command, 40-laced grime, and downright authenticity draws comparisons to such heralded East Coast greats as Method Man and Ol' Dirty Bastard. Last year, Spin magazine profiled eXquire in its comprehensive breakdown of hip-hop's budding DIY movement. Like many of the rappers to make the list — including Kendrick Lamar and Azealia Banks — he soon traded his role as a member of rap's independent vanguard this past spring to sign with Universal Republic Records. With a major-label deal in hand and a tour with El-P and Killer Mike under his belt, eXquire is set to release his proper debut EP, Power and Passion, later this month. Sat., Oct. 13. 11:55 p.m. Star Bar. — MB

By the time Tech N9ne founded his Strange Music label in 2000, the face paint-wearing MC was already rapping as if endlessly inspired by Public Enemy's sampling of Slayer on It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, then hit fast-forward on his vocal tracks. But once he sobered up and got to business, his career progression grew stranger. He became an essential act to see at the Gathering of the Juggalos, and an essential festival act to see, period. His latest album, All 6's & 7's, featured Snoop Dogg alongside the Deftones. Then Billboard included Tech N9ne in its first-ever Urban Power List, which came as a true testament to Kansas City rapper's independent momentum. (The guide's cover stars? Cash Money.) In the title track of this year's E.B.A.H. EP, Tech N9ne boasts, "I never cover up/Why?/'Cause I'm a clusterfuck." With or without face paint, he's always made that abundantly clear. Sat., Oct. 13. 10:05 p.m. Masquerade (iHipHop Distribution stage). — Christina Lee

Oddisee could have easily lived up to his life motto, "Stack Gs yet be low key," without rapping a single bar. While still living in the DMV (D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) tri-state area, he churned out beats, lent verses to founding group Diamond District, and oversaw indie hip-hop label Mello Music Group. After moving to Brooklyn, he released Rock Creek Park, an instrumental project-turned-D.C. tribute, drenched in '60s soul. At the same time, the existence of his excellent soul rap debut, People Hear What They See, feels justified. The half-Sudanese producer/MC not only introduces himself as a man debating a career in politics, but he also speaks directly to rap listeners leading far more ordinary lives than Rick Ross would dare to illustrate. In "Do It All," Oddisee even winks directly at the Maybach Music Group honcho. "I'm not a star/Somebody lied, I ride the subway as a car." Sat., Oct. 13. 9:40 p.m. Masquerade (Jakprints stage). — CL

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