Most likely to give the audience a contact high: Beware an MC who sleeps on weed pillows and awakes to a breakfast in bed of prerolled continental kush. Smoke DZA's latest release, Rolling Stoned, is another buzzworthy soundtrack narrated by Harlem's best thang smokin'. If there's any truth in advertising, dude deserves an endorsement deal from the harvesters of hip-hop's drug of choice. The forecast for his 15-minute set Friday night: Cloudy with record highs. Perfect Attendance with FKi, Project Mayhem, Chase N Cashe, Action Bronson, Fat Trel and more. Begins at 7 p.m. Smoke DZA performs at 11:25 p.m. Fri., Oct. 7.
Most likely to scratch your old-school itch: Novice DJs probably scratched up tons of vinyl by accident in the years preceding his discovery. But Grand Wizzard Theodore is the DJ credited with elevating the scratch to an art form in the mid-1970s. In the intro to the 2001 documentary Scratch, Theodore tells how he unwittingly stumbled upon it after his mother banged on his bedroom door one night to turn his music down. As he slid the record to an abrupt stop, the resulting chalkboard-screech made music to his ears. His 9:30 p.m. set will cap off a night of DJ battles featuring turntablist from around the country. Needle 2 the Record DJ competition begins at 7:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 8.
Most likely to make Ebert and Roeper shed a tear: Producer 9th Wonder is known for his stoicism as much as he is for the classic, soul-soaked beats he's produced for the likes of Jay-Z, Murs, and his original group, Little Brother. But the LRG-sponsored documentary The Wonder Year manages to paint a revealing portrait of hip-hop's most underrated craftsmen. Director Kenneth Price follows him around for a year — from his childhood home to the hip-hop history class he instructs at North Carolina Central University — as 9th tells how he went from unknown to most-wanted. Testimonials from industry friends include recording engineer Young Guru, DJ Premier, J. Cole, and the Alchemist. But the tear-jerker comes when former Little Brother collaborator and longtime friend Phonté details how the two reconciled after a four-year split that played out in dramatic fashion on Twitter. Screening and Q&A with 9th Wonder. 7-9:30 p.m. Fri., Oct. 7. Masquerade.
Most likely to earn Canada some much-needed cool points: A3C moves beyond the continental shelf this year with its first international hip-hop showcase, featuring acts from as faraway as Singapore and South Africa. But staid neighbor to the north, Canada, stands to gain the most clout, thanks to Ontario native Eternia. The highly regarded veteran MC might not be as big a deal as Toronto native and commercial juggernaut Drake, but at least her voice is deeper. Import/Export showcase. With Shaun Boothe, Yellow Boyz, Rock City, Masia One, the ReMINDers, Shokanti, Eyezon, LidoLido. Hosted by DJ 4th Wurld. 7-10:35 p.m. Fri., Oct. 7.
Most likely to put the other 200-plus acts to shame: Big Daddy Kane — and his hi-top fade — owned hip-hop's golden era. Before MC Hammer turned stages into circus sideshows, Kane was doing splits with his dancers Scoob and Scrap Lover without losing his Brooklyn cool. And he spit more game than The Mack with his polysyllabic flows. If he failed to get his deserved shine in the late 80s/early 90s, as documented on a recent episode of TV One's "UnSung," it was only because he was ahead of his time — before hip-hop commanded the Billboard charts and the Grammy's became so chummy with the genre. When the Juice Crew All-Stars reunited at A3C in 2008, leading member Kane was conspicuously absent. It was a bummer, especially in the afterglow of his show-stopping performance at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors three years prior. But the Red Bull Music Academy showcase should more than make up for it with a one-on-one interview and performance from the "Smooth Operator" to close out the fest. An Evening with Big Daddy Kane. With tributes from Jean Grae, Saigon, Skyzoo, Action Bronson, Boy Jones. 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Sat., Oct. 8.
$20 day pass. $45 three-day pass. Thurs.-Sat., Oct. 6-8. Masquerade, 695 North Ave. 404-577-8178. See full schedule of A3C performances, panels discussions and demos at www.a3cfestival.com.