The A3C Hip Hop Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and the 2014 edition is sure to be one of the best yet. For those unfamiliar, A3C (which stands for All 3 Coasts) has quickly become one of the premier hip-hop festivals in the world today.

What started as a small local showcase in Atlanta has grown into a prime destination for anybody who’s anybody in the hip-hop world. Legends like Big Daddy Kane, GZA and Rakim; today’s top artists like ScHoolboy Q, Tech N9ne and Rich Homie Quan; and underground stalwarts such as Little Brother, Sean Price and One Be Lo have all rocked stages at A3C. The festival also brings in industry power players like Dante Ross and Wendy Day to share their insights from years in the business in a panel format.

Last year’s festival saw around 25,000 people attend over the course of five days as A3C has quickly become the SXSW for hip-hop. This year’s festival begins on Oct. 8 and The Boombox is here to prep you for these five days of hip-hop bliss. Without further ado, here’s your much-needed guide to the festivities with the do’s and don’ts of the 2014 A3C Festival.

  • Do Have a Plan

    If you’re going to A3C, you’ve got to plan ahead. There’s simply too much going on to just wing it. There’s a schedule and map online (in app form too), so use them! Artist pages will tell you what showcases they’ll be performing at as well. It’s overwhelming if you don’t have at least a rough idea of what events you plan to attend.

    Obviously, it’s hard to stick to any solid plans in the midst of the chaos, but it’s better than being completely lost. You’ll definitely want to link up with friends (or make some new ones) if possible and try to map out where you’ll be going each day.

    Most events during the day are taking place at the Crown Plaza Hotel (aka the Artist Center) or the SAE Institute, which are about a mile away from each other. Shows at night will be taking place in the Old 4th Ward, East Atlanta Village and 3rd Street areas of Atlanta. You’ll need to make plans for transportation as all the venues are not within walking distance of each other.

  • Don't Exclusively Attend Shows with Big Names

    I get it. You want to see everyone from 2 Chainz and Kevin Gates to Pharoahe Monch and Scarface perform. This year’s festival is filled with plenty of big stars. But don’t just seek out the high profile acts as you’ll miss out on all the great talent converging on Atlanta for A3C.

    As someone who had to put a showcase together before, I can tell you the curators of these lineups all want their event to be the highlight of your time at A3C. So, find events that match your tastes and give the lesser known acts a shot to impress you too. I’m willing to bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

    Also, many of the independent/underground acts performing may never tour in a town near you, so why not go see them when you’ve got the opportunity? Seeing someone perform live is a totally different experience than hearing their project online. You may become a fan of someone you never expected you’d enjoy. Or perhaps you’ll realize someone you’re a fan of doesn’t deliver the goods on stage.

  • Do Attend Panels

    Missing out on the panels is missing out on one of the best parts of A3C. The sheer amount of knowledge being dropped is astounding and you’ll want to soak up as much of it as you can while you’re in Atlanta.

    If you’re a rapper, producer, writer, blogger, DJ, promoter or anyone involved the realm of Hip Hop, I guarantee there’s a panel that can benefit your career. Plus you can just be a fan and hear some outstanding interviews at events like the live taping of The Combat Jack Show with 9th Wonder or the panel on New Orleans hip-hop with Juvenile, Mannie Fresh and Mystikal.

  • Don't Harass Artists or Panelists

    If you’re at the Crowne Plaza, the surrounding area or any of the above venues, you’re bound run into some power players. It’s great to reach out and show your love for someone you like or respect, but don’t cross the line.

    Don’t go into stalker mode and follow somebody around begging for their attention if they’re busy. If there’s a Q&A at a panel, don’t use that time to make a fool of yourself. Nobody wants to hear you ask Jermaine Dupri if he wants to sign you or produce your next record. And if you’re a writer or blogger trying to score some interviews, there’s PLENTY of artists roaming around who would love to talk. If someone’s not interested in speaking with you, just keep it moving.

  • Do Network

    With so many like-minded members of the hip-hop community in one spot, there’s no better spot to network than A3C. Rappers, producers, record execs, writers, bloggers, radio hosts, DJs, managers, promoters and more are crawling all over the place. You can’t help but find a way to benefit your career as well as help out someone else with what you bring to the table.

    There’s also the unique opportunity to finally meet your online connects in real life. In the digital age, we build relationships with our peers in the industry from all over the world via social media. Take advantage of the opportunity to link up with all the people you’ve encountered digitally in-person while you’re all in the same town for this rare occasion.

  • Don't Be the Guy Handing His CD Out to EVERYBODY

    I know you desperately want to share your music, but no one wants your unsolicited CD. If you’ve been chopping it up with someone and they’re interested in hearing your work, then by all means give them a copy of your project. But don’t be the guy standing in major walkways or near the door giving a CD to everyone walking by cause it’s going straight to the nearest table or trash can.

    Why waste your energy with printing up all these CDs that 90% of the people you hand them to will be tossing minutes, if not seconds after you hand them over? If you’re desperate to do such “marketing,” using a business card with info on how to download your music is more effective. The likelihood someone keeps your card in their wallet is much higher than them holding onto your CD.

  • Do Attend as Many Things as You Can

    You’re in Atlanta for five days (or less) so you need to make the most of your time there. Whether it’s showcases, panels or film screenings, A3C is essentially a dream experience for any hip-hop fan; make an effort to see as much as possible. As I previously mentioned, this is why you need to have a plan. If you’re smart about it, you’ll be able to maximize your efforts and catch as much of the festival as humanly possible.

  • Don't Try to Attend Time-Conflicting Shows in Different Areas

    Simply put, trying to attend time-conflicting shows is a dumb move. I know it can be frustrating to concede that you’ll miss out on an artist you really wanted to see perform, but the logistics of A3C make this an inevitability.

    While there’s a schedule, chaos will ensue and show run times won’t always follow that schedule to perfection. Trying to gauge your ability to see one showcase then hop in a ride to hopefully be there in time for another one is a losing proposition. If you’re looking to see multiple showcases running at the same time, make sure they’re at venues you can walk to easily. It’s much better to simply enjoy an A3C showcase than attempting to battle parking, try to hail a cab or find a shuttle in an effort to hustle across town in time to catch another lineup.

  • Do Dress Comfortably

    I know you want to look fresh, but a festival is not the best spot for dudes to bust out their best Ghostface in the ‘Apollo Kids’ video outfit or ladies to rock some high heels with a tight dress that will turn heads. The south in October does not resemble fall weather. It’s basically our slightly more tolerable summer, so it will be hot. You’ll also be doing A LOT of walking and standing around for inordinate amounts of time. Dress accordingly and make sure you’re comfortable, at least during the day.

  • Don't Stay Up All Night

    Festivals are exhausting and A3C is no different. The Atlanta night life may tempt you to stay up all hours of the night, but you’ll be paying for it the next day. Sleep is a necessity to make it through A3C in one piece. All the activities involved are tiring on their own, so don’t add to that by trying to make it through these five days without some rest. You don’t want to show up at the performance you’ve been heavily anticipating for weeks, feel like you’re ready to collapse and not be able to appreciate it. Be smart and find respite when you can.

  • Do Have Fun

    Last, but not least, have a great time! Whether it’s your first time at A3C or you’re a veteran attendee, you are sure to have fun if you love hip-hop. Enjoy your time there and have a fun experience you’ll remember for years to come.