From world tours to government-sanctioned hip-hop festivals, Arizona hip-hop flexed a lot of muscle in 2016. In an attempt to comprehend it all, we took the time to look at some of the most powerful movers and shakers of the last year.
10. Trap House
As one of the most consistent artists to release music out of Arizona, it was interesting to see Trap House turn his focus toward more worldly causes. Trap spearheaded a “Keep the Guns Away” initiative that was designed to bring awareness to the growing violence in local neighborhoods. As one of the New Times’ 10 Noisemakers, Trap has truly ascended to a level of influence beyond just his street tales.
9. Sincerely Collins
Collins’ anticipated release, The Legend Of Phoenix, played out as an autobiography for the young emcee. The well-received project was already on the New Times list of best hip-hop releases this year, and continued to stay in the minds of Arizona hip-hop fans as songs like "Midas Touch" and "Possible" made the rounds on various radio stations and blogs.
8. Avenue Of The Arts
AOTA is one of the longest-running and -respected hip-hop crews in Arizona, and is known for staying true to the authenticity of the elements of the genre. Deejays such as Blesd1, Psychopat, and Les735 play on radio, internet and multiple weekly nights, like Live and Learn Thursdays at Tempe Tavern and New Grand Fridays at ThirdSpace. Meanwhile, potent emcees such as RunLike, Everyday Affiliates, and Ohm continue to spread captivating underground hip-hop vibes through their performances. Avenue Of The Arts kept its members' names ringing throughout the streets of the underground community in 2016.
7. Dumperfoo/Blunt Club
As one of the most respected entities in the local hip-hop community, Dumperfoo and his affiliates, which include the likes of Tricky T and Pickster Uno, provided great entertainment almost every night of the week with events like Motown on Mondays at Crescent Ballroom, Uptown at Rips on Wednesdays, and New Grand at ThirdSpace. Their monthly Blunt Club event, which now resides at Valley Bar, is still the longest running hip-hop night in the Valley and caters to a packed housed every time. Despite Dumperfoo’s departure to Portland, Oregon, the engine continues without missing a beat, delivering a much-needed fix for the music junkies.
6. 101.1 The BeatLocker
The veteran trio of Pokafase, Dj Marvel, and Louanna Faine paid a dutiful service to the hip-hop community with their Sunday morning show “The Beatlocker.” The radio program strived to play only local hip-hop from some of the best artists in the Valley. Expanding upon that, their showcase at Wasted Grain gave those same artists a chance to showcase their talents in front of a live audience.
5. Vee Tha Rula
Vee remained consistent throughout 2016 with a slew of shows local and abroad. He also released six music videos, including “Gang,” with his new business partner, Kid Ink. Vee’s last-minute entry The Level Up EP hit the streets hard, as the eight-track EP is one of the strongest projects to be released last year. All of the cards seem to be aligning as Vee Tha Rula poises himself to hit even harder in 2017.
4. Injury Reserve
The internet darlings made even bigger strides after the release of Live From The Dentist Office last year. This included a collaboration with Vic Mensa and generally positive reviews for their latest release, Floss. These efforts have garnered a cultlike following for the trio, as their names are constantly brought up on sites like Reddit and The Needle Drop.
3. Respect The Underground
Led by JustUs Samuel and co-signed by Master P and No Limit, the rising promotional engine rode the empowered wave through 2016 with the official launch of their record label. Releases from Bag of Tricks Cat and Terrorist Angel Babies From Neptune both had respectable releases that were fueled, in part, by Respect The Underground's signature local showcases. But RTU's biggest move this year was getting the Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton to sign off on their wildly successful Arizona Hip Hop Festival, for which Stanton officially proclaimed as “Hip Hop Day.”
Random might deserve the title of “hardest working,” as the nerdcore rapper played 150 shows this year alone. This includes showcases in Japan and the U.K. as he promoted the release of RNDM, the critically acclaimed album he released in late 2015. This year, New Times' reigning rapper of the year was considered for a Grammy, and featured in Sports Illustrated, WWE, and Rolling Stone magazine. His “beef” with Alex Trebek practically anointed the rapper as the vanguard of the nerdcore scene; that incident alone got him press from TMZ and Entertainment Weekly. Random also put efforts into his own label, Random Beats, which released two projects and a video game.
After a stellar 2015, Futuristic had nowhere else to go but up. His viral video “The Greatest” sits at more than 18 million views, which helped propel his 2016 full-length release, As Seen On The Internet, which debuted on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart at number 10. Futuristic then rode that momentum for a successful world tour. His seemingly profitable D.I.Y. methods drew the attention of Forbes, showing that his business acumen is as impressive as his punchlines.
Tucson hip-hop, as a whole, had a stellar 2016, with strong efforts from the likes of Marley B, Cash Lansky, and Jaca Zulu. Genius events such as The Rap Van and Pushing Buttons push the boundaries of creativity and manage to invigorate and bring to the scene to new heights. Venues like Flycatcher and the Scratch Shack open their doors to a wide variety of hip-hop veterans; Jivin Scientists not only released some of the best videos to come out of Arizona but also copped a record deal from Sage Francis. Meanwhile, rising star Lando Chill was picked up by Mello Music Group, a label that features the likes of Open Mike Eagle and Oddisee. With the Tucson Hip Hop festival rolling out early next year, it is safe to say that Tucson hip-hop has a bright future ahead. Salute.
Looking to expand upon the success of last year's The Dichotomy of Roq'y Tyraid, the talented lyricist stayed on the road as he embarked on several tours. Releases like "Hashtag BLM" and "Kenny Powers" kept his name in the streets as the emcee continued to flex his lyrical muscle throughout 2016.
The young duo of Simple Wisdom and Puritan put in a lot of work over the past 365 days. Ending last year on tour with Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab, FATED hopped on every local underground show possible throughout 2016. This led up to the release of their well-received project 234 and a co-headlining tour with Blaine Coffee in the fall.
Led by Clay Adams, the hip-hop producer event has done a great job at showcasing a lot aspiring and locally known producers. As part of Live & Learn's Thursday nights at Tempe Tavern, the event usually sees a packed house with plenty of enthusiastic hip-hop heads looking to hear some fresh sounds.
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The abstract female vocalist poised herself to be one of the strongest hip-hop singers to represent the Valley. Multiple tours led the songstress to collaborations with the like of Mega Ran and Onry Osborn as well as appearances on numerous podcasts and radio slots.
J.Rob The Chief
Accompanying Futuristic on several of his As Seen On The Internet tour dates, the Phoenix emcee took advantage of the opportunity by rolling out his project, High and Low, to a strong response.