Best Hip-Hop Radio Station 2016 | 101.1 The Beat FM | Fiesta | Phoenix

Home to reliable morning programming like The Breakfast Club (billed as "the most dangerous morning show in the world," but don't worry, it's actually pretty tame) and Nina Cruz's The Gello Show, 101.1 The Beat leans heavily on '90s West Coast — big on Biggie, Snoop, and Tupac — but there's a good chance you'll hear a great jam you've forgotten all about, like Diddy and Usher's "I Need a Girl" or Ja Rule and Ashanti's fantastic and sweet "Mesmerize." The vibe's always optimized for backyard barbecues, especially on themed long weekends, like the I Love the '90s Memorial Day programming; it's consistently smooth, and will transport you directly back to the Clinton era. 

No station is dedicated more passionately to the breaking of new music than KWSS. Tune in on any given afternoon, and you might hear classic alternative tunes from the Dandy Warhols or Blur, but you'll quickly hear it followed up by younger bands carrying on those traditions, groups like the electronically tinged Ghostland Observatory or English rockers Bastille. The playlist is vast and varied; unlike so many rock stations, it's not just the same 30 songs on an infinite loop.

We'll freely admit that some of the attraction to KCDX is the mystery. Broadcast from the desert, there are no DJs, only a long, endless stream of free-form music. You might hear prog rock crashing into country rock, or gentle folk rock colliding with chiming power pop, but you'll rarely hear the same song more than once for weeks. Big stations aren't playing the Jayhawks or the Smithereens like KCDX is, but you don't necessarily tune in to hear anything specific. You let the mysterious "Guru" who's running the show simply surprise you with a song you haven't heard in years, or even better, have never heard played on the radio. 

We were pretty nervous when "AZ Gold" KAZG relaunched early in 2016 as Oldies 92.7, but luckily for us, there's still plenty to love. The new station, which still simulcasts on the AM frequency we know and love, leans much heavier on the '70s than before, but the tunes are guaranteed winners, like Carole King's gently funky "I Feel the Earth Move" and Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)"; plus, the new format still allows for slips back to the '60s with songs like Gene Chandler's classic "Duke of Earl." The adjusted format and name change comes with increased access, too. The station maintains an interactive Facebook page and offers streaming online. 

No offense to the fine rock stations of Phoenix, but if you really wanna hear music about partying — stuff in the tradition of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue — you should turn your dial to KNIX. Modern country has its detractors, but it's hard to deny the cold-beer, boot-stomping swagger of KNIX's playlist, stacked with the likes of Jason Aldean, Keith Urban, Blake Shelton, and Uncle Kracker — country artists unafraid of a little hip-hop inspired low end or arena-rock crunch. Sure, they might deviate from the sonic touchstones of classic country, but the attitude and ethos are "outlaw" in their own right.

Walking the tight rope between old-school soul, funk, and the Quiet Storm program with selections from contemporary artists, Mega 104.3 is the kind of station that knows how to draw the connecting line between Justin Timberlake's "Suit & Tie" to Earth Wind and Fire's "Shining Star." Things stay consistently funky, whether said funk's coming from the Bee Gees or Parliament-Funkadelic or Janet Jackson, and like its sister station 101.1 The Beat, the grooves here seem custom-engineered for smooth, languid listening. The station is often a lifesaver on backed-up Phoenix freeways: a soft, pillowy balm for road rage. 

An all-volunteer, community-centered station, Radio Phoenix features a diverse blend of talk, politics, and entertainment. There's music, and lots of it, from soul to blues and rock, but also a wide-ranging selection of political and social programs, like Soul Star Live, which examines culture and current events from a black viewpoint and the Budcoach Radio Show, a podcast focused on cannabis and weed culture. In addition to local perspectives, Radio Phoenix features programs from throughout the world, like the internationally syndicated Putumayo World Music Hour and Native America Calling from Albuquerque, focused on Native arts and history. 

Playboy Manbaby is one of the most popular bands in Phoenix for good reason. The group makes punk rock with a trumpet, but don't call it ska. The horn is just icing on the cake that is the manic energy of Playboy Manbaby. Onstage, frontman Robbie Pfeffer transforms into a screaming, flailing madman, shouting songs about selling out and giving your boss the middle finger. His onstage persona channels rock stars and Pentecostal preachers equally, and not many bands get roomfuls of people as engaged in punk rock call-and-response like PBMB. The result is often the most entertaining show in town.

You know when you hear a song and you can't help but react? The bass syncs up with your hips, and the drums seem to tell your feet exactly when to move. Pretty much every single one of the songs by Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra (charmingly known as PAO by fans) holds this power to make you move. And we mean move. We dare you to sit still while this 15-piece orchestra does its jazzy thing, and singer Camille Sledge demonstrates the actual definition of funk. Sledge's energy alone is contagious enough to get your out of your chair and onto the dance floor. Just give in, and let PAO's rhythm move you. 

Led by guitarist Joel Robinson, Sunn Trio isn't really a trio (the band's roster fluctuates, but there are usually more than three players at any given time) but that "sunn" part tracks: There's a woozy, heatstroke feel to the band's innovative blend of surf rock, free jazz, mystical drone, and world music. Consistently recording and releasing material via self-distributed cassettes, the Trio's sound mutates in concert, with fantastic flurries of distorted guitars butting up against mantric psychedelic saxophone runs and looping bass. In Sunn Trio's capable hands, genre isn't something to adhere to, but rather a set of templates to be torn up and reassembled, and the band's creative destruction is something to behold. 

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