Best Rapper 2020 | Mega Ran | Nightlife | Phoenix

Other rappers might be content with the level of success Raheem Jarbo has achieved — Billboard-charting tracks, nerdcore icon — but not the performer known as Mega Ran, who's never rested on his laurels and never stays idle for long. Jarbo is always leveling up his skills, honing his already considerable lyrical talents through constant projects and collaborations with premier rappers like Young RJ of Slum Village and Kadesh Flow. Game recognize game. He's got geek cred to go with his street cred, continuing to drop tracks laden with gaming and geek references (it's how he first made his name, after all) or hosting virtual concerts in Animal Crossing. Jarbo also uses his status to give something back; in July, he raised nearly $17,000 through Twitch livestreaming for a nationwide bail fund for Black Lives Matter protesters. He's a force on the mic and a force for good.

After more than a decade of polishing his skills, mostly behind the scenes as a DJ/producer, it's Ben Dorman's time to shine. Over the summer, the artist known as Bijou (French for "jewel") dropped his debut album, Diamond City, and its brilliance proves he's a cut above most locally produced electronic dance music artists. The 15-track effort is a true gem, glittering with radiant bass, hip-hop swagger, and huge infusions of G-house crafted by Dorman, backed up by rap glitterati like Denzel Curry and Wifisfuneral. It's sparkled on SoundCloud so far, with bangers like the Dr. Fresch collaboration "Westside" (featuring bars by Phoenix's Willy Northpole) racking up hundreds of thousands of plays within weeks of release. Such success makes Dorman's decision in 2013 to abandon a potential pitching career a wise one. We're certain the Valley native will be called up to EDM's big leagues soon enough.

We ain't gonna lie: When Justus Samuel first announced the Arizona Hip Hop Festival back in 2014, we thought he was nuts. Or suffering from delusions of grandeur. Or both. Bringing together close to 100 artists (and their egos) from Phoenix's fractured and often-contentious scene for an enormous one-day showcase? It seemed destined to implode under the sheer weight of Samuel's ambition. We were wrong. Save for some logistical snafus, the inaugural festival was a resounding success. Six years later, it's still going strong, helping to develop local talents, foster a sense of community, and put Arizona hip-hop on the map. That's been Samuel's M.O. for more than a decade with his record label and promotions company Respect the Underground, which showcases rappers through regular gigs and lands them airplay on online platforms like iKON Radio. He's even adapted to the COVID-19 crisis, using livestreams and virtual concerts to get RTU's music to the public — whatever it takes for Arizona's hip-hop godfather and biggest booster to continue repping this fine state.

Best Hidden Commune of Creepy Dolls


Lauren Cusimano

Walk down the stairs at Hanny's and into the basement, and you'll encounter a strange sight behind a chain link fence: more than 14 dolls positioned around a large table covered in coins. The dolls, posed as if participating in a game, are in varying stages of decay, and they emanate a creepy, corpse-like aesthetic. Hanny's owner, Karl Kopp, originally meant the display to be a temporary art installation after the historical clothing store building reopened as a restaurant in 2008, but it's become such a source of abject fascination that the assembly of dolls is now permanent. The doll display isn't the only weird art on exhibit at Hanny's — to get downstairs to them, you'll have to pass a bizarre, beaded humanoid sculpture with baby doll faces embedded in its butt cheeks.

Jennifer Goldberg

Casey Moore’s vast selection of high-end hooch bottles aren’t the only spirits lurking about the historic Tempe bar. As legend has it, the place is haunted by the ghosts of William and Mary Moeur, the couple who built the circa-1910 property and shuffled off the mortal coil in 1929 and 1943, respectively. Ask the staff, and they’ll spin yarns about supernatural shenanigans like food being snatched off plates, mysteriously tugged neckties, and pictures falling off the walls. Some swear they’ve seen the Moeurs dancing in front of an upstairs window. You might even hear about sightings of a young co-ed who was strangled by her boyfriend back when the building was a boarding house. Truth be told, no one’s ever produced any evidence these ghosts exist, not even a group of paranormal investigators who examined every nook and cranny in 2016. Have enough pints of Casey’s beer of the day, though, and who’s to say you won’t catch a glimpse of some of these resident specters.

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