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10 Tucson Hip-Hop Artists You Should Be Listening To

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5. Lasso
Working with the likes of the list-mate Lando Chill is one thing, but Lasso's appeal is that he's a pioneer. Case in point, the producer hosted about a dozen other producers in a one-of-a-kind live collaborative performance of Terry Riley's "In C," transforming the composition into a bevy of beat-making at Tucson's Museum of Contemporary Art.

4. Sui Blue
While it seems all the other hip-hop artists in town dip their toes into each other's work, Sui Blue is an entity all on his own. With a buttery smooth flow akin to spoken-word poetry and emotive, sincere verses placed over deep bass and ornamental production on his 2016 release Lucky Me, Blue took his work (this time with producer Eremsy among others) to the next level, delivering what might be the best hip-hop album to come out of the Old Pueblo this year.

3. B3NBI

It's almost impossible to listen to B3BNI's compositions and not immediately connect his jazz influence. In fact, B3BNI used that inspiration and applied it to jazz master Buster Williams' work on the Touching Bass compilation. Outside of that piece, you'll find a confident, masterful producer who's somehow bafflingly still just a local artist.

2. Lando Chill
While Lando Chill's debut release, For Mark, Your Son, earned him a spot on the Mello Music Group roster among artists such as Open Mike Eagle and Oddisee, what you should really be excited for is catching this rising star live before he gets big. Why? Four(ish) words for you: live band-backed hip-hop. That's right, Chill typically performs with a full band backing — like if Kid Cudi got in with the Roots. If that doesn't get you jazzed for this rapper, who is the perfect blend of infectiously optimistic and passionately political, maybe nothing will.

1. Jaca Zulu
Watching Jaca Zulu perform is, essentially, the musical equivalent of love at first sight. Magnetism doesn't quite cut it in describing the inescapable draw this charismatic rapper accomplishes. While his onstage stamina makes for an engaging show, his most recent release in August 2016, titled Signals, showed that Zulu has endurance as a recording artist. Don't get it twisted, though: It's not just endurance. It's more of a leap forward from his 2014 album, Meaning, and if he keeps making moves like that creatively, he'll be a big name in no time.

Honorable Mentions:

DJQ might be kind of the new kid on the block, but with the release of his [sin ti] tape, it was immediately evident that he was one to keep an eye on. The bright and mellow vibe of his production combined with instantly recognizable samples from Michael Jackson, the Beatles, and more create a pretty addicting, soulful groove. Chances are, there's a lot more good stuff to come from this new producer.
Basically the only reason Roch didn't make the full list (and he does deserve it) is because he is so elusive. You can catch him on a Zachary Force Funk track or live around Tucson, but other than that, not sure what to tell you.

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Heather Hoch is a music, food, and arts writer based in Tucson. She enjoys soup, scotch, Electric Light Orchestra, and walking her dog, Frodo.
Contact: Heather Hoch