Though Respect The UnderGround fostered a record label in 2016, the Justus Samuel-led faction put most of their energy into the 2017 Arizona Hip Hop Festival. Still backed by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, the festival gave a platform to local artists and celebrated the city-sanctioned “Hip Hop Day,” bringing more than 7,000 people to Comerica Theatre in November. While RTU’s main effort was all about the festival, the roster of artists — including Terrorist Angel Babies From Neptune and TommyWill — continued to make noise throughout the year with showcase and festival appearances and music releases.
This jazz-infused hip-hop band laid a lot of groundwork in 2017, playing a slew festivals, including Apache Lake Festival and Tour De Fat. The release of their album, Prophecy, cemented the group as the premier live hip-hop band in town, earned them spots on local showcases, and found them a foothold in the minds and hearts of the hip-hop community.
The strange trio of Nubs, Snowman, and Frosty dropped a few strong singles before releasing their highly anticipated debut album. After Odd Squad signed a deal with Only Dreamers, the same label that helped Futuristic launch his career, the group hit social media hard with comical videos mostly focused around Nubs, a rapper born without arms or legs. The videos pulled in millions of views, exposing Odd Squad’s music to a wave of new fans in the process. The group’s latest single, “Done Did,” currently has more than 6 million views (and climbing) on Facebook.
This media/lifestyle brand, spearheaded by Dylan Toon, concentrated on cultivating a general interest in the rising popularity of the new generation of local hip-hop. Under Society achieved that goal by selecting a group of up-and-comers as the “Freshman Class” of 2017, then running a series of popular cypher videos that included fresh faces such as Cuzn’ It, E$cott, and Haze That Saxy Rapper. They racked up hundreds of thousands of views on social media and managed to generate a genuine buzz around what could be the future of Phoenix hip-hop.
The popular hashtag was an idea cultivated by Phoenix rapper Benji Fly, designed to be used as a promotional tool for anything related to Arizona hip-hop. It caught on quickly, as urban artists across the state used the social media weapon on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook as a way to promote their music to fellow AZ hip-hop enthusiasts. The combination of thousands of posts across the internet using the catchphrase and a real-life campaign involving T-shirts and vocal chants proves that the inventive marketing tool helped shine light on and unify the Phoenix hip-hop scene.
The wildly popular rap quartet of Eddie Wellz, Salty Brasi, I-Dee, and Lamar Crushin hit the scene with a blitzkrieg-like offensive in 2017, playing over 40 shows to packed houses with memorable, high-energy performances. With all of the artists on the roster consistently dropping music and videos throughout the year, the burgeoning rap team was virtually impossible to avoid.
Easily the most electrifying hip-hop performer in Phoenix, Dela Preme was sought after in 2017 for his fantastic stage presence and unique vocal tone. As a result, his name was on everyone’s tongue, because it was clear that something special was starting to manifest within the rising star. Dela Preme used 2017 to build a foundation that could set him up to be the biggest rapper out of Phoenix in 2018.