In two years, the Arizona Hip Hop Festival — a gigantic concert at Comerica Theatre that gathers no fewer than 100 local artists under one roof — has grown rapidly, but now, as the festival enters its third year, city government is getting involved.
After meeting with festival founder Justus Samuel in his office (and posting about it on Twitter) Mayor Greg Stanton will be declaring Saturday, November 19, Hip Hop Day in honor of the third installment of the festival. The event will once again take place at Comerica.
"I never in a million years thought I'd do anything at City Hall besides file for permits I'd never get," Samuel says.
Stanton says he followed New Times' coverage of the festival the previous two years and plans to attend this year.
"We as a city appreciate the work that has gone in [to the festival]," Stanton says. "We want to be supportive of it going forward."
The nod from the mayor is part of the harvest of a three-year plan Samuel has sown. He had pushed for city involvement and recognition ever since day one back in 2014, but was told the festival needed to grow and establish itself first. This year, the festival looks to be bigger than ever. Samuel's goal is to book 200 artists this year over seven stages. The festival also plans to expand outward, as Samuel plans to close down one of the streets, either Adams or Washington, outside the venue as the festival outgrows Comerica.
Stanton says supporting the festival falls in line with his goal of improving downtown Phoenix's cultural cache, both within the city and on a national scale.
"As mayor, it is a priority to me to have downtown Phoenix and the heart of the city be the center of life and fun, just like we are for commerce and arts, and for live music as well," Stanton says.
Events like the Arizona Hip Hop Festival are part of a vibrant arts scene that will attract the best workers to move to Phoenix, he says.
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"If you’re not a cool place to live, you’re not going to be competitive economically." Stanton says.
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Though the 2016 date has barely been announced, Samuel isn't content to just let things stop where they are now.
"This will be the last year the festival will only be one day," he tells New Times. Next year, he wants the festival to take place Friday through Sunday, including one entire day of artist-education seminars.
But one thing at a time. For now, Samuel will need to arrange for this year's lineup of artists, DJs, singers, vendors, and everything else. You can find more information as it is released at www.respecttheunderground.com.
Update, 4:45 p.m., 5/31/2016: This article was updated to include quotes from Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.