Local Wire

AWAL Pro on Bringing the WTFunk to the Valley for 10 Years

Just another day at the office for AWAL Presents.
Just another day at the office for AWAL Presents. Courtesy of AWAL Presents
In Pound for the Sound, Phoenix New Times gets technical with local music community members about what "gear" they use to create their signature "tones" in our community.

AWAL Pro, founder and owner of AWAL Presents, is locally grown talent in the world of booking and promotions here in Arizona. With his roots right here in the Valley, the man has a rich tradition of promoting mostly hip-hop shows for more than a decade. AWAL (which stands for Artists Worth A Listen) has stood out as one of the premier hip-hop promoters in Tempe, constantly pushing the boundaries of what a "hip-hop night" should consist of.

AWAL got his start in promotions with an event called AZ Fammunition back in 2008. He was always into mixing it up with musicians, emcees, and DJs, and that vibe has formed the backbone of his events ever since. AWAL prefers to build events that focus on not just music, but also street art and even cuisine. He gathers chefs, emcees, drummers, and DJs to make his events events stand out from the crowd.

AWAL has had some unexpected moments as a promoter, like the time he was handed the reins to WTFunk Fridays, which celebrates their 10 year anniversary this Saturday, October 27, at Rogue Bar. Once under his guidance, he turned the night into an awesome weekly party which ran on Fridays for six years at the now defunct Stray Cat. [He was also a regular co-collaborator with the Blunt Club, a former Tempe weekly that is still known as the original hip-hop night in the 2000s era in Tempe. And even though the night is no longer a weekly, it is still going and there is certainly some rich history, even though this may be last event for WTFunk. New Times was able to catch up with AWAL Pro to discuss his career beginnings, favorite nights, and WTFunk's upcoming 10-year anniversary.

click to enlarge Odie and AWAL. - CHRIS CORNELLIUS (ODIE MCVERITY)
Odie and AWAL.
Chris Cornellius (Odie McVerity)

Phoenix New Times: What's the secret weapon to your madness?
AWAL Pro: Drugs. Can I say that?

There is a common phrase in the culture, “Real recognize real." There are a dozen DJ/art nights out there. The signature to our vibe was the live hip-hop jam session with a “band” and open mic emcee cipher, with Steve Caballero and Brian Stevens painting live alongside.

WTFunk was the only night in Phoenix where you would walk into two or three pairs of turntables on stage, all mixing shit together with a live drummer, keyboard, synth, samplers, etc., and watch folks create music live, and then give a place for emcees to freestyle on top of that. No one was doing that!

And yes, we had the best drugs.

And how did that help you find your "signature” vibe?
We didn’t really find it; it just developed organically every week.

What's been your favorite event you have hosted over the years and why?
The Camp Lo “Uptown Saturday Night” 15-year anniversary tour. We moved all the furniture out of the stage area at Stray Cat and had the spot packed shoulder to shoulder. Folks were standing on the pool tables back by the bar just to see.

Seeing that many people there to appreciate some good music and vibe together was unforgettable

Any special knowledge acquired over the years? Any special story, or stories, behind your collection of work?
It’s important to build with and appreciate others trying to grow and accomplish the same goals. I’ve witnessed the scene “grow” over the last 12 to 15 years and realized the most success collaborating versus competing with others.

If we’re all building, we move it forward. If we’re competing, we’re typically tearing others down in the process. #buildorburn.

You had said during our phone conversation that you always loved bringing everything together, and you felt you had greater talents in promotions rather than the music side of the business. What are some of the talents that you feel separate you from choosing promotions over music?
I can’t say I really chose promotion over music; the word promoter still has so much negativity associated with it, but it’s a job that has to be done. But I love seeing a culture build and grow, regardless of my role.

One thing that sets me apart from other promoters is my ability to hustle promo harder than anyone. I’m in the streets daily doing the hand-to-hand combat of a street team and I’m all up in your social media, taking advantage of automation and machine learning techniques.

I’m also mean in the kitchen and on the barbecue pit. We’ve thrown some mean parties with my gourmet cooking.

This Saturday, October 27, AWAL Presents hosts the 10th anniversary edition of WTFunk? at Rogue Bar in Scottsdale. Any words you wish to share with readers about the event?
I’ve never been a “greedy promoter." If the $15 cover is preventing you from attending, shoot me a message on the social medias and we will work something out. I want everyone who wants to be there to attend, regardless of funds.

I look forward to celebrating with everyone!

WTFunk 10-Year Anniversary Party. With One Be Lo, Casual, and Zman. Saturday, October 27 at Rogue Bar, 423 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale; 480-947-3580; theroguebar.com. Admission is $15 at the door.
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Henri Benard
Contact: Henri Benard