President Trump’s visit to the Valley may have been the talk of the week, but in the hip-hop world there was some serious controversy involving Phoenix’s longtime hip-hop station, KKFR Power 98.3 & 96.1.
Phoenix citizens may have noticed during their commute that a billboard on I-17 North near Jomax Road included a satirical logo of the long-running local hip-hop station Power that read, “Power doesn’t care about AZ Hip-Hop.”
The billboard was replaced by Respect the Underground, a record label and entertainment consulting firm that runs the annual Arizona Hip-Hop Festival in downtown Phoenix. In addition to the sign, rapper Bag of Tricks Cat released a diss track aimed at the local station on Facebook, including lines like "If you get a spin / It's going to be at 1 a.m. / because Power doesn't care about us."
JustUs Samuel, CEO of Respect the Underground, revealed the reasoning behind the billboard on a local podcast, Mat Mania Podcast, and through a video on the company's Facebook page.
“When I say Power doesn’t care about AZ hip-hop, I’m not calling out any one individual," Samuel said on the podcast. "I’m calling out the last 10 years of behavior.”
Samuel bemoaned the decrease in specialty shows focusing on local music, such as Street Heat of the Week and Friday Night Flavors, attributing the decline to the departure of former program director Karli Hustle.
“It was a beautiful time to be a part of Arizona hip-hop,” Samuel said.
Samuel believes that the station, which is not owned by a major chain such as iHeartMedia (KKFR is owned by Riviera Broadcast Group, which owns two other Phoenix-area stations and keeps corporate offices in Las Vegas) and supposedly has more freedom in terms of choosing rotation, could be the driving force behind the cultivation of a unique Arizona hip-hop sound. Despite this, Samuel said, Power makes the conscious decision to not play local records.
Phoenix New Times called Power for a response on why they don't play certain tracks.
“Here we don’t play every artist, and I’m going to be honest,” says Connie Banks, a radio host for Power and producer of the show Ground Zero, which features local acts, “I love hip-hop and I’m supportive of local artists. If you’re not good, you’re not coming.”
Banks emphasized that the station does care about Arizona hip-hop, but they are a business and if they feel a local rapper's song isn’t up to par, they will not run it. “You have to put in work to get to where you want to go. How could they say this? There’s a lot of artists that feel entitled, but they have to put in the work."
During his appearance on Mat Mania Podcast, Samuel gave examples of local artists making waves in the music industry he felt were being ignored. He name-dropped the rapper Futuristic, who featured on the song "Hold Each Other" by A Great Big World; the song's video has nearly 3 million views on YouTube. He also mentioned Delly Everyday, who is currently releasing a song daily.
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“Why is he not on the morning show every morning at 7 a.m. debuting the song he did yesterday? Or breaking songs live?” Samuel said. “You don’t care. You don’t care about us. You don’t care about me you don’t care about the community. You don’t care if anybody really makes it, 'cause it doesn't put any money in your pocket."
That being said, has Power been doing anything to help the hip-hop scene in Phoenix? Besides Ground Zero, Banks also alluded to other efforts from the team. Jezuz, a DJ for the station, holds a “Freestyle Friday” segment to feature local rappers, posting clips on social media. Samuel doesn't seem satisfied by this, however.
"So you’re telling me out of 365 days a year and 50-plus weekends, you guys only play two hours of local music a month?” he said on the podcast.
Perhaps changes are on the way. Following the posts, the station promoted a Saturday call-in segment called "Saturday Night Spit Session," where local MCs can freestyle.