Phoenix-by-way-of-Tucson rapper Jaron Ikner is really over the whole, "me first mentality" in hip-hop culture. Long gone are the days of quality congregations of rappers like that of 90's supercrew Wu-Tang Clan, but it's something the Black One wants to change.
Starting first with his latest record, The Rise, which features a wide range of local MC's and continuing with a new assembly of Arizona rappers he calls the Starstruck Collective.
We caught up with Ikner to talk about his latest release and the promising state of Southwest hip-hop.
Up on the Sun: What's the good word with the Black One?
Black One: The Rise just dropped on Black Friday and I'm currently working with a new project called the Starstruck Collective. It's not really a label or a rap group, but more like a collective of some of the best Tucson artists I could find.
We're pretty much trying to make a movement for Arizona hip-hop. We actually put together a block party in downtown Tucson a couple of weeks back that was very successful. So we're just trying to branch out and trying to make this Arizona hip-hop thing more than just an Arizona thing and take it as far as we can.
So with Starstruck being based out of Tucson, does that mean you've relocated back down there?
I'm actually currently driving down the 51 freeway back to my house as we speak, but my heart is still in Tucson. I'm still involved in the Phoenix hip-hop scene as well, but I'm just trying to be everywhere right now.
I'm in the process of forming a Phoenix-version of Starstruck, but I just haven't found enough artists to make that happen. You'll be seeing that emerge pretty soon.
"When it comes to rappers in general it seems to always be just one man, just one person -- you don't see movements anymore like you did back in the '80s and '90s. Nowadays there's a Jay-Z or a Kanye West, but it's just a singular person, and we're trying to break that mold and shake things up a little bit." -- Black One
What was the catalyst behind the formation of this type of collective?
For me personally, I've always kind of been a lone wolf, but when I first got on the scene I had a collective which consisted of high school friends. That eventually dissolved and I moved on by myself. During that time I've seen artists everywhere trying to get their music out, but not getting enough shine, so I thought the best place to start was there. It seemed the best thing to do would be for all of us to get together and try to make it work.
It's like a brotherhood -- that would be the best way to describe it. If there's a show going on, we have meetings to decide who's the best person for that show and we try to get them on, or if someone has an album coming out, we push for it. For instance, my friend J-Rich just dropped an album called, Ready For The World a couple of weeks ago so we're pushing that pretty heavily and getting it out onto the streets and online. But that's the whole idea behind it. It needs to be about more than just one person.
When it comes to rappers in general it seems to always be just one man, just one person -- you don't see movements anymore like you did back in the '80s and '90s. Nowadays there's a Jay-Z or a Kanye West, but it's just a singular person, and we're trying to break that mold and shake things up a little bit. Very cool. So what's up with The Rise? The last time we spoke you talked about dropping Block House in December. What happened with that release?
That record will probably drop next year in May. The Rise was supposed to be an EP. I already had an EP of six or seven songs called the Cherish EP, and the idea was to make two more EP's. The original plan was to make a mixtape of a collaboration effort, and as time went on it kind of spiraled out of control and got bigger than I thought it would, so I decided to make it a full album.
Yeah, 19 tracks is no joke.
It got kind of crazy. It started out with me sending out some songs to MCs. Some of my favorite MCs are on this album. There's Random, Span Phly, and a lot of Starstruck MCs as well. It started out with me sending out beats, but all of the songs that were returning, all of the verses I was getting back, were really good. So I was like, "let's make an album -- screw it."
The Block House is still going to come out and I'm not going to try and rush that album.
What's a stand out track for you off of The Rise?
Every song on there is special in its own way, but if I had to choose a song it would probably be the title track featuring J. Writing, Span Phly and my girlfriend Camille J. It kind of sums of the album in terms of overall feel.
Both of the verses from Span Phly and J. Writing are just amazing, and I made the beat. I think it's one of the best beats I've made recently. In my opinion the feeling of the song is just epic -- it's on a huge scale, and it's just a good way to sum up the whole album.
There seems to be a recurring theme with your album titles. Your debut album was called Black Sun Rising, and now this one. What's the story behind that?
Originally, Black Sun Rising was supposed to be a three part series called, The Black Sun Saga. That was the plan three years ago when I first started writing for the album. The idea kind of fell off as time went on but it resurged with The Rise.
The thing is, all of these people that are on this album are extremely talented and they all represent southwest hip-hop. There's a lot of eyes on southwest hip-hop thanks to people like Lifted, who produced Kanye West's "Mercy." So I kind of feel like this is the time for Arizona hip-hop to come out and make some noise. There's a lot of talent out there, and people that are making an impact and unique music that needs to be heard.
Any upcoming shows?
I have a charity show coming up for WTFunk Friday with myself, Stacc Styles and Marley B on December 14, and you can get The Rise and J. Rich's Ready For The World on struckbystars.bandcamp.com.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.