Phoenix's Top 10 Local Hip-Hop MCs

As our readers have pointed out before, "Top 10" lists are subjective. The list that follows is our take on the ten best hip-hop MCs in the Valley. But since there are dozens and dozens of rappers in the PHX, we're sure to leave somebody's favorite out. Heck, we've even got one artist on here that was famous before he ever moved to the Valley. Feel free to kill us in the comments section, after peeking at our choices for...

Phoenix's Top 10 Local Hip-Hop MCs (in no particular order):

photo by Vincent P

1. Roca Dolla: Roca Dolla's been a force in local hip-hop for more than a decade. His label, 5Fith Coast Records, has released albums by some of the Valley's hottest new hip-hop artists, but Roca Dolla's own lyrical flows still bury them all. His latest album, the double-CD Roca Is a Classic, shows his musical diversity, as he raps around old school soul beats, R&B hooks, and sinister-sounding synthesizers.

2. Justus: One half of hip-hop duo Cut Throat Logic, MC Justus has been the most vocal MC about his Arizona pride. Even when he's sharing a stage with hip-hop legend KRS-One, or having KRS cut a flow for his solo album, Born Justus, Justus never forgets where he comes from, encouraging his audiences to "Get Your A'z Up."

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3. Emerg McVay: The longtime host of the "Blunt Club" weekly (now at Club Red in Tempe), McVay also acheived recognition for his work with rap/rock fusion outfit Bionic Jive. McVay's got a sharp wit and a skill for freestyle, but it's his larger-than-life local persona that keeps him hot on the scene.

4. Vocab Malone: Malone may be a "Christian rapper," but there's nothing light or flaky about his rhymes. Many MCs rap like soldiers heading into battle, and Malone's no different. But instead of rapping about guns and hos, Malone raps about God and goodness.

5. Willy Northpole: The man who signed to Ludacris' Disturbing Tha Peace Records made our cover just before the 2008 Super Bowl because of his super-hot lyrical flows and hooks. Despite not breaking out as big as his mentor (Ludacris), Northpole's got heaps of talent and plenty of time to make good on the promise of being Phoenix's "next big thing."

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6. Grime: Half-Pakistani MC Grime is perhaps the most provocative MC in the Valley. His lyrics are heavy on the social and political tips, and his passionate anger toward the establishment is almost palpable at his shows, where he often riles the audience into a spirited frenzy.

7. Pokafase: Before ArtistDirect had the bottom fall out of its finances, Pokafase was set to release a stellar self-titled album on the label. His songs brim with catchy beats, off-the-hook hooks, and lyrical flows that would make most other Valley MCs run for a dictionary and some sunglasses.


8. DMX:
Yes, we know DMX was born in Baltimore and raised in New York, but he's raised enough hell in Arizona that we think we should be able to claim him. Even though his Cave Creek home is for sale, there's still the chance (court dates pending) that DMX will remain in Arizona for many years, behind bars.


9. Young Hot Rod: Signed to 50 Cent's G-Unit Records, Young Hot Rod has the looks and the lyrical flows to pull off a national hit. He should have had one with the 2007 single "Be Easy" (which featured a hook sung by Mary J. Blige), but that didn't happen. And his debut album for G-Unit is finished, with no release date in sight. Still, you can't knock Hot Rod's potential, no matter how unrealized at this point.

photo by Matt Garcia

10. Atllas: Atllas, the self-proclaimed "King of AZ," has done a lot. He's been on MTV (on an episode of Made in 2006), he's opened for the likes of The Roots, P. Diddy, and Xzibit, and he's been featured in both The Source and XXL magazines.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea