On Wednesday, one of the most successful Arizona hip-hop artists, Random (a.k.a. Mega Ran), spent the better half of the day fielding phone calls in regard to the "diss track" he released as an April Fools' Day joke.
The track consisted of a menacing beat that built up as Mega Ran called out a few artists. As the song peaked, Random aired his grievances with Arizona hip-hop and the song suddenly shifted to Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up." That's right, Mega Ran rick-rolled us all.
The local hip-hop community lost its collective mind. Garnering more than 3,000 plays in less than 24 hours, many people shared and commented on the track. Some played along with the joke, while others salivated, waiting for the day that someone as highly regarded as Random would mention their name. (New Times got in on the fun, too.) The response has been uncanny: It is very rare that the Arizona hip-hop community collectively supports an artist, whether it's a joke or not. So why did this particular song cause so much ruckus? The answer boils down to local community's affinity toward "beef" and "drama."
The local trend in AZ hip-hop is releasing diss track toward figures prominent in the scene and have a powerful voice. This has happened on numerous occasions in 2015 alone -- already, we have already several diss tracks fly in various directions in a thinly veiled attempt to gain publicity, namely social media friends and likes.
The hilarious (or sad) thing about this process is that is actually seems to be working for the creators of diss tracks: Social media posts related to the tracks typically see mountains of comments and likes in a short time. It is clear that the interest in "beef" is undeniable, but what does that say about AZ hip-hop when we can barely scrounge up support for artists on a positive note? Is it fair that Random's fake diss track probably got just as much, if not more, attention as Kyle Collins' Destroyer release? Why don't we see the same type of frenzy over positive movements in our scene?
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Mega Ran's release touches upon something deeper than just diss tracks. He easily is one of the most respected, talented, and successful artists gracing the burgeoning Arizona scene. This only complements his demeanor: Random is one of the nicest guys you will ever meet. His image isn't the traditional urban rapper that spins tales of violence and drugs but rather one of heartfelt tales and insightful lyrics. This made his prank that much more effective. Many hoped, that as one of the true leaders of the scene, Random would have provided the "end all, be all" lyrical cleanse of the AZ hip-hop: If Random of all people is making a diss track, then things must be serious, right? When the joke hit, many thought it was genius, mainly because the statement behind the track rang loudly.
As the year continues, it will be interesting to see who else decides to release or support negative tinged music toward other local artists. Random's April Fools' joke, while funny, still shined a startling light on the mind state of the scene: beef sells. If the scene cannot rise above and show the same support -- or better yet, more support -- for artists who truly are shining light on this state, then it will never become the scene that it desires to be.
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