6 Acts You Should See at the 2016 AZ Hip Hop Festival at Comerica Theatre

In its third year, the Arizona Hip Hop Festival is bigger than ever. Who knew that there were 245 separate rap groups in Phoenix, let alone that there was an event that could get them all under one roof? (Check out the lineup here.) Yet that is the promise of the Arizona Hip Hop Festival, happening Saturday, November 19, at Comerica Theatre, which aims to bring together music, art, dance, and culture under one roof for a solid day of local music. This year, Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton issued a proclamation declaring November 19 Hip Hop Day in the city, meaning this year’s festival is happening with the local government’s blessing. In fact, the mayor is slated to give a proclamation at 7 p.m. in the midst of the musical tornado of the festival.

Organized by Justus Samuel of Respect the Underground, one of the Noisemakers honored earlier in the year by New Times, the festival Samuel built from scratch is a pretty impressive organization.

"I saw a need, a void. A black hole of vacancy," he says of why he created the festival. "We had no platform, no structure, no tradition, no ceremony. We were lacking culture and an identity. We had zero focus on what should be done to take it to the next level, and absolutely no ladder to climb to help anyone get there. Only a half a dozen people before this had ever even almost succeeded. Only a couple actually have. I wanted to build something real that the state could be proud of."

But music isn't the only thing on the bill. At least six car clubs will participate in the Lowrider Cruise, for which the festival will close down Washington Street from Central to Seventh Avenue starting at 5 p.m. Artists will get the opportunity to put their music in front of record label reps from Def Jam, Roc Nation, and Element. There's also an open mic and something called "BeatStreet," where rappers and producers can network and trade beats and rhymes.

The lineup is massive. But here are six acts you should certainly not miss.

Odd Squad Family

It's hard to deny the uplifting spirit of Odd Squad Family.  N.U.B.S., Snowman, and A-Factor bring a positive outlook to their music, spinning tales of overcoming odds and making progress in the face of adversity. Plus the group has released a Youtube video of N.U.B.S., who has no hands, rolling a blunt. Ah, the power of the human mind.

Vee Tha Rula

When Vee Tha Rula recorded his first mixtape, he was living in a factory that didn't have heat or air conditioning or protection from pests. Now, he's signed to Kid Ink's Alumni Music Group. His From the Jump mixtape, which he released this year, made some small waves nationally, based off the strength of songs like "Infinity" and "Gang," which features his label boss Kid Ink.

Twisted Insane

Part of Twisted Insane's image is to appear like there's something slightly unstable about him, and there's definitely some sort of psycho-horror-movie vibe coming from all his music videos. But his flow is quick and smooth, and the frequent Tech N9ne collaborator has earned a solid following after starting out homeless and selling mixtapes on the street for food money. When Hiphopdx.com asked Tech N9ne about Twisted Insane's verse on Tech's 2013 song "So Dope (They Wanna)," Tech replied, "Twisted Insane just came and spit over everybody like, ‘What the fuck?’ It’s massive, man.”

Cryptic Wisdom

Mixing storytelling and singing, Tucson's Cryptic Wisdom makes sensitive, personal hip-hop that reaches out to the outcasts and the rejects of the world. His autobiographical songs deal with being bullied, heartache, and personal growth, sending the message to the suffering that they are not alone.

We named Dela Preme's mixtape from earlier this year, The Rise of the Black Lion, as one of the best local hip-hop releases of the year, and for good reason. Fast and cutting lyrically, the mixtape is filled with clever wordplay and hard trap production. "Get Go" is a certified banger and is not to be missed. Watch out for Dela Preme; he's one of the city's most intriguing rising rappers.

Shining Soul
This band made a name for itself by making fiery, politically charged rap songs. The group returned this year with Politics Aside, an album featuring local musicians like Camille Sledge of Phoenix Afrobeat Orchestra and rappers Nefftys, Mr Miranda, and MegaRan. The group focused on amping up the soulful production and aimed to inspire people more to dance rather than to activate — and if the latter comes as a result to the former, all the better.