2017 was supposed to be an incredible year for Arizona’s hip hop music scene. It was a really, really, really, really, good year but it did not reach incredible. Sure certain artists blew up but overall the scene did not. Trinidad Cardona’s Jennifer video did 10 millions views. Injury Reserve and Futuristic continue to harbor national attention. Trap House and Isaiah garnered the eyes of a worldwide audience because of their feel good story and music. Odd Sqaud Family’s videos blew up on Facebook and YouTube, Les735 battled for the DMC crown in New York City, and Derez and YNot are slowly becoming two of the dopest names in the battle rap arena.
The scene, as a whole, has not gained national traction. There are many reasons why. I would get into them but then this post would take a negative tone. I don’t want that. Nor do I want the people in this scene to continue to feed the hate and negativity. Here’s the thing, if someone is hating on you – good! It means they’re upset. You probably caused it with your success. Keep doing what you did to be successful. Don’t stop to give the hate your attention.
Overall though, there was so much good stuff that happened this year. I decided to document it the only way I know how. Here’s another list of dope shit I enjoyed and/or thought was cool. Also, at the bottom is a list of some of my favorite EPs from this year. It’s a somewhat subjective, but mostly objective list. I did not take into account numbers so yeah it’s mostly subjective. If you want someone in this state to start being objective, you gotta pay them and I’m good. I’m not trying to profit off this. I just want to write about what I like. That’s why also in 2018, Flotivity will no longer be focused on just Arizona rap.
Just kidding, I’ll still focus on Arizona heavy. I think being a blog and podcast focused on just Arizona hip hop limits its reach. It’s like the AZ scene is a small town on top of plateau and no one can see us from below or from beyond on other hills. The artists here need to get out there and visit these other places and let people know they are here. I’ll send word far and wide and let people know the music here is comparable to anywhere. The artists here can go national. I should be writing about the incredible music being made here on the same level as dope music being made elsewhere. It’s just as fucking good and creative.
Finally it bears repeating, if I didn’t fuck with an artist in 2017, it’s not because I was hating, I like what I like and that’s what I want to talk about. And here’s what I liked in 2017.
Arizona’s Rap Scene has a Heart
Trap House and Isaiah – Learn to Fly
This story garnered worldwide attention, even making that Star Trek dude’s blog and hitting a million plus views, and for good reason. Trap House is a local rapper. Isaiah is a local rap fan (seriously I followed his Instagram before he and Trap did their thing and he was always at rap shows getting his IG popping). Isaiah also was born without the ability to speak but he loved writing raps. Enter Trap House who decides to make an album rapping the lyrics Isaiah wrote, essentially lending his voice for Isaiah’s words. Yeah, it was that dope and beautiful.
Charitable Giving and Shows
It would be too many to name, which is a good thing, but this year I saw a lot of flyers for shows and events with charitable elements embedded. Jaron Ikner held a sock drive. Ramses Ja continues to do his #hashtaglunchbag event. 30 Spice // Simply Damon asked patrons to donate to Houston at one of his shows. And there were a bunch of others. Sorry I didn’t name you all but shout out to all those who asked for donations and who donated at a rap show this year. You all are the real MVPs and at the end of the day, a life of significance is more important than a life of success.
Hardest Working yet Still Underrated List
Each one of these individuals were very busy this year, and probably not given their proper due. Even by us here at Flotivity. We’re sorry. We (heart emoji) you. And it’s not like they just worked hard, they’re all dope artists as well.
This year Damon put out a couple mixtapes and an album and a video. We really only fucked with No Chasers Vol. 1. Damon deserved more attention this year for his hard work and dope music. You should really do us a favor and go check his music cause it’s smooth.
Arza is a social media God. I sometimes wonder if he’s taking LSD at 6 in the morning cause he’ll post some of the most woke, inspirational quotes and sayings at that time. Addtionally, he’s been producing a lot. Whether it’s stuff he’s doing with NSD or with Y2, on the Mixtape Wayne series, Arza pumps out lots of healthy goodness.
Trip Rexx has quietly put together a solid 2017 without any complaining. Mad respect to this man. His Rav4 video was dope and sadly, regrettably left off our 2017 Best of list. He did a mixtape with Chaz Ultra from Colorado. And he released the Swear to God album which perfectly illustrates this dude’s laidback, cool vibes.
Profoun the Poet
In addition to running a dope studio called DigiLabs, this rapper released 52 songs in 2017. And a couple videos. His goal to release an original song a week for an entire year was accomplished and we think that’s pretty incredible.
Here’s another hard working dude, who barely gets any shine. Blaze Rock is a gruff and monsterous lyricist who put out one album every month. He also went on tour with Mister Riot, Blesd1, and Ohm.
The blogger at WeAreBugginOut Royal.Cortez should be given his proper due. This dude was a maniacal blogger this year, pumping out a ton of content about Arizona. For real though, it seemed every day he was posting two pieces. Mad respect to that guy, even if we are a little bit jealous he’s not part of our team.
The Phoenix, by way of New Orleans, rapper released so many tracks and features this year, we honestly couldn’t keep up. His best was when he and Aye One dropped a track called For 40k just a couple hours after the story dropped about two chicks selling that P to a Sugar Daddy for 40k.
Jaron Ikner/Black One
What doesn’t this dude do? He’s a producer, rapper, journalist, promoter, videographer, constant Facebook poster, and more. He’s released videos, tracks, albums, compilations albums, and thrown shows in Phoenix and Tucson. He makes annual rap lists and then defends them vigorously on Facebook. He was an assistant on a yet to be released feature film directed by Iroc Daniels. This dude has been everywhere this year and yet still hasn’t reached his own goals, it seems. I’m exhausted after writing all that.
You’ve heard of Futuristic, Odd Sqaud Family, and Seven Trill, right??? The man behind them all who had something to do with their success is AKT Aktion. He’s a producer and master marketer. His Facebook page, which is updated daily with rap videos and other hip hop content has 338,000 followers. He’s not really a fan of the younger generation, and we’ll forgive him for that. But if you’re lucky enough to get your video featured on his page, you can expect it to get a thousand views or so. Plus behind the scenes, he’s given his time to many other artists and people. The man is tireless in his effort to promote what he believes is dope shit. And as you can see with those he’s worked with, it’s paid off.
The Return of the Cypher
Years ago, Thaahum (Rest in Peace – AZ lost a dope dude this year) and others were releasing Arizona cyphers. They were a dope glimpse of who’s working out there. This year was the return as Under Society, Gldn Artists Group, and the Nice show all released cyphers.
Under Society was super busy releasing eight cyphers in 2017. The best of the best was the one with Cuzn’ It, BLK LLAMA, KY Sluggah, and Black Atom. Literally, as I’m finishing this piece he (Dylan Toon is Under Society, if you’re still confused at all) just released one with Jalopy Bungus, Ardy Reapz, Toure Masters, and Jay Wop. The consistency and selections on each make the cyphers dope but we’re definitely looking forward to the diversity 2018 brings.
Gldn Artist Group
The Gldn Artist Group is hands down the pound for pound dopest collective of emcees in AZ. Jae Tilt, Marley B., Cash Lansky, Tommy Will, and YNot are all top notch spitters. This cypher features all them in white sands leaving bloody bodies out in the desert.
The Nice Director
Garin Chadwick and 20 Pounds (Jalopy Bungus, Pariah Pete, JD, and Ma$terMind) were responsible for a lot of dope content this year. This cypher features the youngin’s with a future as bright as the colors in the video doing their thing. For me, this video will always be memorable because it’s when Jalopy proclaimed he was “Top 5 in Az, ain’t gotta remind me” for the entire State to hear.
Whether you like Justus, or hate Pike, or vice versa, these dudes were behind incredible festivals this year and you played yourself by not being there. The reason – they brought some of the best artists in AZ out to rock. But these weren’t the only festivals fucking with AZ rappers. Dusk Festival had Lando Chill. Viva Phx had the Guild bois rocking the main stage. Gold Rush Fest had Dann G and Injury Reserve. And Lost Lake had Futuristic. Out of state festivals had Marley B., Cash Lanksy, and Headlock on the bill. People are starting to take note of what AZ has to offer. Hopefully 2018, the AZ representation on festivals maintains.
Best Lists (lists of my favorite shit from 2017 – don’t like it or you disagree, let’s discuss in the comments or @ me on Twitter – I fuck with dialogue and convos)
Best Crew Compilations
Avenue of the Arts – self titled
These dudes have been around for so long rocking stages and mics. So when a black CD with just their logo popped up out of nowhere in the summer of 2017, I got pretty pumped to hear it. It didn’t disappoint. It had a TSOI/AOTA collaboration track. It had Jon Humble and Cashtue doing old school Central Products shit. And it had the rest of the crew with their heavy handed flows and fine tuned deliveries doing that pure emcee rap shit.
Products of Infamy – heat.WAV
Products of Infamy are one of my favorite crews it Phoenix. You got all these folks who just love hip hop. They rap, they sing, they breakdance, they make beats, and they probably got graffiti artists too. Their music though is on a needle point sharp. The production and engineering is always clean. Lyrically, they got no slouches. Products of Infamy are now 2 for 2 for me, since they have this one and Parallel Souls, which was their previous release.
VBLN (Vibe Lane) – In Vibes We Trust
All the love VBLN gets, they earned. First of all In Vibes We Trust has head nodders like Concentration and smooth cuts like Castles and poolside chilling tracks like Summer2016. Second, they released a bunch of videos showcasing its members. You could find them rocking some show almost every weekend. Then they threw their own shows with the Stay Healthy/Stay Hydrated series at the Valley Bar. Recently named a crew to watch in 2018 by the Phoenix New Times and based on all this, it was 100% deserved.
Starstruck Complation – When the Stars Fell
We’ve already mentioned Black One once here. Starstruck is his brainchild. Starstruck isn’t so much a crew as much as it’s a collective of artists Black One thinks are dope. In November, the collective released a compilation, which is also part of a multi-media event/multiverse Black One has created. The tracks that standout include Into Diamonds, Hotter Than… featuring Marley B., and Edge featuring 24KJake.
Combine Vibes - Incognito EP
I’m still not sure who is in Combine Vibes. I know they’re from Tucson and they like Vicente Fernandez and Narcos, or at least two or their seven tweets are about this. With laid back deliveries, boom bap beats and references to Mexican culture, they made a dope album.
BLKLLAMA - 101
I can no longer find this album on Soundcloud. We talk about it on the FloCast episode 39 and drop some tracks including one of my favorite from 2017 called Hotdotnuss.
Injury Reserve - Drive It Like It’s Stolen
Reviewed by everyone from Complex to the needle drop, Injury Reserve is critically acclaimed and busy making a name for themselves with fresh lyrics and authentic beats. I am still hoping they end up on some festivals this year.
Dali - Apathy: My Last Goodby
Here’s another album I broke down on the FloCast (#45). It’s a great story filled with touching and memorable moments.
Syrin - 5706
FloCast 57 detailed this album. Syrin made a beautiful album that sounds like it invokes the passion of Ella Fitzgerald in a modern sound.
Catmint$ Q and Splash Fuego – Strawberry Glocktarts
Ahhhh, I remember the days that I couldn’t understand Catmint$ Q and Splash Fuego and then this EP came out and made my world colorful and interesting again.
THEEDESTINATION - Even after all the drugs, I overdosed on sorrow
Clocking in at under 10 minutes, this is a short story of emotion and deep brooding that is captivating for every second.
Doddy Gatz - The Path of War
Chillin’ in the Cadillac cruising down Central with 12s thumping in the back music. Tenngage and Doddy Gatz know each other well. Both are throwbacks to an era when gangsta rap ruled over hip hop.
Rubix and the Resistance - Stranger EP
Hands down the funnest and most unique rap album this year. It’s part 80s hair rock, part electronic banger, all synthy goodness. The great thing about Rubix is he’s not afraid to experiment.
FloCast number 59 we discuss this vision of phoenix cultura on top of Premonist bangers.
EZ Goin - Black Heart
EZ Goin is hands down one of the dopest singer/rappers in AZ. His music is accessible and easy to sing along to. There are some of the nicest moments on this EP for fans and the like to relate.
Headlock - Gang Nativity
The shred rap group with IllSlur as emcee and Tricertop dropping beats that sound like your speakers just blew and skateboard parts being made are dope. This EP makes me want to write sentences that don’t make sense grammatically.
Damon Logan – No Chase Vol. 1 EP
Teddy Oso beats sound like Arizona summers. Damon Logan sounds like he has chilled in a few front yards in his life enjoying the AZ warmth. Check MJ for an illustration of what I’m talking about.
Lord RA - Stay Happy
With a voice and soul like a old head, Lord Ra can spit. But it’s his youthful exuberance that makes tracks like Trees and Boats so fire.
Album I Missed 2018
Woodro - 2000
This is actually a full album. One of three Woodro put out last year. Woodro is hands down one of the dopest rappers in AZ. This album perfectly exemplifies that. Im bummed I messed up and didn’t put it on the Top 25 albums from 2017.
So it goes here. To check the rest of my favorite albums from 2017 list, go to twitter @flotivitymedia. Follow while you’re there. It was fun doing this. If I brought any artist one more listen or listener than I succeeded.
Thanks to the readers and listeners and followers and people submitting music. I love you all.