Avenue of the Arts has been putting out rap music in Arizona for 10 plus years. So it was obvious to me, when I heard that they were hosting a weekly night at Thirdspace on Grand Avenue, that a dope night of hop hop would ensue. And any one in attendance on June 11 observed just that – dopeness.
The scene at Thirdspace is chill, which is a stark contrast to the energy brought that evening. The outdoor patio, with speakers blasting the sounds from inside, is laidback and seemingly the place to socialize. On the inside, hip hop was happening, in living and breathing form. A simple set up in the front of the room - two turntables on a pop-up table with two speakers bookending - was all AOTA needed to blast the diverse sounds spun by DJs Blesd1 and Les735. Diverse for sure because I heard Will Smith’s Summer Time when I walked in, and Parliament, 2Mex/Busdriver, and Alkaholiks at various times throughout the night. Definitely setting up a scene where if you appreciate underground hip hop and a sampling of universally admired music, then you should check it out.
The real treat, however, was the live music. It was just a smart bill. Slogan kicked things off and in perfect fashion. His highly passionate set – peformed while sitting for the most part, chugging from a one gallon jug of water – set a high bar early. He rapped as if he was pleading for his life in a holding cell at Guantanamo, complete with an appearance from a visible carotid artery.
TSOI – legends of the underground scene – rocked next. The Society of Invisibles DoneOne, Joey Baggs, and a third member stepped up like all large and small TSOI shows I’ve seen – with the earth shattering energy of Greek titans. DoneOne was especially on his game as he focused straightforward, hunched down and spit raw raps.
Finally, Ill Phonix came out and changed the color of the room. Most there were feeling the music without getting overly involved. Ill Phonix came out, talking about spitting personal raps, and heads turned. Eyes focused. Necks bopped. Ekoe and his producer (called a genius by Ekoe) sounded refreshing, new, and unique despite their music being over a decade old.
It could’ve ended there but AOTA artists Cashtue and Mykr Fiend X rocked a short set with assistance from DoneOne. The real standout was a dope version of Cashtue’s Intoxicated. It was a nice little proverbial icing on the New Grand night that left me feeling a little faded from the dope sounds of Arizona rap.