It all started with the question: what would it take to build an independent hip hop community in Arizona.
Dorian Colter, his friend Kyler, and I were sitting in a Smashburger on Baseline in Tempe talking about his music, his plans, and Arizona’s hip hop scene. That’s when the question was posed. At that moment, I didn’t know the answer. Matter of fact, I didn’t know the answer because I hadn’t been paying attention to what Arizona rappers had to offer.
I thought about how I had always known of and listened to a few rappers claiming Arizona as their home base. Mykr Fiend X, who I knew from my childhood, has a song called Back to Life that I know most the lyrics to and which is a go to song on those crummy days. I like every one of Mouse Powell’s albums and even contributed to a fundraiser he had when he was trying to go to Vegas. I think I purchased one of his albums basically – hopefully my $10 went a long way in LV! His song Holding Home should go down in the Arizona Rap Hall of Fame. The video is equally beautiful. Before those two, I followed and saw live Drunken Immortals, Morse Code, Cousins of the Wize, and the Socieity of Invisibles (TSOI). I have a Jawa vinyl single that is mad cool. And, Grime’s Let Freedom Ring with a Buckshot is pure revolutionary, conscious bliss and one of top 100 hip hop albums of all time. I use to attend Blunt Club regularly but I hadn’t gone to any other one except for once at the Yucca Tap Room – I mostly went when it was at this bar near a frontage road, which its name escapes me or else I wouldn’t use such a poor description. So I was paying attention somewhat. But I didn’t know if there was an Arizona hip hop community per se.
Before I tell the story of what happened next, I want to outline what this article sets out to accomplish. The article is going to highlight what my ignorant eyes and ears have learned about hip hop in Arizona. It's going to lay out the websites, podcasts, and radio shows I found and the artists and crews to keep your eye on. It's not, however, going to be an exhaustive list. Researching and discovering Arizona hip hop is a futile process. There is no one place to find everything. There is no one website. If you want to follow Arizona hip hop - then stay tuned to this website and the radio shows, podcasts, websites, and Twitter lists I mention. Flotivity’s goal is to put together an all-encompassing set of places you could go to and keep up on the beautiful rap Arizona has to offer. Or you could just return to this website daily and/or weekly. I love what we’ve found and want to promote and preserve this moment in time and all the rappers out there working tirelessly at their craft.
Now back to Dorian.
Dorian Colter is a young, local rapper who has released a bunch of music that is all dope (find at https://soundcloud.com/doriancolterradio/sets/spring-2016-ep). I first heard about him a couple years ago. One of my former students knew him and knew I liked rap music and so he told me to check him out. I did and it was cool. Cut to the present and that same former student tells me to check out his new stuff. Again, I did and this time I was blown away by his growth. He made and is making very good music.
For some reason, his music, followed by that question, made me want to learn more about the Arizona hip hop community. If somehow, I had missed his music, then who else was out there that I was missing?
In that moment, I wanted to research and find out about the rap music Arizona now offered and whether the current artists had created a scene; whether there was an Arizona hip hop community. So I started with those rappers I know. And the websites I knew about. And I performed Google searches. What I found was not very helpful. I wanted an exhaustive list. I wanted a one-stop shop where someone told me who was out there, what they were doing or had done, and where I could see them live. The QT of Arizona rap did not exist – there was no single place holding Arizona down. The websites that did or do exist promote a small circle of Arizona hip hop artists. This was an important revelation and a revelation I will discuss that hopefully can be rectified soon.
Next, I searched social media. Sites like Twitter and Facebook are great avenues for following rappers but it’s a lot of work; especially when the goal is to follow the entire scene. So I made a list. For a couple months I followed everyone I had a strong belief was an Arizona rapper – whether native born or transplant. My friend Will R. assisted and took to finding rappers’ Youtube accounts. My cousin, BernaB did the same for Instagram. Now there were three of us scouring the most commonly utilized user-media sites to find what was going on with Arizona rap. It took a lot of time and a lot of work. Now I’m not saying this to big up the team’s efforts - I’m saying this to detail how difficult it is to find one state’s rap music when there’s no all-encompassing place to discover it.
After following all the rappers I could find on Twitter and Soundcloud and essentially spending hours researching, I answered my question. I learned that Arizona’s community is small because it’s separated. There’s no cohesion cause its a bunch of small to medium sized circles of individuals, groups, and cliques who mostly operate within their circle. Those circles do not cross and mostly do not touch other circles. The people that follow those rappers only hear about the rappers within that circle. I’m not critiquing – it is perfectly fine. However, might the music spread further faster, maybe virally, when there are more people disseminating that music? Put another way, wouldn’t these sounds reach more people if the circle encompassed the entire state. Make the circle bigger and more people will hear you.
As a result, Will R. and I decided to start Flotivity Media. And we intend to fill a void. Doing so, will help promote the hardworking, talented rappers in Arizona, the shows they are playing, and the music they are making. And in return, we aren’t asking for money from no one. For the last 3 months, while on this venture, I’ve hardly listened to any other music. I love what AZ has to offer and I want to share that with the world.
But that’s enough about us, because our goal, laid out a thousand words ago, is to tell you about the things I found. Here is a non-exhaustive list (please get at us to help me with what I’m missing).
There are a couple websites promoting Arizona rappers. First, there’s Respect the Underground, lead by Cutthroat Logic’s Justus. RTU holds the Arizona Hip Hop Festival, which is a must attend event. We don’t get very many hip hop festivals. Matter of fact, I think this is still the only one. Go. Support an artist or two. Buy tickets directly from them, if you can. The second website is TheLegalTrap.com. The Legal Trap is run by a dude named Bigg Al and he sells merch also. He covers a lot of younger rappers.
Podcasting is huge right now amongst so many segments of society. Here in Arizona, there are actually 5 podcasts promoting Arizona rappers, producers, promoters, and other members of the culture. There is West Coast Wednesdays hosted by DJs Blesd1 and Les735. If you want to hear about the state of AZ hip hop from folks in the know, check out the podcast with Pickster One and Bboy House. Next, there’s 24th Block hosted by Ty Daniels (Profoun) and Ivery Styles. Their convo with TJ Supahype is another good listen for the reasons stated above. Finally there’s The Convo, the Outlet, and the Legal Trap, which has a podcast in addition to the website. All of those podcasts are good listens. You’ll find these dudes are putting in work to help Arizona artists promote themselves. Check out 1, 2, if not all 5 of them.
Next, there’s radio. Radio is great but I have to make one qualm known. Now a days, most people I speak with can’t or don’t reserve time in their day to listen to a radio show. Typically, people want to be able to stream the shows at their convenience. A problem, I realize, for radio but something that needs to be addressed at some point. There’s one radio station that streams live online and on its own app. It’s called RadioSupa. TJ SupaHype, who has done so much for Arizona hip hop, runs it. The station features multiple local dudes hosting radio shows. 24th Block is one show as well as DJ Stude’s Chop Shop Radio. Those shows definitely feature Arizona rappers but I’m not sure if the other shows like Real Radio PHX and Live from Central Ave do. In Chop Shop Radio, you’ll hear a good mix of local and national folks. Last but definitely not least, there’s Rhyme and Reason Radio on 101.1 The Beat. Mattlocks has been holding down independent hip hop in Arizona forever. I’m serious, I mean forever. Listen to his interview on West Coast Wednesdays and hear him explain how long it’s been. Another Arizona hip hop hall of famer right there.
So then there’s the crews. Avenue of the Arts or AOTA have been in the game a long time. So long, the collective have added and lost members. There’s the Society of Invisibles who still do things. Writer’s Guild with international star Mega Ran, Mr. Miranda, RoQy TyRaid, Roknowledge, and MC Pennywise still might get down from time to time, I hope. Those are the building blocks who have been putting in work forever. Lean on those artists, they probably know a thing or two about rap music, the industry, and being an artist in Arizona. The younger dudes are hungry though and they have hustle and swag and they do things their own way. I’m talking about you Valley Life, Mill City, chunkyboys, 1200Worldwide, and Products of Infamy. Those circles are big. And they are only getting bigger. I appreciate the effort and consistency and when people like Christ Castro say he could see them demanding $5k a show – well I believe it. It’s not out of the realm of possibility if they keep working hard.
Most of the rappers and producers in Arizona I speak to feel something is brewing. This is also mentioned on Twitter – everyone feels it. They say people are paying more attention to Arizona hip hop than ever before. Currently in play is 2015-2016 going down as the year the world started taking rappers from Arizona serious. And I almost was going to miss it. Matter of fact, many people could miss it or are missing it. I'm glad I didn't. I have Dorian Colter to thank for that. He’s set these wheels turning, which won’t stop because I love this shit too much. Let’s build….
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