The dust has settled on the 6th Annual Arizona Hip Hop Festival. The sixth rendition of the biggest independent festival in existence took place last week on November 15th, 16th and 17th. So many things can be said about this year‘s event and we will do our best to give you the rundown in case you missed any of it or you just want to relive the glory that was the 6th Annual Arizona Hip Hop Festival. First off we need to start off by saying thank you to all those involved with putting the Arizona Hip Hop Festival together. From the crew that worked the event and made it flow smoothly all the way up to Justus Samuel, the Mayor of Phoenix, Ana Bustamonte, Bag of Tricks, and everyone connected to Respect The Underground; thank you very much. The Hip Hop scene in Arizona has seen a huge surge in attention over the past year. While it’s notoriety is not on a level that is commiserate with the talent that resides in the scene, it’s clear that their has been substantial growth and movement. With Lyrical Lemonade, Everyday Struggle and other mainstream media outlets acknowledging the impact and talent that resides in Arizona, you would expect the Arizona Hip Hop Festival to match that energy. They matched it and elevated the expectations yet again.
A third day was added to accommodate the demand for a plethora of artists in the LGBTQ+ community to be able to showcase their talents and represent Arizona Hip Hop. This was a great step to help create yet another platform for artists to express themselves similarly to efforts that allowed for religious expression for artists with The Church Of The Underground at the festival on Sunday. The Friday leading into the festival saw Stacy’s playing host to the newly added third day and set a great tone for the next two days.
When you entered the festival at The Pressroom in downtown Phoenix, Arizona there was a distinct streamlined feeling to the layout with the artist check-in and box office tents, LED schedule board, and map of the festival on full display. You proceeded informed and prepared and this was a great first impression the 15,000+ that attended the festival this year. The food trucks were placed throughout the festival with a food court type of arrangement around stage A. The food was by far the best selection the festival has had to offer. From The always popular Mr. Wonderful’s Chicken & Waffles, gyros from Tzikii and Kingpin BBQ to the delicious festival favorites funnel cakes or elotes and more. There was really something for all tastebuds.
Food wasn’t the only thing people were consuming at the festival this year. Many local businesses set up shop to sell their products or services. Recording studios, clothing brands, wellness products and a myriad of new and exciting entrepreneurs were on full display with quality and quantity alike. Drinks were served outside and inside of the pressroom with four peaks being the featured brand. The bartenders were all courteous and quick and the security staff were diligent and respectful wall maintaining a safe environment for everyone. With stages set up throughout the festival and sectioned off as to not interfere with other artists performances it helped fans and performers engage with each other while providing a lot to offer and interact with as well. The art walk gets better every year and this year allowed for a more interwoven treatment of such a key element to Hip Hop culture. The artists were at their best crafting Tupac and Joker murals live while inviting onlookers to converse with them. It was a beautiful sight to see such incredible art come to life before your eyes.
The sponsors did it big this year. Events.com, Select, and Tru Med Dispensary amongst others had interactive booths with prizes, games, samples and product demos with all the information you could ever want. You could take a CBD dab and walk away with some free merch or sign up to have Events.com host your next event and play some corn hole while you’re at it. Monster Energy provided a stage with sponsored dancers and a breakdancing floor for festival goers to showcase their own moves. iKON Radio had an interview booth for photo ops where you you could plug in the mic they provided and interview yourself or a friend. The giant 420 sign provided by Select was a true highlight of this year’s layout and will go down as one of the calling cards from this year. AZ Greenlife also had their bus and dancers in full effect to help bring some of their green energy to the festival.
The biggest question mark for almost every festival is the artist lineup. If Flog Gnaw isn’t a classic example of that, and albeit a very specific situation, it still lends credence to the notion that we are getting festival spoiled. The fans aren’t going to just be happy with merely the existence of a festival anymore, they want a good festival with artists they love and support. Justus saw this coming a mile away and to his credit he contacted Futuristic before last year’s festival so he could get the hottest hip hop artist to ever come out of Arizona on stage at the Arizona Hip Hop Festival. Futuristic confirmed this during his performance. He let everyone know that he was touring during previous year’s festivals and didn’t want to miss out on it again so he planned his tour this year around the festival so he could be back home to headline. Thank you for doing that Futuristic. You expect a good performance from headlining artists but his infectious energy and precise delivery don’t suffer despite those two elements being hard to coexist together. How do you balance a book on your head while you’re running? That’s the amazing and beautiful balancing act he pulled off. His set was everything you’d want an artist of his caliber to be an then some. With crowd surfing, crowd dunking and crowd interactions being staples of his performances, Futuristic went all out adding personal stories, fan rap-a-longs and an intimate guitar driven-chandelier lit send off to close the show. He allowed fans to freestyle over the guitar riffs while he signed autographs at his merch table. Again this was everything you’d want from an artist of his caliber and then some. And again, thank you for doing that Futuristic.
The entire lineup was filled with heavy hitting artists like Desert Baby, Dropout Kings, J.Rob The Chief, Brown Boyz, Dann G, Dela Preme, Deebo Lotti Maserati, Smeared Lipstick Crew, Kris King, Lita Lee, Mega Ran, Vonni G, KT Gipson, Jalopy Bungus, Delly Everyday, Joseph Bills, Vee The Rula, RoQy TyRaiD, Pariah Pete, A-Train, DirtSquad, Jimmy Torres, Bank Mills, D. Carter & Talika, Kyle Burkett, Jahnay Star, Whitt Tucker, Miss V, Ambition, and On Air League amongst others bringing some of their best performances to the stages this year.
The stages were managed superbly and the DJs kept the crowds moving and entertained in between artists. Emerg McVay effortlessly and not so surprisingly stole the show every time he uttered any words into the mic while managing stage A. That stage also happened to be the place where the real highlight of the weekend took place. A tribute to Tikey Patterson, a.k.a. Trap House, brought many to tears and saw the entire festival captivated by a release of doves and a moment of recognition for everything Trap House. Isaiah Acosta performed alongside Justus in honor of Trap House and the energy was magical. You could feel the joy radiating from Isaiah Acosta when he heard Trap House’s voice, the voice of the man that made it possible for Isaiah to have one too.
Every Arizona Hip Hop Festival ends with that predictable question; what are they going to do next year? The bar was raised really high this time around. The stages were better, the layout was better, the artists and their performances were better, the food and vendors were at their best, and most importantly it was a real celebration of independent Hip Hop music and a celebration of the Hip Hop community that exists in Arizona. Futuristic said it best when he let the crowd know that he’s been all across the country and no other state has a festival like the Arizona Hip Hop Festival. We are very lucky to have a constantly growing and evolving event the allows fans and artists to come together and celebrate all things Hip Hop. Thank you Respect The Underground and everyone who makes this festival happen every year. We wouldn’t be the same without it.
by: Steven Sandage