The Era of Arizona: Welcome to the Best Time to be an Arizona Music Fan

By: Jacob Blieu

What’s the best thing about no one expecting anything from you?

You can do whatever the hell you want.

This is the mentality surrounding the Arizona music scene – not something most people picture when conjuring images of the Grand Canyon State. However, amidst the desert sands and thorny arms of aging saguaros, is a bubble that’s been growing steadily for years; when it pops there will be a world of music released from those least expected.

When looking out over the Arizona scene following the increasing successes of its inhabitants, such as the experimental Hip-Hop group Injury Reserve and Pop sensation Kailee Morgue, resident spitter Jawyop feels, “…we’re really onto something out here, like it’s not really talk anymore – artists are starting to show. However, this is a game of building bridges and paving lanes and the reality of it is, the bridge takes time to be built but SOMEBODY has to see the other side first…

And just like Wop, people everywhere are starting to see the other side of this new land of musical pioneers.

Known mainly for our involvement in the Punk world, Hip-Hop music was initially pushed to the edges of the musical infrastructure in Arizona. It wasn’t until after finding its place in pockets around Central Phoenix and Tucson that a light was shined on the scene through the efforts of early figures like rapper Vee Tha Rula and radio personality Bootleg Kev. Working together to spread Vee’s music, they helped show what could be accomplished in their world. This lack of a base at the start left every lane open and with no established regional sound to draw from, Arizona artists have had to dig into themselves to create something from scratch, leading to artists flying in every direction possible. Over time, and with the help of more people, like Pike Romero and Jocelyn Valencia of the Tucson Hip-Hop Festival or Xander Garcia of NuPlaylist, the scene has started to organize into something ready to take the next step.

Where there was once nothing, there is now a structure for these budding talents to truly make a name for themselves. Whether coming from a more lyrically-minded, traditional Hip-Hop background such as undeniable lyricists Jalopy Bungus or Emmitt Dupree, inspired by the Emo/Alt styling of the early SoundCloud era such as Pink Cig or Saiah, or seeping into Arizona’s pocket of R&B/Pop tinged vocalists including Dali and Rahema Alameda, there’s no shortage of power coming from this young and hungry wave of artists ready for their shot. The real difference though, between this newly birthed scene and those like it around the country is the spirit that permeates throughout. Arizona has always been a “get it done yourself” kind of place, and that cowboy energy has led to these talented young men and women to do their thing – booking and selling out their own shows, organizing within their own community, creating a family out of the artists and fans that make up their own scene.

Never truly having their own place at the table, they simply decided to build one for themselves.

As with all emerging scenes, it’s more pressing now than ever for these musicians to continue to grow, and as more opportunities arise, support and perseverance will be the most important elements for them to embrace as they reach for the top. Lil QWERTY captured it best:

“I feel like the scene out here is reminiscent of the gold rush… everybody knows this is one of the last big ‘untapped markets’ so everybody feels equally entitled to the top. A gift and a curse.”

A gift and a curse indeed, but the chance to strike gold only comes once in a lifetime.