Spawning from the potent mixture of sperm and eggs deposited during the mid-’90s at Skrappy’s (an erstwhile downtown Tucson youth collective), “artists like Big Meridox, Jivin' Scientists, and James Ciphurphace were paving the way before I was even there,” says musician/writer/promoter Black One (aka Jaron Ikner) giving props and providing some history about the early days of Tucson’s hip-hop scene.
Black One performed─along with more than 100 acts, rappers, b-boys, emcees, DJs, producers, graffiti artists and educators─this past Saturday night as part of the Tucson Hip Hop Festival 2017, a massive and inclusive celebration founded in 2015 by organizer Pike Romero, presented this year by UA’s College of Humanities’ Africana Studies program and the Rialto Theatre.
“The Hip Hop scene [took off] at Vaudeville Cabaret, then moved to Club Congress, The District Tavern, and now it's at Mr. Head's every second Saturday,” says Black One, adding, “The scene has become much more community-based with more camaraderie and respect amongst artists. My night, Chronicles, was pretty vital. We did that for nine years and featured not only local [hip-hop] artists, but artists from across the country.”
As for the future of Arizona hip-hop, Black One says, “I think that we will always have great artists come out of the Tucson scene. We already have some of the best in the country and that will continue.”
This year’s jam packed Fest offered a full-blown representation of all aspects of hip-hop culture in the Old Pueblo. Here are but a few highlights from the main stage.
Street Blues Family
Delivered a sophisticated chilled-out set─influenced by neo-soul, jazz, and R&B—with melodic saxophone lines, textural keyboards and pristine Telecaster guitar riffs held together by an in-the-pocket rhythm section. Lead singer Reymon Murphy at one point explained to the crowd, “It’s about letting this bullshit go …”
A Tucson transplant, by way of Sacramento, was on fire bouncing off of invisible stage walls—trench-coated!—delivering a slammin’ set thick with raw energy and fierce beats. (By the way, Jaca Zulu’s ’16 EP Signals
is available on SoundCloud.)
“How many of you enjoy weed in here?” Marley B asked the audience. “I need a smoke break.” “Smoke Break” is a song off his latest album. And smoke he did, in a wicked set joined on stage by Lando Chill, Johnny Redd, Jaca Zulu and Cash Lansky. Marley B is promoting his new album Grow.
Wearing slender hips, jeans, Lando Chill confidently took the stage. It was effortless. His t-shirt posed timely questions: “Am I Illegal?” on the front and “How Can You Tell?” on the back.
Shit, Lando Chill is, pretty much, blowing up, cult followings all over this country. And it stands to reason. He had the main stage at 191 Toole literally packed with a diverse audience—from wide-eyed children accompanied by parents to fawning tweens and head-nodding grownups. Chill’s latest, 2016's For Mark, Your Son
Former member of L.A. rap crew Living Legends, which LA Weekly says is "one of the biggest success stories of the indie-rap movement, having sold 300,000 units ... all by them-damn-selves."
His name is an acronym that has had different meanings to the artist at different times: "Making the Universe Recognize and Submit" or "Making Underground Raw Shit,” are just two.
With a career that dates back to the mid 90s, and 22 albums to his credit, Murs hit the stage, in a hoodie, armed only with a laptop and a mic and, basically, as they say, killed it.