Essential Elements

Tucson Hip Hop Festival

Last year's hip hop festival had over 1500 attendents, panelists, vendors, artists and media. This year promises to be even bigger.
Last year's hip hop festival had over 1500 attendents, panelists, vendors, artists and media. This year promises to be even bigger.

Last year, Tucson Hip Hop Festival directors Pike Romero and Jocelyn Valencia wanted to create a festival that included all the elements of hip hop: rap, beat production, breakdancing, graffiti art, DJing and knowledge.

click to enlarge JULIUS SCHLOSBURG
Julius Schlosburg

They thought it could be big but were nonetheless inspired by the outpour of community interest and support. This year, along with a rock-solid team, they focused on making a festival that's even more innovative than before.

"This year's focus is making it more of an experience," Valencia says.

New collaborations will help achieve that, like with The Underestimated City's popup clothing shop, Tucson Foodie's food court and The Loft Cinema's hip-hop films and documentaries, all on Toole Avenue.

click to enlarge JULIUS SCHLOSBURG
Julius Schlosburg

The downtown Toole block will be closed to traffic and bedecked with five graffiti stations where choice writers will be live graffing; outdoor stages where local and national talent will be breakdancing, doing live beat production and rapping; an all-day DJ tent; rap battles and two indoor rap stages.

And like last year, there will be panels where people in the industry will talk about an array of topics, like how to market your talent and the deeper meaning of hip hop. But this year, THHF is bringing in some bigger industry names.

Another addition this year... after party! At Solar Culture with nine additional acts, until 2 a.m.

In this package, you'll find a list of must-see acts at Tucson Hip Hop Festival and stories that dig deeper into the heart and soul of the people that make it real.

click to enlarge JULIUS SCHLOSBURG
Julius Schlosburg

Romero created the festival, in part, because he saw talent in the Tucson scene and wanted to help it grow. Valencia says she got involved because she likes "creating those opportunities and cultivating those resources for artists." They both wanted to create something that brought together all the hip hop elements in one place.

But when you break it down, there's one underlying reason for the birth and growth of the Tucson Hip Hop Festival, and Romero says it best: "We just love hip hop."

Tucson Hip Hop Festival Schedule of Events


Friday Workshops
Friday workshops are free and in partnership with the Dunbar Center (325 W. Second St.), which is hosting the talks. The discussion format will include 50-minute talks led by community members, from 1 to 4 p.m., with two workshops going simultaneously following two tracks: perspective and platforms in the music industry.

click to enlarge Robin Troncoso - COURTESY
Robin Troncoso
click to enlarge Christel Benzen - COURTESY
Christel Benzen

"She Walks the Line: A Discussion on Female Writers"
Graffiti artists Robin Troncoso and Christel Benzen will be talking about Southwest culture, train graffiti and being a female graff writer and bencher (connoisseur and/or photographer of train graffiti). 2 p.m. Friday.

click to enlarge Michael Tolle - COURTESY
Michael Tolle
"Properly Utilizing and Monetizing off Bandcamp" UA grad Michael Tolle began his record label Mello Music Group out of his home in 2007 with nothing but a laptop. In 2016, Forbes labeled it the most successful indie-rap label of the decade. Tolle figured out how to turn his passion for music into a successful business, a platform that MTV described as having a dedication to intelligent lyrics about real-life issues, and a revenue stream for the artists he records. Hear him share a bit of wisdom about using Bandcamp to make your own artistic dreams a reality. 3 p.m. Friday.

click to enlarge Flowers and Bullets - COURTESY
Flowers and Bullets

"Barrio Sustainability, Art and Rebellion"
Coming with a vital perspective, members of the arts and sustainability group Flowers and Bullets will talk about working for a healthier, more inclusive, empowered community using the arts, culture, food and engagement. Flowers and Bullets teaches sustainability through food gathering, gardening and water harvesting with underserved youth and communities, as well as creating artistic outlets for young people of color. 3 p.m. Friday.'

Saturday Panels
The Saturday panels, in the Exploded View Microcinema (197 E. Toole Ave.), are supported by the UA College of Humanities and will feature prominent voices in hip hop followed by Q&A. These 60- to 80-minute panels are meant to broaden people's understanding of how the industry works and how they can market their talents and expand their reach. From 1 to 7:30 p.m.

"Exploring the Meaning of Soul in Hip Hop"
Professor of Hip Hop Alex Nava gave a talk at the first incarnation of THHF, the Tucson Hip Hop Summit. When his moving talk was over, the audience clamored for more. The author of In Search of Soul: Hip Hop, Literature and Religion studies the intersection of religion, spirituality, culture and hip hop. His talk is sure to inspire a bit of soul searching in us all. 2:10 p.m.

click to enlarge Ashley Outrageous - COURTESY
Ashley Outrageous

"Womxn in the Hip Hop Industry: Blogger to Multi-Media Personality"
Ashley Outrageous launched her hip-hop+ blog in 2008 and has since turned herself into an event producer, marketing specialist and media mogul. It'd be hard to find someone better than this bad-ass lady, killing it in a male-dominated field, to talk about women in hip hop. Check out her blog at 6:10 p.m. Saturday.

Graffiti Artists
Twenty graffiti artists will be writing on several outside panels, on Toole Avenue, over the course of festival, from noon to 9 p.m. They're all unique, but here are just a couple virtuosos to checkout.

click to enlarge Plak - COURTESY

Plak is a 23-year-old graff writer, studying architecture in Sonora. He's got nine years of experience creating incognito art on walls, under bridges and on trains, as well as public murals. Check out his work at and

click to enlarge Lady Rise - COURTESY
Lady Rise

Lady Rise has a standout style, marked by a spirit of resistance, born out of her childhood surrounded by families of migrant farm workers. Her work expresses the voices of people who work the land as well as feminine expression, including portraits of women throughout history and her life who inspire her. She's been seen writing walls with Neoglyphix, an indigenous graffiti-art collective.

Producers will be creating beats using a variety of sounds, samples and digital tools, in 20-minute sets from noon to 8 p.m., on an outside producer stage.

Mac-sama! creates jazzy booze-infused beats with samples from TV shows and '60s pop as well as futuristic, anime-inspired dance-producing rhythms. Check out Mac-sama! at and catch his set at 1:30 p.m.

The child of immigrants, DJQ's music is influenced by Chicano culture and Tucson's south side, where DJQ grew up. A member of the music collective Ojalá Systems, Q's beats include samplings of Javier Solis and Smokey Robinson as well as local rappers and cyphers. Check out Q's music at and catch the set at 3:30 p.m.

click to enlarge Altrice - COURTESY

Altrice is a beat producer with deep roots in the Tucson community. His sounds are a mix of ambient, house and pop, and inspired by the work of iconic producer and rapper J Dilla. Check out his music at and catch his set at 3:50 p.m.

DJs will be playing half-hour sets in the DJ tent from noon to 8 p.m. Here are a few choice picks to get your dance on.

click to enlarge DJ Jahmar International - COURTESY
DJ Jahmar International

Dj Jahmar International is a DJ for VH1's Love & Hip Hop Safaree. He says music is his therapy, and this is reflected in his emotive style with a taste of his childhood influences: reggae, hip hop, grunge and funk. Check out his mixes at and in the DJ tent at 2 p.m.

click to enlarge B-Rad - COURTESY
B-Rad's love of music began with a mixed tape her brother made her in eighth grade, featuring De La Soul's "I Am I Be." She listened to the tape until its eventual deterioration. "Hip Hop for me is the feeling I got the first time I heard that song," she writes in her bio. "DJing enhances that feeling, and I want to spread that love to everyone." Find her in the DJ Tent at 6:30 p.m.

Julius Schlosburg
The outside breakdance stage is a must see, with breaking competitions and popping. Come see some of Tucson's most talented dancers push their moves to the limit. 1 to 6 p.m.

Rappers will be performing on four stages. Performers will be doing 20-minute sets on the outside rap stage, from 12:30 to 9 p.m. A rap stage inside Studio 1 will have 20-minute sets from 12:30 to 9 p.m. The main stage will feature rappers doing 40-minute sets from 1 to 11:30 p.m. And three half-hour rap battles will be at The Docks from 6:10 to 7:10 p.m.

Outside Stage

click to enlarge Djoriginal - COURTESY
Djoriginal is a 15-year-old Tucson-born rapper with an old soul and a story to tell. His music reflects pop culture and has a beat that inspires some serious get down. Check out his music at 2:55 p.m. on the outside rap stage.

click to enlarge Ill V - COURTESY
Ill V

Ill V is a female rapper, recording with Highly Intalksickhated Ent. She performs locally and across the U.S. Her music is simultaneously smart, dark and sultry with a feminine grit often lacking in the hip hop scene: "Flaunt your brain and not your tits. Ain't gotta spread my legs to fuckin' blow your mind." Check out her music at 8:05 on the outside stage.

click to enlarge Woodro - COURTESY
Main stage
Seventeen-year-old Woodro has been honing his lyrical abilities since he was 11. The two-time THHF performer moves to the main stage this year, where he'll be spitting rhymes that are nothing short of heartfelt authenticity. Check out his music at On the main stage at 2 p.m.

click to enlarge J Tek. - COURTESY
J Tek.

J. Tek tells stories with soulful hooks. Find his music on Spotify or check out his video with DJ Pain 1, "Ghetto Birds," at The 24-year-old rapper from Maryland will be on the main stage at 4 p.m.

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