What Is The Arizona 'Sound'?
In 2007, Ludacris signed his first act from the west side of the country to his Disturbing Tha Peace label via Def Jam. Since most people think of California when they think of the west coast, it was quite the shock when it was announced that the newest rapper on the roster was none other than Willy Northpole from Phoenix, Arizona. Songs like "Garbage Disposal" and "Body Marked Up" became regional hits and a mainstream co-sign was exactly what Willy needed to show that AZ had melting pot of talent brewing and that he was just the start. He went on to have a career defining moment being featured on the single "Call Up The Homies" with Ludacris and The Game. It was after this release that Arizona realized that the opportunity had come for our art scene to be seen in the limelight and thousands of creatives young and old linked together to create their expression of what life in Arizona was like, and not a single one of them sound the same.
One of the earliest AZ artist to show the diversity in the scene is actually not from AZ at all. Philadelphia born Mega Ran (fka Random) put his name on the map with his projects dedicated to the Mega Man video game series, even getting a licensing agreement with Capcom and performing at their events. His music being filled with consistent video game references and digital samples along with witty rhyme schemes compared to the likes of MF Doom built him what was considered a 'nerd-core' following, with his fan base growing every new release leading to his 2015 album 'RNDM' debuting on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart.
During this same era, another sector of the underground was emerging out of Phoenix. Artist like Bouji, G-Moe, and Young Phee were regularly collaborating on tracks to detail the life of a hustler under the Arizona sun. Many lyrics referring to trafficking and drug dealing to survive and pouring out emotions over trap flavored production about street life that many people in the area could relate to, these songs started to garner hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and led to videos with the likes of Kap G and Famous Dex respectively.
This combination of trap mixed with sounds familiar to the west coast and beyond the border dominated the local scene until the younger generation started to take control.
2016-2017 would see the introduction of younger collectives through out AZ with more modern sounds of old school samples and references mixed with new soundcloud artist with wavey taste. Collectives included 20POUNDS, YOTG who stunted artist like Avery Millz and JMZ JBZ, and Jugg Republic which holds heavy names like Splash Fuego and Kaden Gray. Breakout artist Jalopy Bungus and Pariah Pete of 20POUNDS broke out of the local shell with attention grabbing flows over modernized hip hop beats along with captivating visuals and sold out performances around the state while members like Shrub Head started accumulating wins in the battle scene. 2018 saw Jalopy's solo effort 2 Things 4 Certain make waves on Soundcloud leading to his "Mt Rushmore" music video getting over 20,000 views on Youtube. His follow up 2019 album Samson got co-signs from the likes of Cypress Hill and the aforementioned Mega Ran along with one of his favorite artist AlmightySuspect, who he later collaborated with on the track 'GAARA'.
The year 2020 sees a newer face getting shine and one that doesnt rely on rapping. Baby faced crooner SAIAH has been steadily rising the ranks not just in the local scene, but even Spotify, landing on playlist with singles like 'Polaroid' w/ Guardin and 'Black(Planet)'. His beautiful melodies mixed with his pop punk influence makes for a fast paced euphoric experience bound to make him a household name similar to that of fellow Phoenix native and alt-pop queen Kailee Morgue.
In conclusion, the Arizona sound cannot be defined. It can only be expanded and discovered. There are hundreds of creatives in this state working everyday to stand out and bring light to a land that is always sunny. I think it's time we pay attention.