We all know how hard it is to get listeners to give something new a chance; so in a new ongoing series, I will be choosing five slept-on underground artists from each state (yes, every state) that deserve to be heard based on their talent level, work ethic and consistency. We started with my home state, Massachusetts, and this week we're traveling across the country to Arizona.
I say "Arizona," you say "the hot ass desert!" Little did you know, with your close-minded self, that there’s a gigantic hub for hip-hop that’s been growing in Arizona for the past decade. In this installment of the “United States of Underground” series, we'll featured six artists from The Grand Canyon State: RoQ’y TyRaid, Mr. Miranda, Random (a.k.a. MegaRan), Penny the Great, medafORACLE and The Kennedys. Expand your musical horizons and show some attention to these guys below, one or two or all six might just become your new favorite.
[*Things you will need to enjoy this article: 1. Fully-charged laptop. 2. A large Frosty. 3. Your headphones (good ones, not those wack Android ones that you have to stuff in your ear holes.]
RoQ'y TyRaid (Phoenix, AZ)
Have you ever seen a dog lick its own balls? That’s how a guy like me, 28-years-old and trapped in a cubicle, feels about sheep-esque rappers when searching the net for new music and seeing the same trends on every site. When did it become “uncool” to go left and create a new lane? When did artists stop supporting others to only credit themselves? These questions and more will be answered…never.
But, thanks to sites like DJBooth and aspiring underground emcees like RoQ'y TyRaid, we are well aware that all rappers aren’t the same. Not only does he support his peers to the fullest, working with a plethora of different acts, but he takes the time to build and network with his fans as well (a lost art). Speaking of his music - his political, conscious and even comical lyrics have a way of captivating his audience, leaving the listener not only entertained and intrigued, but more importantly, attentive. His sound is that from the boom-bap era, the “true school” era – hi hats, bass lines and simple, yet precise beat-riding wordplay is what RoQ’y’s niche is. He’s an old soul in a young body with a lot to say. Will you listen?
Most recent project: The New Millennium Man
Mr. Miranda (Phoenix, AZ)
Rarely do I come across a rapper these days that inspires and motivates me to do better, solely through their music. Nine out of ten have some reference to guns and/or drugs in their songs, some even making it the focal point of their image. You know, the repetitive cliché of what old people think of every rap song – yea, we’re kind of there for real right now. It’s 2014 and it’s time to get past that. Rap music isn’t about your guns, your murders and your violence – it’s about bringing awareness of those issues to light and having the end goal of uplifting your community and the Hip Hop culture. I’d like to salute Phoenix, AZ emcee Mr. Miranda for embodying what a rapper should be, one with a positive message that encourages urban youth to create change.
The first song I heard from Miranda was “Key To Success,” off a random compilation tape back in 2011. This single track became my personal theme music for the next 2/3 years (no joke) and it’s accompanying video was the perfect sidekick. Fast forward to today and Mr. Miranda’s music now spans the world, recently wrapping up a European tour this past summer. Not only do I keep in touch with him daily, but we also build off each other often. Unsigned artists, making music that moves people and holding relationships with those people is an unsurmountable trait of becoming self-sustaining as a musician.
Most recent project: Honesty Is Not a Sin 2
Random a.k.a. MegaRan (Phoenix, AZ)
Ok, let me just jump right into it - Random (a.k.a. MegaRan) is a rapping superhero. The guy fights crime at night, roaming the streets of AZ looking for punks to regulate on. It’s just what he does. One time, he even decapitated a jewel thief right on the steps of Phoenix’s city hall. Ok fine, none of that is true (to the best of my knowledge), but the rapper’s image/character does resemble that same secretive individual in many ways. Mega’s artwork, his website and a lot of his videos are all in 8-bit, animated format - for you youngn’s, that’d be the little block video game guys from your grandpa’s childhood. Random brings forth this sort of mystique on himself as an artist, making audiences that much more intrigued on what he has to say. Watching a cartoon video can never not be entertaining, right?
At 37, the man has seen and heard it all, giving him the ability to cater his sound in a different direction, against the grain. His aim is to entertain and enlighten while also teaching the youth, even holding a work background in the educational field as a teacher. After releasing a tribute to the Mega Man video game series in 2007, Random dubbed his new alias – MegaRan. This video game persona linked him to gaming giant, Capcom, who he would later perform for at a private showcase and many other gaming events. If you like video games, extreme levels of creativity and uplifting hip-hop music, give a listen to Random (a.k.a. MegaRan).
Most recent project: Mega Ran in Language Arts, Vols 1, 2 & 3
Penny the Great, formerly known as MC Pennywise (Phoenix, AZ)
Starting out as a b-boy and a graffiti writer, Phoenix emcee, Penny, already had two of the four core elements of Hip Hop covered. He never dabbled in DJing, but his skills as a rapper are uncontested. His story is that of a traditional rapper – comes from a bad place – but instead of capitalizing on the downfalls of his community, Penny chooses to use his words for the better. Penny has a unique ability to combine real life stories and creative wordplay to deliver a soundtrack for the streets. This style of artistry in hip-hop seems to be one that died out in the early 2000s, but Penny is dong his civic duty to keep it alive. His music has the power to get you through hard times, while appreciating what’s right in front of you.
What? …you didn’t think an underground/unsigned artist was capable of making you feel better? There’s a whole world out there. Listen to Penny the Great and get inspired to make a change.
Most recent project: You Can All Die Now
MedafORACLE (Phoenix, AZ)
Back when I was in high school (2004), DJ Green Lantern was one of the few DJs ruling Discmans in the hallways. Half of those reading this might not know what a Discman (or a DJ) is, I just realized that as I typed it. Google it. In either case, his infamous tagline and knack for collecting slept on artists became more and more popular as years passed. Come 2007, Green Lantern put out a great collaborative project titled “MySpace Takeover” (yup, that MySpace), featuring one particular emcee who I’ve eventually grown to love, exponentially, since – MedafORACLE.
MedafORACLE is a rapper, a producer and a mixing engineer who takes his career as an independent musician very serious, even passing his knowledge on to other underground artists to help them move forward and grow. This is something I respect greatly as a hip-hop fan, an artist who extends beyond his immediate craft. MedafORACLE’s witty punchlines and quick-draw ad-libs make his music not only interesting and entertaining, but it keeps listeners on their toes – a lost art in today’s age of monotonous sounds. Med has a stacked discography dating back to 2009, so now that you’ve read this there’s no excuse not to give him (at least) a few listens.
Most recent project: Year of the Mouth West
The Kennedys (Tucson, AZ)
The Kennedys are a Hip Hop duo out of Tucson, AZ on a mission to prove that collectives are not gone or forgotten. The tag team pairing is made up by J.A. Millionz (a native of Washington) and Mat-trix (out of Chicago), who crossed paths while at school in Tucson. With only that little bit of information, a lot can be inferred – mainly the fact that the two come from opposite sides of the country and both ended up in an unfamiliar area, blessing them with the ability to combine lyrical styling’s from three separate regions. How many artists can give you that type of perspective? Their music is powerful, energetic, full of life and even euphoric at times.
With some major shows under their belt, including opening for the legendary Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and an ambitious outlook, The Kennedys are hoping to land a major label deal with their talents sooner than later. Until then, they seem to be having the time of their lives making great music for fans who appreciate it.
[By Matt Whitlock, he does all things hip-hop. This is his Twitter.]