The 4th Annual Hip Hop Festival is happening in Phoenix at the Comerica Theatre on November 11, 2017. Three hundred and sixty-four days of preparation culminates into this massive exhibition of underground and local music artists. There are no major label artists and no major label funding here and that’s one thing the founder is […]
The 4th Annual Hip Hop Festival is happening in Phoenix at the Comerica Theatre on November 11, 2017. Three hundred and sixty-four days of preparation culminates into this massive exhibition of underground and local music artists. There are no major label artists and no major label funding here and that’s one thing the founder is proud of. It takes an army to pull off this kind of independent event and the General of this rap army is 4th generation Phoenix native, Justus Samuel. Born into a conservative military family, he gravitated toward the music deemed illegal in his household. After high school, he found success as a performer with his group Cut Throat Logic and now works nearly every aspect in the music industry. In the second year of the festival he partnered with Master P and he remixed the official fight song for the ASU Sundevils.
In 2014, Samuel pulled off a super ambitious effort by hosting a completely independent outdoor Hip Hop Music Festival. The event was a success and he decided to host it annually. After hosting the second and third annual festival he caught the attention of Phoenix Mayor, Greg Stanton, who honored his efforts with an official annual hip hop holiday. So, even though everyday is hip hop day, the second Saturday of each November shall officially be known as Hip Hop Day. Samuel also runs a platform for upcoming artists called Respect The Underground. It’s an incubator for new and expanding artists, providing resources and education to grow in the music industry.
We sat down with Justus to talk about the festival and what to expect this year. The man is laid back. Samuel doesn’t talk a lot, but when he speaks he does so with certainty. I can see how young artists benefit from his personal and professional demeanor and why the Arizona hip hop scene will thrive as long as he breathes.
What happened to inspire your actions to start a Hip Hop Festival?
Justus: It was necessary, there was a need for an all day function that brought the entire state together as a whole to be celebrated. All politics and beefs set aside, Hip Hop Day at the festival is holy ground. It breeds unity and mutual respect amongst one another.
What sets Hip Hop Festival apart from other festivals?
It’s 100% independent. The largest independent festival in the world. There is nothing like it anywhere on the globe.
What effect do you hope to have on your community?
I hope to inspire change. Inspire camaraderie amongst one another. Networking and sharing each others artistic contributions to the community. At the end of the day we are all connected energetically. I want us to be conscious of that. While at the same time inspiring the youth of tomorrow to carry the torch when we choose to step away from the game.
You support different causes, which charity or service is closest to your heart?
Currently, two charities.
Locally, I love the Crisis Nursery of Arizona. They assist with disadvantaged youth. Young children. I love doing anything we can to spread the love! They are a beautiful organization.
Nationally, Haiti Mamma – My cousin runs an orphanage type of home for displaced children. They get displaced due to natural disasters or extreme living conditions. She takes them in and nurses them back to health while providing a stable and safe living environment.
Because it is apart of who I am, I am Human, I want to make the world a better place.
How did you feel when your home city acknowledged your efforts by naming the second Saturday in November Hip Hop Day?
It was a surreal feeling. I’m blessed and honored to be allowed the opportunity to build something real that the City and State can be proud of. Something that brings us all together!
What hip hop or rap song represents your childhood?
My childhood: Tupac – Me Against the world
Adulthood: Ace Hood – Trials and Tribulations
What makes Phoenix feel like home to you?
Because it is who I am, not where I live. I am Phoenix, AZ.
At what age were you exposed to hip hop?
Run DMC Christian rap. very early, hip hop was sinful. So I fucking gravitated toward it and smuggled it into my universe.
What is happening in the music/art scene in Phoenix?
The wave is strong, the southwest is next. Arizona, as a whole, is the next sound that will take over pop culture. It is only a matter of time.
What is the biggest impact the festival has on the community?
The butterfly effect, the growth that it inspires every year is apparent. It is simply remarkable. Every year the festival encourages those, especially the open mic stage births hundreds of hopeful dreamers. It gives them a real, physical platform to perfect their craft.
How did you overcome rejection from those who didn’t support you?
No means maybe, maybe means yes. Ya dig it? Rejection doesn’t exist in my universe!
Can I perform at the festival and try a verse?
Absolutely not, I have to maintain integrity with my event. Although, I find your humor in this. This is for aspiring dreamers and active practitioners only. It’s not a joke!
How far in advance do you start planning the festival?
48 hours after the last. Every day, every minute, every waking moment.
What are your favorite music venues in Arizona to see new artists?
Joes Grotto, Monarch Theatre, Club Red. Etc.
Tell us about how crazy of a collaborative effort does it take to pull off Hip Hop Day?
Honestly it’s insane, it takes a village. I couldn’t do it alone, without the collab between artists, staff and sponsors. Shout out to the industry for supporting our cause. I got my medical card at AZ GreenLife, making me compliant with Arizona state laws. I am sponsored by the best vape pen in the universe, Timeless Vapes and I received care packages from TruMed Dispensary, the #1 dispensary in the state.
Thank you for sitting down with us, we will definitely see you at the festival!
My pleasure. Anytime.
For the complete artist lineup, tickets and festival info visit azhiphopfestival.com