The Final Weekly Blunt Club in Photos

Photos by Benjamin Leatherman
The members of The Blunt Club onstage at Yucca Tap in Tempe on Thursday.
"Whoop! Whoop! That's the sound of the police!"

KRS-One had some major vocal backup on Thursday night at the Yucca Tap Room. As the bombastic boom-bap of the rap legend's 1993 single, "Sound of the Police," blares through the sound system of the Tempe rock bar, a horde of close to a hundred voices scream-sing the chorus in unison with hands in the air.

Mass sing-alongs to rap classics are a common occurance at The Blunt Club, but on Thursday night it seemed a bit louder and forceful than usual. It's not surprising, considering the crowd at the hip-hop night was significantly larger than normal and that it would be their last chance to do so at a Blunt Club, at least for the next couple weeks.

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Anthony Valadez Talks About The Importance of Making Art for Yourself

Categories: hip-hop

Theo Jemison
Anthony Valadez

It's easy to find new and interesting music these days. All we have to do is pull up an app on our smartphone, and in seconds we can find a song that will hopefully move, motivate, or make us feel that special something in the gray matter between our headphones. Once upon a time, though, finding music that was left of center wasn't easy. Just ask Los Angeles-based Anthony Valadez, a photographer, record producer, podcaster, blogger, and the Monday late-night DJ at Santa Monica's public radio station, KCRW. The multi-hyphenate, who was hunting for early-'90s hip-hop and underground French artist DJ Cam in his formative years, recalls the journey he used to take to retrieve an album from his favorite record store.

"Melrose had all the cool, hip record shops," Valadez says. "I used to take the bus and travel down to Hollywood to just buy one or two records, because that's all I could afford at the time. I remember just sitting in the record store for hours and hours and I'd come home with two records, but those two records justified the whole trip."

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The Blunt Club Is Leaving Yucca Tap and Heading for Other Venues Around the Valley

Benjamin Leatherman
DJ Reflekshin performs at The Blunt Club Thursday night at Yucca Tap Room in Tempe.
It's getting toward closing time during The Blunt Club Thursday night at Tempe's Yucca Tap Room and it looks like no one's in the mood to call it quits.

The main bar is glowing with Christmas lights and busy with activity as DJ Reflekshin drops slow jams in between classic hip-hop joints from Biz Markie and N.W.A. onstage while local painter Queen Loopy creates live art behind him. Out on the dance floor, b-boys and girls are dishing out moves in the middle of a loose cypher while other patrons are singing along to the well-remembered refrains of of "Just a Friend" or "Boyz-N-The Hood."

In short, it's another classic session of The Blunt Club at the Yucca Tap. It also happens to be one of the last weekly editions of the long-running hip-hop night at the bar.

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Dissecting the Weird Raps of Swedish Teen Rapper Yung Lean

Categories: hip-hop

Fredrik Andersson
Yung Lean's in the middle.

If you've ever wondered about the meaning or history of a specific online trend or concept --Doge, Bitcoin, Slender Man, or that creepy Nicolas Cage face -- a remedy exists at Know Your Meme ( The site dedicates thousands of pages to explaining the significance of famous Internet ideas, fads, and people. Four months ago, Know Your Meme user Molly Horan created a comprehensive entry about Yung Lean -- the alias of a bucket-hat-loving, baby-faced 18-year-old Swedish MC named Jonatan Leandoer HÃ¥stad. Know Your Meme houses pages on several topical musicians and songs, but if there's ever been an artist whose ascent is worth tracking and analyzing on the self-avowed "Internet meme database," it's Yung Lean.

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Watch Futuristic and Jakob Owens Rip O.T. Genasis' "CoCo"

Categories: hip-hop

Futuristic and Jakob Owens have made a video ripping on O.T. Genasis.

O.T. Genasis' "CoCo" is one of those songs that blows up, and no one really knows why. It's a somewhat repetitive beat with a dumbed-down chorus that somehow worms its way into your ear a takes up permanent residence. For every song like "CoCo" that makes it big, there are a dozen trying the same formula of shouted slogans and rote repetition, and they go nowhere.

Enter Futuristic and Jakob Owens, two McClintock High School grads (Owens graduated from Arizona State University as well). Futuristic is one of the latest successful musicians to make the Phoenix-to-L.A. move, and Owens has shot almost, if not all, of Futuristic's music videos, including "I Guess I'll Smoke." (When New Times wrote about the song's video in late June, it had been viewed just over 1 million times. Now, the view count sits a hair under 2.4 million.)

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Rage Against the Machine's The Battle of Los Angeles: Still Relevant 15 Years Later

Categories: hip-hop

Fist in the air in the land of hypocrisy.

By Gabriel San Roman

It was no coincidence that Rage Against the Machine released The Battle of Los Angeles on what's traditionally observed as Election Day in the United States in 1999. The 2000 election season was already in gear, with Republican George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore setting up to spar -- but Rage struck first.

The band's third studio album claimed the top spot on the charts, and burned with unbridled rebellion fueled by Zack de la Rocha's radical rhymes and Tom Morello's experimental mastery on guitar.

In many ways, the world hasn't changed nearly enough in the past 15 years. Here's why The Battle of Los Angeles feels as urgent now as it did when it was first unleashed.

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Video: Run The Jewels Meet the Phoenix Guy Behind the Cat Meow Remix Kickstarter

Categories: hip-hop

It's clear that El-P and Killer Mike, the explosive rap duo that make up Run The Jewels, give a shit about their fans. You need look no further than how they handled the funding for Meow The Jewels, the tongue-in-cheek proposal to remix Run The Jewels 2 with nothing but cat meows if someone paid them $40,000.

So when Phoenix call center cowboy Sly Jones took up their $40,000 offer to, they were shocked, but delighted. Jones used Kickstarter to raise more than $65,000, all of which is now going to the families of Eric Garner and Mike Brown. Both young men were shot and killed by police earlier this year, events that Run The Jewels have been outspoken about.

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Phoenix Rapper Dadadoh on Why Honesty Is Best in Hip-Hop

Categories: hip-hop

Frank C. Photography

After his band broke up in Virginia, Bryan Preston, better known as Dadadoh, wasn't sure what to do with himself. After visiting the Valley in July 2009, he decided to move to Tempe, despite not knowing anyone. He's been here ever since.

Yet for the next two years, Dadadoh avoided music, which is odd considering how much of a presence he's had on the local scene lately. He's unofficially helped organize Parliament shows, played djembe in Naked Pizza, rapped over Bacchus and the Demon Sluts' instrumental funk jams at Crescent Ballroom, and hosted Before the Show Live, a video series showcasing local bands like Sister Lip and Nomada. He's also produced a number of local albums, with two more on the way -- Suber's tentatively titled My Friend Suber and Mr. Uu's Chicken and Bread EP. And that's not even half of what Dadadoh has been up to.

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This Greek Billionaire Wants to Take Battle Rap Mainstream

Categories: hip-hop

Photo by Matthew Septimus
Alki David, at home in Beverly Hills

By Chaz Kangas

As the man behind the Tupac hologram and last year's aborted George Zimmerman/DMX boxing match, Alki David is no stranger to controversy. Now the 46-year-old Greek billionaire has another wild idea: He wants to bring battle rap, the hip-hop competition where MCs have to outperform their opponent with razor-sharp rhymes, to the mainstream.

In 2014, the battle rap industry grew significantly. With the Eminem-backed Total Slaughter ushering battles into the world of pay-per-view cable TV, and mainstream artists such as Joe Budden (former Def Jam artist of "Pump It Up" fame) and rapper-actor Fredro Starr (member of '90s rap icons Onyx and star of Moesha) jumping into the ring to compete, there are more ways than ever to see competitive rhyming in action.

Still, battle rap has never come close to the popularity of rap music itself. Even with hip-hop icons such as Eminem, Diddy and Drake directly investing in battle leagues, competitive, head-to-head rapping exists as something of an island off the coast of the greater hip-hop nation.

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Chilean Rapper Ana Tijoux Thinks We're Witnessing Digital Exhaustion

Categories: hip-hop

Ana Tijoux

In the last five years, French-Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux has risen into the cream of the crop of serious Latin American artists using music to raise social consciousness. Building an audience to unfold social and political discourse demands a certain level of recognition. Some people point to Tijoux's performance at NPR's Tiny Desk Concert as her international breakthrough. Others argue it was Thom Yorke's 2010 listing of the rapper as one of his then-current favorites that brought her international acclaim. Most recently, we witnessed her hit "1977" being featured on that TV phenomenon Breaking Bad. And of course, how can anyone forget her collaboration with Mexican pop star Julieta Venegas in the infectious mega-hit "Eres Para Mi."

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