Nick Norris Speaks about Arizona Hip Hop and Who are the Tastemakers
Well known Arizona Hip Hop blogger Nick Norris breaks down Arizona Hip Hop and who are the tastemakers in the state, along with giving some great tips that every Arizona Hip Hop Artist needs to know. This is a read that may change your career. So put on your glasses and get ready for a really good read!
1. Nick Norris you run three of the top 7 Arizona hip hop blogs. What are the three hip hop blogs, What are the pro’s and con’s of running three different Arizona hip hop blogs and how are these Arizona hip hop blogs the same and how are they different?
1) NomadHipHop.com – The Nomad site was originally created for my independent music label, Nomad Hip Hop. The original focus of the Nomad site was to promote our music, our shows, get bookings, etc. Basically, Nomad Hip Hop started as a typical band site, but it has become pretty much the most authoritative (locally focused) Arizona hip hop site.
2) AZHustle.com – We took a completely different approach with AZHustle. The objective with AZHustle was to help Arizona Hip Hop artists, to network with other artists and promoters. We went back-and-forth about what type of functionality the site should have, and agreed that allowing Arizona Hip Hop artists to share their music/videos was probably the best starting point. We’re still building the site out, and have yet to officially announce it as ‘live’, however, we have had several local artists sign up and start their profiles. The AZHustle site gets a lot of organic traffic, and sadly, it’s just not to the point where we can leverage any of the traffic yet. It’s getting there, we have one writer, Kate, who is going to start building new content soon. I can only assume that once we start pushing our content frequency, the site should do very well.
3) TheHipHopHouse.com – This site is an appendage to our live music series we throw at the Hidden House. We use it to write about some of the artists we book, give information about booking, and share music with the masses. I’ve literally had this site up for a couple months, and it’s also a “work-in-progress”. I don’t see the site ever becoming more than what it already is, a different way for artists to get involved in some REAL local Arizona Hip Hopshows.
As far as pros and cons, there are more cons than pros, unfortunately. Because of the amount of money, time, and energy I put into developing these Arizona Hip Hop sites, I don’t have a budget to hire a writing staff or moderators, so trying to convince people to work based on “sweat equity” doesn’t appeal to everyone, especially in the hip hop world. Needless to say, I’ve spread myself pretty thin creating a micro-network of sites, especially when you add-in all of our the social profiles that go along with each site… it can get pretty overwhelming.
The pros, I have an extensive background in web marketing, SEO, and social media – so when it comes to powering my way up competitive food chain (locally speaking), that was easy. Now I’m to the point where I can start developing a solid game plan to use my web authority to my advantage on a larger scale, and help other Arizona Hip Hop artists get some spotlight.
The pros – The talent pool in Phoenix right now (in my opinion) is better than it has ever been. Venues seem very eager to book Arizona hip hop shows. We have a bunch of show series all over the city (i.e. Blunt Club, Tha Underground Railroad, The Hip Hop House, WTFunk Fridays, Homegrown Emcees, etc.) – all of which are heavily supported by other artists and local music fans. I can’t forget to mention that our DJ scene is probably the best in the country, but I’m probably being biased.
The cons – There is still a lot of cross-genre segregation. There are probably 10 different THRIVING hip hop scenes around the city, but very little inter-mingling from one scene to another. Artists don’t network very well outside their scene’s bubble, and they don’t support each other the way artists do in other parts of the country. There tends to be a lot of delusional rappers who don’t want to work with other artists, simply because Drake, Lil Wayne, and Rick Ross told them “No New Friends”… What I’m trying to say is that a lot of these dudes are unoriginal, arrogant, and completely out of touch with the way things reallyare.
As far as local media support, this is growing exponentially as we speak. If you would have asked me a year ago, I would say that local hip hop has no local media support; however, now we have: Inner-City Magazine, Worst Case Radio, Rhyme and Reason Radio, Rap Broker, the Beat Locker, Live from Central Ave (and everything else associated with RadioSupa), and the list goes on-and-on. There are DJ’s like John Blaze who ONLY spin local hip hop at sports bars and strip clubs. I’ve also caught wind of a local television show that is in the works right now, but I don’t know if I’m allowed to say anything about that, so I’ll leave it at that. Keep your eyes peeled.
Also, JustUs from CTL has had his ASU Football remix of “AZUP” played on ESPN and a couple other major sports networks, and he’s 100% holding it down for AZ. He’s also the creator of Tha Underground Railroad, which I personally believe is the spark that this city needed to start unifying our hip hop scene. Big S/O to JustUs..
My view of the internet is going to be a little different than your run-of-the-mill artist. Like I said before, I’ve been marketing on the web for a long time, so my natural response is to say it’s critical to leverage all aspects of what the internet offers to budding artists.
I don’t think that most of these Arizona Hip Hop artists realize how powerful of a resource the internet can be. I mean, they all know how to spam people on Facebook and Twitter, but they haven’t even started to legitimately network online. I’ve been telling other local dudes about my search engine rankings for a long time, and no one really seems to care. They care more about how many Facebook likes they get.. I guess if they knew how many people contact me on a regular basis through my websites, they would probably be a little hungrier for a piece of the pie, but whatever, it’s their loss.
As far as industry people, from an artist standpoint, the best of the best come through Phoenix and Tempe all the time. They always have good shows here; we have a good grasp on our hip hop culture. As far as industry people responsible for introducing new music to the world, no one really comes out to Arizona (that I know of). It’s actually more of the opposite. It seems like the good artists who spend time touring and traveling outside of our city and state are doing it in a big way and getting recognized. I do think a shift is happening, and it’s a matter of time before Phoenix is officially respected as a hub of good hip hop.
I started blogging in the early 2ks… A few of my friends and I created a website called ‘Beater Magazine’ that did very well for a few years, I even made some money off of it during it’s hay day. It was basically a site where my homies and I would write political satire, and people would fall right into our trap. That site almost got me fired from my job, due to some ignorant racist comments that someone left on a post I wrote about ANWR back in 2008. Luckily my company’s General Counsel’s Office had a good sense of humor, and a strong grasp on reality. I didn’t even get a slap on the wrist.
My personal blog (http://nicknorris.net) has been up since (I think) 2006… I rebuilt it last year after I realized most of the content I posted on there was garbage and impacted my search engine rankings negatively. Now my personal blog is just my portfolio and freelance services offered. The Nomad blog has been up for about 2 years. AZHustle, is about a year old. The Hip Hop House, roughly 2 months young. I also manage several affiliate sites, but I don’t talk about those.
Arizona Hip Hop and Hip Hop Music Blogs
When it comes down to Arizona Hip Hop Scene “togetherness” really depends on who you talk to. I can name 20 artists who network well, support other artists, and really showcase what local support means (when you’re a fellow artist). I try to network with other artists and promoters around town, not to compete, but to build. I know a bunch of dudes who feel the same way, so in “my hip hop scene”, there is a lot of great support and togetherness.
As far as the vast majority of Arizona Hip Hop emcees, we have a lot of them. Unfortunately these young dudes still have that mentality where they don’t want to work with other artists. It’s an ego thing, but I think they are really just scared of being criticized. If I had a dollar for every local dude who came up to me saying, “If you put me on, you won’t be sorry, I’m the next big thing, yada yada yada..”.. man, I’d have like $50..
6. Nick Norris in your eye’s. what is the proper way to submit a blog post to you for a posting and how would an Arizona Hip Hop artist or any other artist go about getting interviewed by you for more exposure?
Honestly, I’ve made it very easy. On http://nomadhiphop.com, there’s a contact form. Literally, I respond to EVERY legitimate email that comes through that site. On http://azhustle.com, artists can register on there and reach out to me personally.
The best way to get my attention is via Facebook. I always have Facebook open on my phone, and I’ve literally pulled off the freeway to respond to someone. If someone wants an interview, a spotlight, or anything that helps his or her music career, I’m down to help. The only thing I ask of anyone is to be completely honest about his or her hustle. People want to read honesty, especially in the hip hop world. It’s not every day you get to take a candid look at local artists.
Also, feel free to hit me up at a show. I’m always down to chop it up and talk about networking.
The pros – the talent pool is amazing, so anytime I can put a good local artist on, I’m happy. Depending on who is performing, we can pack a venue tight. The overhead is usually pretty low, so if there’s money to be made, I usually break even, so that’s not a bad thing.
The cons – 90% of local artists don’t bring people with them to shows, so some shows are a monetary loss. I’ve spent hundreds of my own dollars booking venues, brought through good talent, only to have 20 people walk through the door because none of the artists felt compelled to tell their networks where they were performing on that specific night.
My favorites (in no specific order) are: RoQ’y TyRaid, Realistic, Random (MegaRan), Bob Domestic, Mouse Powell, Prophetiko, Slogan, Puritan, Apollo, The Jokerr, Brad B, the entire TSOI camp, Pickster, Trapp House, CTL, J-Rob, Futuristic, Muggz Dynamite, Hannibal Leq, P Thoro, Fact135, Slop, Tricky T, Arza, Lifted, OTS, and I could list at least 15 more names who are amazing assets to the hip hop scene here. Even artist-artists like Robert Gentile and Dumper really help pull the ‘art’ side of the culture to the forefront and inspire the hell out of dudes like me.
As far as who is going to take it to the next level, I would say: Roq’y, Random, maybe Mouse Powell, possibly The Insects, Futuristic gets busy, J-Rob is on the rise, and Hannibal Leq is an all around powerhouse. Those dudes are all incredibly talented, and they have more hustle in their pinkies than most emcees have in their entire bodies. Some of them are already doing HUGE things like SXSW, Warped Tour, 30+ city tours, playing huge shows overseas, selling out big local venues, working with big names, etc.
This is a tough question. The way our scene is rifted makes it hard to assign a definitive tastemaker(s), simply because people are quick to deny any alliances. In my opinion, the people shaping our Arizona hip hop scene would be dudes like JustUs (with the TUR series), Dumper and his crew at Blunt Club, all of the UM (Universatile Music) dudes, John Blaze (because he is setting a standard for local club tracks a couple times a week), and of course all of the dudes getting their own radio shows.
I like to think that most of the people working together around town are collectively helping build the Arizona Hip Hop brand, whether they acknowledge it or not. I guess you could say the tastemakers are the people who are going out to shows constantly and supporting the artists they like.
I want to continue to help Arizona Hip Hop grow and mature on the big stage. I want to capture the journey of our artists and give those artists the ability to share their passion with the world, whether it’s through music, art, photography, dance, blogging, or whatever it is they do. Arizona Hip Hop will get recognition soon, I know it will happen, and I want to be a part of the group that works as the catalyst to get us there.
In the next five years, I hope to see the fruits of my labor start to bloom. Juggling everything (graphic design/Web company, indie label, live series, promotional endeavors, etc.) has proven to be a lot of work, requiring many long days and sleepless nights. Not to mention, I’m still making my own music and performing amidst all of this. In 5 years, I hope that everything that I have been working on reaches the next level of maturity. I admit, I don’t want to “break even” for the rest of my life. It would be nice to finally make some money from my investments in Arizona Hip Hop music.
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