Thank You AZ Hip Hop Vol 1

One night a few years ago, Miss Rebecca and I wandered into Tempe Tavern to grab a drink and kill a little time. Little did we know that our lives would be profoundly affected by the music we would hear and the people we would meet that night. We heard someone rapping in the back as we walked in, my first time at this bar, and Rebecca’s first in years. I didn’t expect to hear someone at a local heavy watering hole impress me, but the guy on stage had a delivery and passion I couldn’t ignore.


His stage name is Slogan, which lends itself to the idea that he embraces the corporate nature of modern music, but that couldn’t be further from his truth. Cory is the working man’s MC, and it’s right there in his lyrics. He spit verses about life and labor, and his dreams for the future. His delivery was clear and sharp, and you could feel every line as though you already knew them. I was immediately sucked in. If you know me, then you know I’ve always got a camera and love shooting stage musicians, so I started snapping away. It was difficult to get the frenetic, eyes wide open shots I was used to shooting of punk rockers and pop singers, but Cory blessed me with images like this one. Over the years I’ve come to love these moments, as Slogan closes his eyes to deliver his message. Since that night Cory has come to become on of my best friends in this town. We’ve sweated, drank, laughed and cried together. And the one thing that remains constant is the authenticity he carries with him in both his character and stage persona.

MC Optimal

Next up was MC Optimal. A mystifying phenomenon of a rapper who could go double and triple time. All I could do was stand there and watch as he strung together syllables at a blazing pace, while mixing storytelling with the classic boom bap affirmations of prowess that rappers of the 80’s were so famous for. To this day it’s a treat to see him perform, and watch his right hand mimic his tempo as he delivers rapid fire bars.

The host for the evening was a casually hilarious guy named Robert who was also the venue’s bouncer. His full beard and the ambiance of the bar would lead the casual observer to think he was cut more from heavy metal cloth, but he proved to be yet another amazing MC.

Bob Domestic

Bob Domestic, as he’s known on stage, had a voice that commanded attention and lyrics that both challenged your notions of society and made you laugh out loud. Bob is a writer who’s able to show off his lyrical prowess without relying on the typical hip hop rhyme words. his delivery is complex yet straightforward at the same time. And his creative use of cadence accentuates his writing style.

We rounded out our night being introduced to a guy named Ohm, who’s anti-establishment lyrics mixed with everything else we heard that night perfectly, as if these guys were a hand assembled team. Ohm’s cadences had an undulating effect, as he seemed to slow it down and pick it up within the lines. Ohm never seemed to have to try hard, even as he punched some lines out with all the wind in his chest. He finished the night for us on a high note, making me think that I needed more of this. I needed to hear these guys again. And I wanted to document it.

Ohm (AOTA Crew)

We all met and made introductions outside over cocktails and cigarettes. The warmth of the reception was a bit of a surprise. As I would find out, everyone we heard this night was a staple of the Arizona hip hop scene, with years of performances under their belts and the accolades to go with them. Yet they took the time to introduce themselves and thank us for our attention as if we were the celebrities. This is a big part of what drew me in and made me want to know and hear more about this scene. Nowhere else in my photography travels had the environment been more welcoming and alive.