Tucson Hip Hop Festival returns to the downtown scene

The Africana Studies Program at UA is a main sponsor and shares its experience with the festival

Tucson Hip Hop Festival | The Daily Wildcat Pictured above is the layout for the Tucson Hip Hop Festival happening on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018.

“From the heart, cause if you wanna start to move up the chart,
then expression is a big part of it" — verse from Dr. Dre, “Express Yourself” by  N.W.A. 

Hip-hop — a cultural phenomenon that captured the minds of millions, is rooted from one place: Africana traditions and culture. 

The Tucson Hip Hop Festival, now in its third year, brings together the love of music and education from students, faculty and alumni of the Africana Studies Program. 

The Department of Africana Studies Program at the University of Arizona has been a sponsor of this event since its first year, when it was known as the Tucson Hip Hop Summit, in 2015.

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The department offers courses in hip-hop study and is venturing into teaching hip-hop and religion, fashion and food. 

“One of our first graduates [in Africana Studies] studied something called the Elements, which has grown into the hip-hop festival. It is a direct extension of what we teach,” said Praise Zenenga, the director of the Africana Studies Program.

The program aims to promote courses in hip-hop elements and aspects. By sponsoring the festival, the college can support local artists who may have been former students, while also promoting music education, specifically hip-hop education.

“There is a very strong educational component in this festival,” Zenenga said. “That’s why we are major funders of the program. So we are connected to it in multiple ways.” 

The festival takes place at the 191 Toole. It hosts events such as live performances, with free workshops open to the public. The event spans only one day, but there are many interactive features going on throughout the event’s period.

Food trucks, hip-hop-themed workshops, performances from local rappers and live graffiti will be taking place at the festival.

“It's a very good community event, and it's also for students so that they get exposed to [hip-hop culture],” Zenenga said.

Being a relatively new festival, it contains a lot of information on hip-hop culture. The knowledge comes straight from professors, alumni and local artists, some of who are students at the UA. 

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The event’s main feature is the performances of local artists and rappers, who are there to promote their brand and their music. The community is a critical part of gaining support for these local artists, according to Zenenga.  

Jocelyn Valencia, a former alumna of the program, turned the passion of learning about the culture and elements of hip-hop into the actual festival itself. She is now a co-director and overseer of the annual hip-hop festival. 

“I had no idea that I would be running a festival at the time, but after I got into the hip-hop culture minor, after learning a lot of stuff about the music industry, I really wanted to come back to Tucson and create an event,” Valencia said. “The main thing that makes it stand out is the fact that it represents all the elements and aspects of hip-hop culture.”  

Bringing that "edgy lifestyle that hip-hop boasts" is one thing that makes it stand out from the rest, according to Valencia. 

Getting the community and students interested in the subject of hip-hop, and sparking an interest in possibly studying hip-hop, is also one of the major points of the festival. 

The festival shares the support for many local artists so they can perform on a larger platform than they would normally to highlight their skills, according to Zenenga. 

Supporting local hip-hop artists and making them feel appreciated is something that Zenenga, the Department of Africana Studies and the festival aim to do. 

“You learn there's not much space for these artists to perform at these festivals, so it gives them a big platform to showcase what they do,” Zenenga said.

According to the festival's website, hip-hop, arts and culture in Tucson are unique. "We want to create an experience that is nothing short from dopeness!" the site reads.

The Tucson Hip Hop Festival will be Feb. 24 from noon until midnight. You can purchase tickets online at  

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