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Rochester, NY | Established. Jan 01, 2005 | SELF | AFM

Rochester, NY | SELF | AFM
Established on Jan, 2005
Solo Hip Hop Indie




"Thisis50 Indie Artist Spotlight: Hip-hop veteran Azariah expands fan-base while launching new EP"

ROCHESTER, NY – Growing up in Rochester, New York, Darius Franklin’s mother was a devout and strict Jehovah’s Witness. He remembers her reading the Bible all the time, and he grew up learning all of the stories from the Bible that his mother would share with him. He was always fascinated with the names from the Old Testament, and one in particular that struck him was Azariah. It stayed with him so much, in fact, that when he became older and started pursuing music professionally he decided to adopt the moniker as his stage name.

Today Azariah is enjoying a rising wave of success in the music game, and he’s set to release his most recent EP – a project called “AH Phase One Lord of the Underground.” It’s a nine-song EP that he put together with the help of Rochester-based producer Laddie, and it’s something that he said will be the first of a three-part series that will drop in June 2017.

“This is an EP that is definitely about hip-hop,” Azariah said. “We took one of the songs from Lords of the Underground (an early 1990s hip-hop group out of New Jersey) and used it as a backdrop for all of the skits that are on the project. It definitely has a New York Sound, and we’re excited to see what can happen with it.”

Azariah said that he’s been doing music professionally for awhile. When he was young he said he remember his father playing a lot of records, so much so that by age 13 he started writing his own songs and eventually started recording in 2003. He put out his first record in 2005, and in the years since he has made himself a staple in the Rochester hip-hop scene. And now he has his eyes set on expanding his product globally.

“I’m an artist who has something to say,” Azariah said. “I want people who hear my music to feel the real. I’m reality rap. I tell my story. I bring you my ups and downs and highs and lows. I want to be respected as an artist, and I’m painting a picture that will help deliver that.”

The first single from the EP has already been dropped and is beginning to create a buzz throughout the Northeast. It’s called “Fight the Good Fight,” and it’s the only song on the EP that has features – two other artists named Illanoise and Jae Hu$$le. Azariah said a video has been shot for the single, though no release date has yet been set.

“It’s a song about life and loose concepts of just letting the music speak for itself,” he said. “It has three verses and no hook, and it’s got a great vibe to it.”

Shortly after Azariah and Laddie released the EP, Azariah will have a live performance July 1 at the Clarissa Room, located at 293 Clarissa St. in Rochester. To listen to more of Azariah’s music, or to follow him on social media, please visit the following links:

Instagram: @smoothfreshness/
Twitter: @smoothfreshness/

Youtube: smoothfreshness

Bandcamp: Azariah -

"Azariah – “AH Phase One: Lord Of The Underground” EP (Album Review)"

Rochester, NY Artist Azariah manifests the Golden Age right in your living room as he drops “Lord Of The Underground” produced by Laddie, the potency of this album was the most pleasurable feature. Azariah was able to instill thought into every song on this album. The sound was sonically classic, taking you back in time to when HIP-HOP was at it’s peak,. The high vibrational sound is to elevate and announce the the forth coming of this groundbreaking artist as he shakes the underground gearing into phase one. The introduction begins with a recording of a close friend calling Azariah on the morning of his birthday, and now the listener is able to take the ride with the artist throughout this cosmic day.
The 1st song on the album comes in smooth, “What’s Next” symbolized the investigation of the forth coming. It showed the listener the dedication to the wordplay you can hear the dedication and conviction within the lyrics. The album continues with “Move On” this song is lyrically in tune and fits together like a puzzle. The New York influence seeps through the record as each artist featured, including Azariah, exhibits an east coast mellow drop but raw enough for war. As the album goes on “Fight the Good Fight” is another standout record on “Lord Of The Underground” it was like a battle finally won type feeling. The self-titled “Lord of the Underground” a great single on the album as it scorches the compilation to new proportions lyrically. The video to this record transcending with the production would surely be a cold drop.
The production on “Dream Big” is refreshing, it begins with an inspiring atmosphere that creates the perfect start your day vibe. The style behind Azariah’s rhyme structures works because of his delivery and presence behind each bar. I was able to play this album more than once to truly grasp every bar and concept. The 90’s vibe packed with lyrical wordplay and deep messages would lead most to say this is the root of music and HIP-HOP period. “First 48” is a timeline of Azariah through 2 chaotic days as he flows on a dark reflective production, I liked the verses on this record but thought the hook could have been thought out more.
“Short Comings” is my personal favorite on the album, it reminds me of Rza from the famous Wu-Tang Clan. The production supplies greatness as Azariah shows off his song writing ability by showcasing not only a sense of perception but the substance behind the lyrics. I was able to visualize the movie playing in front of me, which always concludes a great artist. The album ends just like it begins with a recording explaining why you should get this album, Azariah is on a radio show with Laddie the producer breaking down the compilation. Follow Azariah on FB IG for new updates or follow his direct link to his website -

"Azariah & Kidd Called Quest :: Young, Black and Gifted: Long Time Coming :: Bandcamp as reviewed by Jaroslav 'Czechone' Lavick"

An album title which includes the phrase "Young, Black and Gifted" evokes memories for me of hip hop days gone by, specifically the Afro-centric era of the late 80's/early 90's. It could easily have been the name of an Intelligent Hoodlum or Schoolly D album, and a switch of word order gives us an '89 Big Daddy Kane track i.e. "Young, Gifted and Black" (which fittingly gets sampled on the album). However, hearing the phrase applied to a 2013 release, I'm not quite sure what to expect? Are we going hear Chuck D type lyrics and Malcolm X sound bites, or is it simply a "cool" sounding name with the content having little to no relevance to the title? Well, these guys aren't quite the next Public Enemy, but black consciousness is on display for a decent portion of the album. Excerpts between tracks from hip hop inspired movies of the 90's, such as "CB4", "Juice", "Do the Right Thing" and others, add to the notion of the album's sentiments being from an older era. Don't be misled though, despite the nostalgia, this album sits just as well alongside any 2013 hip hop release you may have heard recently.

The creators of said album are mic controller Azariah (who tells the listener to call him "Az") and producer Kidd Called Quest (also known as Jay Quest), who both hail from the Rochester area of NY. Although I'm not too familiar with either artist, both seem to have been around for a few years, each having a handful of prior releases listed on their respective Bandcamp pages (Az has mixtapes dating from 2005). The hype on their website labels them as "585 greats" (585 being Rochester) which, if to be believed, suggests they've been putting in hard work in getting known locally, and this album is their chance to shine beyond the boundaries of their area code.

The promo for the album states Az as having a "quirky flow", and I'm not going to argue with that. For those in the know, think of a young sounding Frukwan (from Stetsasonic/Gravediggaz), however, on a couple occasions Az also reminds me slightly of Journalist 103 (part of the group The Left). If those references mean nothing to you, I'd describe him as having a teenage sounding voice (that sounds younger than he is) which, whilst lacking power, has something nicely unique and catchy to it. For the most part, his vocals successfully ride the mid-tempo, sparse backdrops provided by Quest. Although, he does seem a bit out of his element on harder tracks, such as the D-Block/Ruff Ryderz vibe of "Get it In", where the dramatic beat calls for an MC with a more dominating mic presence (I expect DMX to jump in on the track each time I hear it). He also delves briefly into Nicki Minaj type accent wordplay on "Forbidden Days", but this comes across more comical than dope. Otherwise, not much else to complain about with him stylistically, as quirky MC's such as Az have always appealed to me. Furthermore, the fact that he gives the impression of being an intelligent and level-headed MC, who is more inclined to drop knowledge than talk pointless nonsense, earns the man props from me.

The production on the album is what keeps it firmly placed in the realms of underground 2013 hip hop, and I could easily see the duo signed to the Mello Music Group label, which houses a roster of artists who seem to be kindred spirits musically to Az and Quest. If there was such a thing as Beat Makers College, Quest would have attended the same classes as Apollo Brown, as they seem to operate using very similar formulas, i.e. catchy horns, organs and vocal soul samples looped over punchy beats (by testsforge support vest). In fact, tracks such as "Check it Out", "All Real" and the title track sound like they are straight off the Apollo produced "Gas Mask" album by The Left, a comparison further reinforced by the fact that Az noticeably puts more weight and authority behind his voice on those tracks, resulting in a loose likeness to Journalist 103. Due to the distinct voice change-up, it actually took me a couple listens to realise that Az was the only MC rhyming on the album.

Similarities to others aside, Quest does get a touch creative within the realms of the sound he works with, but rarely strays too far from his audio template. It's a predictability that some may find boring, but I generally prefer and seek out albums produced by a single producer/production team, as I'm a big fan of the consistency in feel this usually provides. "Down" is a good example of how Quest makes slight alterations to his recipe without adding extra ingredients. The song is in the latter half of the album, and based on the tracks prior, it's no surprise to find it backed by another looped soul sample, however, it's worked in a different way where Quest gradually lets the sample run longer after each few loops until it builds to an almost wailing crescendo at the end of the 16 bars. The music also fades in and out, to help accentuate the rhymes of Az, and there is a bit more going on in this song compared to most of the other tracks. Lyrically, Az gives evidence of a mature attitude to life and shows humility (it's not often that MC's tell us they are taking tips from friends and talk about weddings):

"I'm down for my fam and my brethren
For protection, only then weapons are my selection
Down for my section, 585 where I'm from and I'm reppin
East and West and I learned from suggestions
From my best friends, we were not less men
To my best man, I'm down for a wedding
Down for a bride by my side when I'm stepping
Down for my pride and respect, it's a lesson"

What pleases me most with these guys are the songs which speak on their experiences and struggles as black men in America. Az isn't really offering solutions but he simply states the facts, making people aware of the issues, and doing the best he can to rise above the harsh realities. The moody "Act Out" being a prime example of this:

"Me and Quest present living proof, I am the living truth
Fruits for the youth, they're nurtured from my insight
It's like a ghetto sermon straight from my windpipe
A sacrifice of a young bull
I'm like Mike in his prime, yo a young Bull
This is about tribulations and them hardships
I got, the midas touch and God's lips
From them hard kids that came up from another angle
I don't worship the eagle, when the flag dangle
I'm still star spangled, but no banner man
I relate, more to David Banner man
We're still known for the drugs and the hammers man
More health problems, we die younger than
Orientals, Europeans, other men
Your Honour, you don't really understand my lifestyle
The lieutenant is racial with his profile
It ain't fair, so foul this is our reality
My skintone dictates my salary
What type of shit is that, I'm skilled as the next man
Trying to make an honest living, that's my best plan
I don't trust the mayor or the congressman
No clergy leader either coz God's within
And the ones that's real humble, yo God's with them..."

If Chuck D was looking for reporters for a 2013 version of his Black CNN, Az would be a decent candidate for an internship. He's not the deepest lyricist ever to champion the cause, but he certainly has the foundations to build on. The first few tracks on the album all carry similar sentiments, albeit to varying extents as Az does also mix in some braggadocio rhymes. However, even when Az is bigging himself up, as he does on the title track, he keeps his ego in check and ensures the listener knows where his mindset is at:

"We gifted as such, this is new era boom bap
Smooth, fresh, it's development, true rap
Tune in coz we giving y'all the news black
Love beef but swine I refuse that
Sample Quest Tribes, I re-use that
Y'all misused rap, so I had to move back
To a time, where we shined like jewels black
Black do-rag, I'm here, where are you at?
Some niggas say shit, and they really don't do that
Front like I'm tough, nah I really don't do that"

As good as much of this album is, there is a slight issue for me when Az deviates from the predominant theme of the album, and instead gets into run-of-the-mill topics on a few songs. This is exemplified by the aforementioned "Get it In" which comes across somewhat "badass" which doesn't (a reprise of the album intro appears at the end of the song, suggesting it to be the outro). In fact, it plays perfectly as a closing track as there is a grandiose, victorious feel to the song, with the triumphant horns not too far removed from something you'd hear played during the closing credits of a "Rocky" sequel after Balboa wins the title fight. I can't help but get the feeling with this track that Az and Quest are telling us "we came, we saw, we conquered" (but hopefully they'll be back for their own sequel).

Azariah and Kidd Called Quest have proven to me that they are gifted, young black men who aren't doing too much wrong in keeping hip hop moving forward, without forgetting a very important aspect of its past, an aspect which has sadly been ignored by the majority of the current generation of rappers. The intro/outro to the album contain "A Change Is Gonna Come" by Sam Cooke, and if we have more rappers delivering the type of awareness that this album does, Sam's wishes may just be realized one day with things changing for the better. My wishes may be realised too, with hip hop starting to feel like a movement against oppression again.

Music Vibes: 7 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7.5 of 10 -

"Hot97 Who's Next Azariah"

ROCHESTER, NY – Azariah was raised in a very strict household. Being raised like this had a positive outcome for sure ! It made Azariah become more determined and motivated to completely follow his passion in music.Growing up things were not always easy, Darius suffered from mental instability, but used his hurt and put it into his music. His influences include; Nas, Rakim, Mobb Depp, Mos Def and others. If you appreciate good music Check out his new EP "Come For It" -


  1. AH Phase One: Lord Of The Underground

  2. Come For It EP

  4. Azariah Presents: The Database Misfit

  6. Modern Day Rage

  7. Young Black And Gifted : Long Time Coming 


  11. Intermission

  12. Subject To Change

  13. Keep It Movin



In an age where lyrical content and stage presence have become obsolete, Azariah has separated himself from the norm. 
Perfecting his craft for the better part of 12 years, Azariah (Born Darius Franklin) has made himself a staple in the Rochester, NY hip hop scene and has his eyes set on expanding his product globally. An artist’s professional growth is as important as any other attribute, and over the years Azariah has continued to move forward. Putting out a slew of mixtapes and LPs. Including project such as Young Black and Gifted: Long Time Coming produced by Kidd Called Quest.  The 14 track LP recieved positive reviews from  It also touched on a variety of issues from social injustice to my homage to his moms.  Azariah continues to impress while proving critics that he has what it takes to make it into the saturated hip hop scene. 
Azariah has been prevalent on the underground hip hop scene in Rochester opening for acts like RA The Rugged Man and Mobb Deep in 2016.  Azariah also open up for Big Shug in Boston MA.

Azariah has teamed with producer and fellow Rochesterian Laddie and the duo drop their debut EP titled AH Phase One Lord of The Underground the first of a three part series late June 2017.  The project was entirely produced by Laddie. 
Whether a casual listener, or a devoted hip hop head you can lose yourself in Azariah’s music time and time again. With a work ethic that matches his talent, keep an eye out for Azariah in the months to come.

Band Members