"My goal has always been to create positive recognition for all of the wonderful talented artists that we have up here, and hopefully somebody will get a chance to really break out of here and get signed," Ward said. "When that happens? I'll be so happy."
The 2017 nominees for the fourth annual Alaska Hip Hop and R&B Awards include some of the most prolific names in Alaska hip-hop — performers including Alaska Redd, Bishop Slice and Starbuks.
The first awards show took place in 2008, Ward said. After a long hiatus, it was revived in 2015. It gained momentum in 2016, Ward said, and when construction at the Loussac Library prompted organizers to find a new venue for the 2017 event, they decided to make the leap to the downtown performing arts center.
"We just want to have it grow, and it keeps getting better and better every year," he said. Anchorage hip-hop artist Tayy Tarantino is one of more than a dozen Alaskans up for awards Saturday, nominated in four categories — Music Video of the Year, Song of the Year, Male Rapper of the Year and Best Album/Mixtape of the Year.
After growing up in Anchorage, Tarantino moved to Washington, D.C., several years ago and spent some time making music on the East Coast before returning home, inspired to help show the Lower 48 what Alaska hip-hop sounds like.
"We're forgotten about up here; they don't think we have anything up here," he said. "To me, that's a big deal."