Starting from the bottom and rocketing to the top is a narrative that's a fundamental part of hip-hop's DNA. Rap, perhaps more than any other style of music, embodies the American ideal of upward mobility and bootstrappin'. The only thing separating a rapper hawking mixtapes on the streets from Rap God status is how much they're willing to hustle.
Peoria, Arizona, rapper Ali Tomineek's hustle is starting to pay off. He recently won BET's Hot 16 contest, earning a spot to perform at the channel's Hip-Hop Awards on Tuesday, October 10. Tomineek will join several other up-and-coming rappers in a cypher performance, where the West Valley native will get to spit his hottest 16 bars in front of a national audience.
This isn't the first time Tomineek has entered the Hot 16 contest. The rapper first submitted an entry back in 2015. Tomineek had been interested in music for years, and had begun to make a name for himself in high school. At Peoria High School, then-sophomore Tomineek used to drop impromptu rhymes on the school's video feed as part of their morning announcements. Thanks to those weekly performances, Tomineek began developing his signature “clean” style of rapping, meaning he doesn't use profanity.
The Hot 16 victory isn't the only feather in the rapper's cap. His last album, World Famous #FridayFlow, hit No. 1 on Billboard's Heatseeker Mountain chart shortly after its May 2017 release. It also landed at 40 on Billboard's top selling R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart, placed in between the latest efforts by J. Cole and Travis Scott.
That's a staggering accomplishment when you consider that Tomineek's album didn't have any kind of radio support or a multimillion-dollar promotional budget behind it.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
While most rappers might take this moment to rest on their fledgling laurels, Tomineek already has a follow-up album in the works. I Ain't Sorry 2 is available for preorder on his website.
Where Peoria's favorite rap son will go from here is anyone's guess, but it's hard to imagine his BET performance will send him anywhere but further up the rap food chain.
Correction: A previous version of this article noted that the BET Hip-Hop Awards are on October 16. They're scheduled for October 10.