Beat down

Dallas' hip-hop scene is more vital than ever, but you'd never know it: no clubs, no radio, no major-label deals. But the musicians, some of this city's best, refuse to give up.

Yet as far back as when Cisco Soul and the Party Patrol became the first hip-hop radio show in Dallas in 1983, the run-down building has been a major part of Dallas hip-hop. In the mid-'80s, the station was at the peak of its support, featuring a handful of hip-hop shows on its schedule. Big Snake and Al from Nemesis had a show there then, and Nippy Jones, now a popular personality on K104, got his start at KNON around the same time. "Everybody listened to KNON to find out what was going on," says Cold Cris.

Everyone listens to KNON now too; they just have less to listen to. Eddie D, a frequent guest on Cisco Soul's show and Nippy Jones' onetime right-hand man, is the lone holdover from that era. Since he got his own show in 1987, Eddie D has been on KNON each week--first on Thursday nights, now on Saturday afternoons--promoting underground hip-hop like he was its boss. For two hours every Saturday, Eddie D is the scene's pacemaker and taste-maker, playing songs by local artists such as Kinfolk Kru, Ghetto Fame-Us, and Profound alongside cuts by national acts such as Pete Rock, A Tribe Called Quest, and Sunz of Man. "I think there wouldn't be no scene here if they didn't have KNON," says Legendary Fritz. "No scene, period, at all."

Eddie D, 37, grew up in Cincinnati, a talented soccer player who parlayed his skills into a college scholarship. Growing up, he didn't want to be on the radio; he wanted to be like Brazilian soccer star Pele. His soccer career didn't pan out as planned, though, and by 1983, he had migrated to Texas, first to Houston, then Dallas. ("Best thing that ever happened," he says.) After settling in Dallas, Eddie D was introduced to Master Mixer, a DJ who taught him the tricks of the trade, how to cut records, mix them together until the beats were water-tight. Master Mixer also brought Eddie D into the fold at KNON, letting him perform with his mix team on Cisco Soul's show. Eddie D began spending more and more time at the studio every week, and after Cisco Soul's show was canceled, he moved on to work on Nippy Jones' show. By 1987, he had his own slot on KNON, Down By Sound, on Thursday nights.

His show has changed time slots and names since then, but it has remained the only consistent aspect of Dallas hip-hop, as reliable as controversy at a Dallas Cowboys training camp. This year, Eddie D got into the record business as well, releasing Down By Sound: KNON Hip-Hop Compilation, a brilliant collection of songs by some of the artists who appear on his show, including Phat Head Squad, Distortionist, and Soule. It may not be the best album to come out of Dallas this year, but it's definitely one of the most important.

"I'm hoping that we can get this one all sold and completed, and then do another one," he says. "That's what I'm looking forward to. It's OK to do one, but when you start doing two and three and four, that's really nice."

Eddie D isn't just hip-hop's biggest supporter in Dallas. He's always been a performer as well, manning the turntables with the Highly Dangerous Fresh Ones and Decadent Dub Team in the late '80s, and currently with the Funktactics. He knows how hard it is to work at a shitty job just to keep your dreams alive; for the past seven years he has been spinning top-40 crap at Blind Lemon on Thursday and Friday nights.

It's that kind of love for the music that has kept his show so vital to the scene for so many years. Knowledge Dropped, Lessons Taught in many ways is Dallas hip-hop, as much as New York's CBGB's was American punk-rock in the late '70s. Fans tune in to hear what's going on locally as well as nationally, listening to find out what shows are happening this week, who is putting out a new single. Street promoters stop in to give Eddie D copies of new releases and free T-shirts. Performers drop by for a little self-promotion, and to pay their respects to Eddie D. And everyone respects him. Everyone. Of course, you wouldn't tell the nurse keeping your baby alive on life-support that she's doing a bad job.

"I don't know, man," Eddie D says, a humble smile playing across his face. "It's amazing that I've been here this long. The godfather of it all. It's something I'm proud of. It's amazing that something like this has lasted in Dallas this long. I guess I've proved that hip-hop can be a successful venture. But one of the things I've always said, I can do my part as far as being on the radio, a personality or whatever, a DJ, but it's up to the artists to bring out their talent, which makes my show all the better."

Dallas has enough talented hip-hop groups to make Eddie D's show one of the best on any station in the city. Many of them hang out at the studio while Eddie D does the show, waiting for the opportunity to plug an upcoming show or send a shout-out to their friends listening at home. Today, the studio is emptier than usual. A young MC named Headkrack stops by to hype a show he's performing in later that night. DJ Rodney drops in too, as well as a few friends and fans of Eddie D.

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