By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
For a long time, the only hip-hop in Deep Ellum was the odd Young MC or Tone Loc song that would sneak into rotation on The Bone's roof deck. And, yeah, that didn't really count. Always been pretty hard to find hip-hop or R&B or even a DJ set between Elm and Commerce, unless you factor in the kids creeping and cruising the blocks on weekend nights. Which doesn't really count either. Clubs that catered to urban music would close; others would decide that booking hip-hop and R&B acts wasn't worth their time or money. Or something like that. They would come up with plenty of rationalizations but very few reasonable explanations.
We always used to hear that there wasn't an audience in Dallas for live hip-hop or R&B. And that is just, well, ridiculous. If anyone still has the stones to say that, they weren't there when Jay-Z had the crowd (and it was a big one) in his back pocket at Smirnoff Music Centre last summer. Or they missed Jurassic 5 at Gypsy Tea Room a few months back, controlling the too-packed club like it was a bulldog on a chain. They might be talking about the ill-fated Nappy Roots gig at Trees not long ago (there were more people onstage than off), but that was an aberration.
This audience didn't develop in the past few years. It was always there, but now, clubs give it a place to go. Gypsy Tea Room and Trees have brought in some of the finest in urban music (Snoop Dogg, The Roots, J5, Common, Musiq and Blackalicious, among others, as well as a J-Live set on January 18 at Trees). More important, there has been Final Friday, the monthly showcase put together by the duo of Brian "Viz" Walker and Jonathan "Fatz" Dangerfield, otherwise known as The A-Teem Alumni.
Since they've been doing Final Friday at Liquid Lounge for the past three years or so, The A-Teem Alumni have given a stage to Mental Chaos, Hydroponic Sound System, Shabazz 3, Kin Fok Kru, the Free Agents, 2 Kol Syndicate, King Ashoka, Dot Matrix, Strange Fruit and the Burn Unit. When The Legendary Fritz and Headkrack were battling last year, Final Friday was where it played out. Erykah Badu has dropped in for a freestyle, and N'Dambi, Carmen and Nayrok Udab perform there when they aren't touring on the East Coast. And a few national acts have stopped by to step up to the mike. Shyne did a set (before he took the rap for P. Diddy and went to the joint), and Boot Camp Click's Blackmoon and Smif-N-Wesson got their props from the crowd there, too. DJ EZ Eddie D's Knowledge Dropped, Lessons Taught show on Saturday evenings on KNON used to be the hub of the local hip-hop scene. Now, you could argue that Final Friday has taken that spot.
Partly because The A-Teem's lineup is always so good, and partly because there pretty much isn't anywhere else to go, more people come out to the shindig than the cramped confines of Liquid Lounge can comfortably hold. So, starting January 31, Final Friday moves to a bigger arena: Gypsy Tea Room. Which sort of turns the venue into one-stop shopping for those looking for hip-hop and R&B. The bill for the first Final Friday at the Tea Room will be announced soon, and the show kicks off at 9 p.m. Don't be late.