By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
In the hip-hop world, Houston and New York are among the bigger scenes known for mixtapes--CD-Rs in which rappers perform over unlicensed samples to get their name out and make a quick buck. So at last May's Conspiracy Radio Music Awards, recognizing the best in Dallas rap, I was intrigued to find a "Best Mixtape" category." I asked a few performers at the show: How does the Dallas scene compare?
Minutes later, I held a huge stack of local hip-hop mixes in my hands. Unfortunately, most of those were stolen when I hid them in a corner while using the restroom. (Thanks, guys.)
So I put out an open call to rappers at dfwhiphop.com, the scene's biggest Internet meeting ground, and asked for help restocking my losses. Sadly, the turnout was paltry, in spite of repeated attempts to get the online community riled up. Five mixes showed up in all, and they ranged from solid (Bavu Blakes' Blazing Saddles) to shameful (Sho's The Undisputed Champ). Fortunately, two stood out as worthwhile introductions to what the local mixtape scene has to offer.
Various: Texas Hip Hop Massacre
Nice Drop Dallas Observer favorite Tahiti drops two of his best tracks, "Hip-Hop Vs. Rap" and "The Birth of Whack," which alone make this compilation worth a grab, but even better is the opening, the hottest track to yet combine locals Bavu Blakes and Money Waters. "Play the Role" attacks overhyped down-South rappers with a balance of street cred and sharp wit, as Waters spits, "Hell, I been through struggles just like any other Texas boy, I'm seekin' currency cuz I'm currently unemployed."
Then there's Voice Rock, hidden in the dead center of the compilation but bringing the most confident flow to the disc. His "Voice Rock for President" has a sparse, old-school breakbeat set off by horn blasts, and he drops Jurassic 5-leaning rhymes like, "Miss, please could you strip like Gaza, put up your Dukes of Hazzard, puffin' grass at Dealey Plaza."
The rest is a mix of great (Deadicated brings some Definitive Jux flavor on "Not Love") and played-out (Cainam mimics Bloodhound Gang on "Beer Coaster," and Mes bores with Pimp My Ride references on "Fuck Yo Car"), but even with a few slip-ups, Massacreis still the most polished and legitimate introduction to the variety of Dallas hip-hop available. Many of these rappers perform at the Gypsy Tea Room this Saturday, and I'm guessing Money Waters, Voice Rock and Cainam will have a few copies of the disc on hand, too.
Versatile: 1st Verse, The Mixtape
Dmani Versatile wanted to make the right impression with his debut solo mixtape, and on opening track "Pass the Bottle," he doesn't just leave an impression--he leaves a mark as strong as if he had punched you in the face. The track's Eastern, RZA-leaning beat throws sitar, bongos, record scratches and booming bass at Versatile's unique, pimp-ready voice, and when he smoothly raps the lines, "Bartender, do you remember, that drink you made it was alcoholic or somethin', I can't quite recall it, I was drunk when I bought it, but it had a nigga feeling real frolic or somethin'," you can practically see women at the club throwing their asses at the Dallas MC.
The quality doesn't wane for the 40-minute run time, either, which says something for a disc that bucks a modern rap trend by including very few guest rappers. He's as tough on rival rappers ("There's something you gotsta know, I'm like a woman once a month--y'all can't stop the flow") as he is on himself ("I gotta be strong, I hate writing these songs, but this is my healing process, the only way I move on"), and the head-nodding production, if it's stolen, certainly doesn't sound like cheap, tacked-on, illegal sampling. Anyone who bumps a stereo while cruising on weekends needs this disc. No question.
This is only a fraction of the scene, so please send the best hip-hop mixes in town, current and old, to my attention at the Dallas Observer's P.O. Box for inclusion in the next mixtape round-up.