By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
It's time to be frank: Everything I've written about Dallas hip-hop has been inadequate. The columns, the previews, the Dallas Observer Music Awards blurbs--chump change. I thought I was doing service to an ever-growing scene of performers around town, but on Friday night, I was forced to look the metroplex rap scene square in the eyes, and I realized that this scene is much bigger--and more worthwhile--than I'd ever previously considered.
But let's not jump on a lip-service soapbox; my last boss, Sarah Hepola, did that already (Across the Bar, May 26) by breezing through a list of talented rappers in Dallas without being definitive about the issue. And I've done the same thing. I've listed great performers in short blurbs--filling the bare-minimum hip-hop quota before moving on to Dallas' rock bands, which, for a town with such a huge hip-hop audience, is a shame.
Publicly, I've called out the lack of organization and publicity from hip-hop performers in and around town. I've also lashed out at the lack of music clubs that support local hip-hop--there's no Barley House, Cavern, Double Wide or Rubber Gloves for rap fans to call their own. Together, those two issues create a chicken-or-the-egg dilemma--as do local radio stations that could give two flips about Texas rappers outside of Houston--but there's an even bigger problem: the public perception of Dallas rap.
If people in Dallas thought local hip-hop was indispensable, exciting, electric, they would have sold out Friday's Final Friday concert at the Gypsy Tea Room. And if I had thought the same thing, I would have taken my notebook and camera.
As I walked up to the Gypsy on Friday, I saw local funk-rap mover Pikahsso standing outside with DJ Rob Viktum and said hello. "Don't worry, I'm not doing a concert review tonight," I jokingly told them, but Pikahsso must've sensed the real reason why I wasn't tackling the show. A few minutes later, he approached me in the crowd.
"When are people gonna get it?" he asked. I tried to reassure him and said that any good scene takes time to build up, but when I walked away, I realized I was the idiot kid talking to the wise man. Pikahsso, like a lot of the people at Final Friday, wasn't some fame-hungry teen looking for the big MTV deal--though that certainly wouldn't hurt. Rather, these performers have been cooking their material for years around town, waiting for people to finally catch on and give it a shot. In his eyes, nobody has and perhaps nobody ever will.
The public perception of Dallas rap is burdened by the lack of a big, shiny hook. There's no collective movement--no diamond-covered blingsters, no political fist-pumpers, no crime-hardened bullet slingers and certainly no cough syrup addicts--that a mass audience can hold onto like a big, stretchy pair of MC Hammer pants.
Final Friday didn't have a collective style or hook, though, and thank God.
Relative newcomers got the night off to a fiery start--the calculated rap attack of Imaginary Friends opened, and MCs Cainam and Poindexter traded half-intellectual, half-stoned lyrics without teetering on either extreme. Immediately afterward, Dallas duo Gutterball stormed the stage with intense, old-school rhymes firmly rooted in the streets, not in gangsta clichés.
The folks behind Final Friday finally took my advice from a previous review, throwing rappers at the audience one immediately after another so that the show's intensity and momentum never waned. As a crowd built up to await the show's closer, the incredibly average rap-rock band Blunt Force Crew, they were bombarded with all-out sets from the Free Agents (Chuck and Tahiti), Voice Rock, San Antonio's Assasyn Dynasty and, most important, King Ashoka. "Give Me Mine," a personal diatribe about the balance between greed and morality, gave Dallas' Ashoka a chance to command the crowd with wit, charisma and utter verbal power, and on Friday, his near-perfect performance earned a place at the top of Dallas' rap list.
97.9 The Beat's Headkrack was there, too, fresh off the release of his One Man Army mixtape. He came by the Gypsy to perform the disc's title track while pointing a finger at me in the crowd and rapping, "Sam Mal-koh-vits/from the Dallas Observer, that dude can eat a dick." It was a response to a concert review I wrote more than a year ago--talk about a late comeback--but I wasn't personally offended at all (aside from the mispronunciation). He might've been onto something, though.
I could give some more lip-service, list some more acts and write a few more details about performers that night. But like I said, I've done that to death. So instead, I'll make this promise: The next Final Friday concert will be even better. It's up to Dallas' hip-hop community to make sure it happens (the "monthly" event sometimes skips a month...or three) so that everyone else in town can see what I finally figured out on Friday--I live in America's best hip-hop city.