By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
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What's even weirder, though, is that neither B-Hamp nor the five-member boy group he'll be touring with throughout much of the winter has released an album. They're touring solely in support of their singles.
And yet that's enough. Demand merits it.
Lil Wil, for instance, just returned from a tour of the same regions as part of a marching band showcase tour. His debut full-length, Dolla$, TX, earned release only in June, but even so, on a near-nightly basis he served as the "halftime act" of the tour, performing a short set to tens of thousands of fans—in arenas, no less.
So, it's safe to say that Dallas hip-hop is finally breaking beyond the city limits, into the rest of Texas and beyond.
"You can't even get played in a Houston club right now unless you're a Dallas artist," says Fat Pimp, a Duncanville native who splits his time between the two cities because he still has a year to go toward earning his media communications degree from Texas Southern University. "In Houston, in the clubs, they all wanna know what the new Dallas songs are. They call it the Dallas swag, and they embrace the fact that it's different."
As a result, Fat Pimp has regularly been asked to headline and host Houston radio station parties and concerts in recent months, to the point where he's performed far more often in Houston than he has in Dallas.
"The Dallas artists have worked hard at it," says John Candelaria, radio program director for Dallas' KBFB-97.9 FM The Beat. "They've really been students of the game. They're honing their craft, they're learning from the Atlantas and the Houstons, and they're really creating their own sound. Just this past week, I had radio programmers from stations in San Antonio, El Paso and Houston asking me to send them the new MP3 for the 'Stanky Legg.'"
On Dallas radio stations, local artists are in constant rotation. Of the top 20 songs on The Beat's playlist last week, four singles came from Dallas artists. That's a revealing statistic, sure, but it doesn't tell the whole story.
Take a quick listen to either The Beat or local competitor KKDA-104.5 FM K104 during afternoon drive time, and you'll hear Dallas artist after Dallas artist blaring from your speakers.
"The Dallas appeal is at an all-time high," Candelaria says. "People are supporting their own. And we are, as a radio station, a reflection of our community. We run tests on our area listener market every week, and what's crazy is that a Lil Wil will score higher than a national artist like a Jay-Z or a Kanye West on our weekly tests."
After finishing up their half of the photo shoot, Them GSpot Boyz explain that it's more than the listeners simply wanting to support their own. They're looking for a good time—something these artists are more than willing to provide.
"We really didn't have any money growing up," says GSpot member Marc D. "So we're not gonna rap about money or cars. We grew up dancing. We like to dance. We're rapping and singing about what we know."
Dallas becoming a predominantly dance city, though, is a relatively recent development.
"There's always been two kinds of music in the Dallas hip-hop world," DJ Drop says. "Gangsta and dance. Before this movement, though, it was all gangsta rap in Dallas. The whole dance craze started blowing up in 2006, though."
In July of that year, there was a shooting in a hip-hop club called El Angel. Two people—Lendl Carey, 22, and Kenneth Haggerty, 20—were killed.
"It was a big deal," says Drop, who was working the DJ booth as the fight broke out. "They did an episode of 48 Hours on it. Everyone blamed the music. They said I was playing a Lil Jon song. I didn't even have a Lil Jon record with me that night."
Tensions flared at clubs in the following weeks—so much so that, Drop says, the hip-hop clubs stopped being fun.
"I became real conscious of the music I played," Drop says. "If it spoke of violence or anything, I didn't play it."
Drop found the answer to getting people back into clubs was in dance songs. He figured—or, rather, he hoped—that without gang or neighborhood signs being glorified by the music, people would just join each other on the dance floor to have a good time. But even that answer was found in another dark corner of society—the spastic dance moves he'd seen drug users performing in the club since the early '00s.
"A lot of people that created these dances usually popped pills, like ecstasy and stuff," Drop admits. "That was an influence of it when it first jumped off, yeah. But it's grown from there, thankfully."
The first dance song Drop—and, really, everyone else interviewed for this story—recalls drawing people out onto the dance floor in the wake of the El Angel killings was Big Los and Lil Joe's "Watch Dis," a track in which Lil Joe tells his listeners all the moves he does in the club to get the ladies to turn their heads his way.