By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
"When I started playing it, everyone else did," Drop says. "DJs are the most egotistical people. They control everything. They can make the party, or they can break the party. But we started sharing songs and working together."
Suddenly, Drop says, everyone was having fun again in the clubs. And more important, hitting the clubs became a regular thing again.
Then came Soulja Boy, oddly enough.
In the summer of 2007, the now-18-year-old rapper had a mega-hit with his "Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)," an incredibly simple and catchy track that unabashedly beckoned listeners to dance. His rise to fame, at that point, followed a unique path. This teenager, in his Atlanta home, created a beat, song lyrics and a dance—actually, a number of dances, but that's not the point—and he recorded it all with a video camera, creating simple, low-budget videos of his performances that he would immediately turn around and post to Internet video-sharing site YouTube.
Because of the millions of views his videos amassed, Soulja Boy earned himself a major recording contract. "Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)" was everywhere: radio, clubs, television shows, cell phone ringtones, and, most notable, in hundreds if not thousands of response YouTube clips in which various neighborhood kids, celebrities and even cartoon characters offered up their renditions of the song and dance.
And it's here where the biggest stars of Dallas' boogie scene—Lil Wil, Lil Shine, Fat Pimp, B-Hamp and Them GSpot Boyz, none of whom is older than 24—took notice, following the path blazed by this rapper who has no Dallas ties, aside from an affinity for Lil Wil's "My Dougie" (Soulja Boy has created videos of himself attempting the Dougie version of the boogie and shared some performance bills with Lil Wil) and the fact that he has a shoe contract with the Arlington-based company Yum Shoes.
"He showed everyone that the Internet was a great way to get noticed," B-Hamp says. "If you put anything on YouTube and it's catchy, they'll keep looking at it."
But it's more than that, explains Tum Tum before beginning a recording session for his follow-up to 2007's Eat or Get Ate album, which spawned "Caprice Music," a more-standard, non-YouTube-supported hit.
"You can just tell when the music's about to change," Tum Tum says between drags of a cigarette. "When Soulja Boy came out, you could tell. And now the radio ain't nothing anymore. You can drop your song on YouTube and get known. Radio didn't get the Dougie big. YouTube got the Dougie big. It's not just the radio now. This generation doesn't even leave the house. And Dallas is on that YouTube, man. A lot of these guys are college kids—B-Hamp, Lil Shine, Fat Pimp. They know what they're doing. Smart is the new gangster."
"It's really us just catching onto the game," Lil Wil says. "We've got this type of music, and we've got our whole city doing it. How can we expose it to the world? The Internet. It's easy. We can't travel everywhere. But [these videos] can."
Sitting at his Exposition Park photo shoot, B-Hamp had trouble disagreeing. It's simple, but he knows why people like his "Do The Ricky Bobby" song (aside from the reference to 2006's Will Ferrell movie, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby).
"Just 'cause it's catchy and everybody loves to dance," he says. "Everyone on the Internet wants to learn new stuff."
That's certainly the case with Houston hip-hop heads who've picked up on the D-Town Boogie trends, DJ Drop says.
"In Houston, you can tell the people that are doing it right off YouTube," he says with a chuckle. "They're doing it right off the instructions."
But that's the idea, Lil Wil explains: "Everyone thinks they can do it better! You put a YouTube clip up of someone doing a dance, and then a minute later, you've got 10 different people doing your dance."
At press time, Lil Wil's "My Dougie" video has 3.3 million YouTube views. Them GSpot Boyz's "Do Da Stanky Legg" has 2.3 million views.
Want The Idiot's Guide to Making It in Dallas Hip-Hop? There it is. It's a pretty simple formula, which is why so many new artists who are following it, like B-Hamp and Them G-Spot Boyz, are just now starting to bubble up.
"Everyone wants a tight beat and a new move to go with it," B-Hamp says. "It's kind of like a video game. Once you get it done, you wanna do something else."
More or less, that's how the D-Town Boogie progressed to where it is today—and how local radio started picking up on the trend.
"When you go into radio meetings," says Fat Pimp, whose recent successes have earned him a deal with Warner Bros., "the first thing they wanna hear is if it's getting played in the clubs."
But here's where the potential trouble—and the potential growth stunt—comes into play with the D-Town Boogie.
"When I went to the labels with the 'Rack Daddy'," Fat Pimp says, "they were like, 'But it's a dance song!' The labels are after a quick buck with a dance song, but they're not gonna give you a deal."