Dallas Hip-Hop: Swagger Like Us

Local artists make waves with D-Town Boogie, but the real test comes in 14 months

Considering that, Fat Pimp and Lil Wil, who is signed to Houston's Asylum Records, are lucky. The former had a minor radio hit with his song "I'm Getting Money" just before the release of "Rack Daddy"; the latter had a second single, "Bust It Open," already getting requested for play on radio stations by the time his "My Dougie" was just starting to heat up—and it's turned out to be a bigger hit than "My Dougie" for Wil in the long run.

Because both artists were working on album releases when radio stations came calling, they were gleefully willing—and more important, able—to pass along any track the radio wanted to play from their catalogs.

Newer D-Town Boogie success stories, like B-Hamp and Them GSpot Boyz, haven't gotten that far; they've earned immediate club and radio spins off the success of their first serious forays into recording.

The Ricky Bobby
Ray & Peter Lek
The Ricky Bobby
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Ray & Peter Lek
Check out my lean

"Having all these dance songs is definitely a double-edge sword," Fat Pimp says. "In one sense, it's good because you're getting exposure. But it's tough to get more than that. You can't really name too many artists out there that have dance songs and nothing else. It puts you out there as a potential one-hit wonder."

And there's the ultimate worry: The same thing that has put Dallas hip-hop artists into a position to be heard in the clubs and on the radio, locally and beyond, is the same thing that could kill it. Because, let's face it: Hip-hop dance songs are a little gimmicky.

OK, a lot gimmicky.

"As far as the whole dance thing, I never thought it was gonna blow up outside of Dallas," Fat Pimp says. "Now, I'm not saying 'Don't do the dance music.' I'm saying you should have your whole library ready when the labels call. A dance song is only gonna get you so far, and it's only gonna get you so much respect in the industry. And that's the hardest thing to do in this industry: get respect."

Play-N-Skillz's Play, who, along with his brother Skillz, won a Grammy for his production work on Chamillionaire's 2007 hit "Ridin'" and may well be up for another for his work with Lil Wayne this year, agrees with the gimmicky concerns: "It's good for Dallas to try to create something, and I'm down with Dallas trying to make something out of itself, but I probably won't listen to these songs in my CD player. I like them in the club. It's fun for the kids. I was in San Antonio this past weekend, and all the songs everyone was playing was Dallas songs.

"It's great club music," he adds, before quickly echoing Fat Pimp's sales worries. "But club music doesn't translate into record sales. Still, this isn't 'Who Let the Dogs Out.' This isn't that situation. These guys have more credibility than that."

Tum Tum, who with "Caprice Music" bears the burden of being the first of Dallas' new class of hip-hop artists, boogie-based or not, to have a national breakout hit, emphasizes Play's point: "Every city's got 20 dance rappers. And this is a dance city. I've heard a million dance songs from local artists, and they haven't gone anywhere. So you've gotta give the artists who have gotten airplay some credit for these songs actually being good."

Then again, Tum Tum also knows the market he's aiming for. He's performed on a number of boogie remixes and, more recently, he's added a medley of D-Town Boogie tracks to his set when he's out on the road performing.

"I like them," he says. "They're all cool. That's how I get down in the club. I do the Stanky Legg and the Rack Daddy, y'know? The boogie scene is the scene right now. Now, I pick beats based on if people can boogie to them."

And, gimmicky or not, people are noticing. In June, Lil Wil's debut album opened at No. 3 on Billboard's Heatseekers album chart. It's a sub-chart, yes, completely different from the magazine's standard album sales charts. But that debut, coupled with the chart placements (as high as the mid 50s) of the singles from boogie artists such as Wil, Lil Shine, Fat Pimp, B-Hamp, Them Gspot Boyz—and even other artists, like Big Tuck, Trap Stars Clik and The Trap Squad Cartel, whose songs include a boogie beat but avoid specific dance instructions—is enough to show that people beyond city and even state borders are listening to these songs.

Dallas' audience is big, but not big enough to create those numbers on its own. The question, though, is whether we can keep the country's attention. "We're not really doing anything new," DJ Drop says. "We're selling the same thing twice. The same thing you've seen in Atlanta and Houston."

Before those cities rose to national hip-hop prominence, each boasted a similar local, bubbling dance-crazy scene. Atlanta's Snap and Houston's Chopped and Screwed movements are essentially what the D-Town Boogie, in its early stage, hopes to keep trending toward becoming. For that to take place, though, two things need to happen.

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