Physical CD Sales Still Thrive at Dallas' Big T Bazaar.

Back in February, when Dallas rapper Big Chief announced that he'd signed a recording contract with Cash Money Records, home to rap superstars Lil Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj among others, it came as something of a surprise. Not because Chief was some sort of no-name, though.

Anyone who's paid even the slightest amount of attention to the local hip-hop scene at any single point in the past decade can attest that Chief's been around for some time now, dropping mixtapes at an alarming clip. This prolific nature very much earned him a reputation around town—and a good one, too. For years, before his signing announcement came, when anyone with an ear to the streets was asked who the Next Big Dallas Rapper would be, the answer was Chief. For this set, the most surprising thing about Chief's signing wasn't that it happened, but that it didn't happen earlier.

What's most interesting about his signing from an industry standpoint, though, is how it happened. During his rise, Chief might not have fully ignored the social media outlets that work so well for others, but he hardly used them as his main method of song and information dissemination. For him and the many other rappers currently making a name for themselves on the Dallas streets, the Internet has been and remains mostly an afterthought.

Big T Bazaar is Dallas' one-stop shop for all its urban culture needs.
Kyle Confehr
Big T Bazaar is Dallas' one-stop shop for all its urban culture needs.

And let's face it: After years of hearing about how the Internet is affecting the music industry—be it through Napster, iTunes or, most recently, Amazon's decision to sell songs via a "cloud" service that provides web-hosting for downloaded songs—that kind of logic seems insane. And especially so, given all the success stories that the Internet boasts.

For a recent example, take a look at the ongoing success of Los Angeles rap crew Odd Future and their rambunctious leader, Tyler, the Creator. They were the most buzzing act at this year's South by Southwest Music Conference and now stand at the center of a bidding war that has established rap legends such as Jay-Z and Kanye West shoving to the front of the line. And they've reached this point almost exclusively online: Odd Future has, up until now, mostly survived as an independent entity, relying primarily on the group members' individual Twitter feeds and a Tumblr blog to get the word out. Furthermore, every album in the group's catalog to this point has been given out for free.

A few local acts have followed this format—acts such as Sore Losers, A.Dd+ and Damaged Good$, for instance, who've all released free mixtape downloads in the past 12 months. But for the local acts that actually get played on the radio (and with resounding frequency in this market), the most successful business model has always been different.

In Dallas, as has been the case for years now, ground zero for substantial hip-hop success is right on the streets. And the No. 1 outlet for this street-level promotion is in the city's many bazaars—sprawling inner-city flea markets that serve as hubs for urban culture and style. Without question, the king of Dallas' bazaars is Oak Cliff's Big T Bazaar, which houses a number of music outlets within its confines.

A little primer for the uninitiated: Walk into Big T and you can expect to find $160 grills (the kind that go in your mouth), walls and walls of shoes (many wrapped in protective Saran wrap), essential oils and fragrances, a place to get your hair cut, faux diamond-encrusted belt buckles, rims for your car and any item of clothing from booty shorts to Sunday church suits—all in one convenient place that operates with a cash-only policy.

The highlight here, though, is the number of music vendors that exist under Big T's roof. A stroll into any one of these outlets will reveal a gold mine of CD compilations that collect the street's most clamored-after tracks, many of which sell in numbers that would make any retail shop struggling to keep its doors open jealous. An example: one of the latest releases, Texas T. This four-disc set compiles more than 50 of the latest and hottest tracks from Dallas and Houston artists, as well as 50 videos from names like Treal Lee and Prince Rick, Dorrough, Tum Tum, Big Chief, Lil Twist and a ton more. It's been selling up to 200 copies a week—and that's just at Big T. Its sale price: $20.

"If you want to know what's going on in Dallas, you have to come to the hood," says DJ Cap, who runs Tha Bomb Music, the busiest outlet for music in Big T. Cap just shakes his head when discussing the Internet—mostly because, he says, most of the music he carries isn't even online yet. "This is the pipeline," he says, motioning to the numerous CDs and posters hanging inside of his heavily stocked booth.

To the untrained eye, it doesn't look like much. Many of the mixtape covers and promotional posters retain a similar aesthetic style that has been de rigueur for years now—lots of big diamonds, big cars, references to drug sales and rappers posing with giant stacks of cash in their hands. But if you come in here looking for something new and original, you're kind of missing the point.

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Captain Dip
Captain Dip

Great article, been reading them here and there for some time now, as for online media outlets i've as well as other local rappers are just to busy with work, home, kids, school to be sitting in front of a computer or fumbling with our blackberries or Iphones for hrs on end

.I truly believe that diferent things work for different people, creating a street buzz is just as important as an online followng, I do also believe both are not fully needed.The streets are still mean, beef is all around us, "who's the bigger baller or better rapper" it can get ugly at times when the battle to the top is within reach of several at a time so online media and promotion is a safe route to use when competing with other rappers for sells and attention.

The competion does'nt have a control online over whats bought, liked, played as one does in the streets, peopel are always plotting on another because they dont wont to miss their chance not everybody is that way, however many are - onine its a fair shot by all, no one can try to ruin it for another u and coming rapper. I would seem that "In the street" is just a down south thang als alot of people in the south dont really us the internet much for anything these days. Most metworking is done withing close circles that been formed at work, neighborhoods, school...ect

Then again its all about timing, location, genre and a few other factors which would help propel any good rapper too the fore front of the local music scene.

Right now and for the last yr we have been using word of mouth, my assistants web savvy knowlege of sites such as twitter, blackplanet, mayspace, datpiff, indymixtapes, cdbaby, reverbnation and a few others to promote our music we're gaining a large following somewhat the old fashion way. We had mainly decided that word of mouth was best as had been mentioned to us by several people already in the music industry such as promoters, radio personalities such as Jkruz over at 97.9 the beat as well as many others, we trying a different mix is aways a good till we find that right formula that puts "us" where we need to be or at least close enough to it.

People are taking notice but we're not letting any of it go to our head, we're rolling with our time will come, everybody gets turn.

If my groups Certified Pimps was interested in having you guys do an article on us soemtime in the future what steps would we need to take first to aquire a write up or an interview?

if you be so kind to check us out, have a listen to our music and get back to me Hernandez it would be greatly appreciated. In all honesty before even seeing this article we had thought about contacting you guys a few months go about the matter. Well in any case get back us when you can you may contact me directly or my assistant at your convience.

great article again

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