Best of Dallas®

Best Of 2009


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Best Of :: People & Places

Scenes: The Master Of Spin

Web extra: Video of DJ Drop at a Definition DJs meet-up.

Before a team on MTV's America's Best Dance Crew tackled B-Hamp's "Do the Ricky Bobby," before Shaq and Lebron performed their best takes on the GS Boyz' "Stanky Legg" at the 2009 NBA All-Star Game, and even before The New York Times reviewed the debut release from Dorrough and announced that the national hip-hop party has "landed in Dallas," there was a meeting.

And it was at such a meeting—or rather at a series of such meetings—where DJ Drop, along with the 30 other DJs who work for his Dallas-based Definition DJs collective, essentially launched the craze for what would eventually become the defining national hip-hop trend of 2009: This, you see, was the year that Dallas finally made good on its potential to become the next big hip-hop hub of the South.

And Dallas did so, well, because of Drop, to a degree. And because, oh yeah, of those meetings.

See, it's at these meeting where Drop and his fellow DJs, with their nightly bird's-eye-view of area dance floors, discuss the trends they see, the changes in tastes that they're noticing among the crowds, comparing notes on crowd reactions and sharing observations on the latest up-and-coming dance moves. It's at these meetings where the Definition DJs carefully listen to and dissect as many new artists' songs as they can. 'Cause here's the thing: It's at these meetings—little-known outside the innermost circles of the hip-hop community till, well, right now—where DJ Drop, weeks in advance, starts putting into motion the process that, weeks later, finds Dallas-area talents popping up on the national radar, looking like fresh-faced overnight success stories.

It's a more dedicated—and complicated—process than the cause would seem to merit. But, of course, there's a reason for all this rhyming.

"We talked about the 'Stanky Legg,'" Drop says while readying his staff for yet another one of these meetings, held somewhat inconspicuously at the Ice Barr on Commerce Street downtown. "Before it blew up, we were speaking on that record. Two weeks later, it was on the radio."

That's not just a coincidence either, ensures the 33-year-old Drop, born Charles Robinson. It's all part of what's become the pretty standard practice for aspiring hip-hop artists in the region: Cut a record, then go get feedback from Drop and his Definition crew. If they like it, they'll try it out in the nightclubs (the smaller ones first) and see how the crowds respond. If the crowds respond well, the tracks get placed into rotation at the bigger clubs. And, if the bigger clubs respond well, that's when radio comes knocking.

Translation: If you wanna be the next Dorrough—who, for better or worse, with his smash hit "Ice Cream Paint Job," has become the face of the Dallas hip-hop scene—you wanna be in with Drop.

It's simple: "If we [approve of] a record," Drop says, "we put it into power-drive."Putting a song into "power-drive," is simple enough too: If a song's got the potential to be a smash, Drop's DJs—the entire collective—will relentlessly play a record that gets a good club reaction. Radio jocks then, picking up on those trends and wanting to keep up with the songs the audiences are eating up on area dance floors, start to do the same over the airwaves.

"Dallas DJs are just standing up for Dallas music," Drop says, matter of factly. "The songs can be popular, but if we don't co-sign it, it won't blow up."

If Drop's boast sounds a little conceited, well, maybe it is. But KBFB-97.9 FM The Beat program director John Candelaria puts it all in perspective: When his station runs its weekly tests on its listener demographics, results show local artists scoring as highly as national mainstays like Kanye West and Jay-Z. And the radio jocks and fans alike are first learning about these artists and their new songs in the same fashion—through the clubs.

And there have been plenty of new artists popping up in the past calendar year: Aside from mainstays such as Tum Tum, Big Tuck and Play-N-Skillz, we have recently seen the rise of newer artists such as Lil Wil, Fat Pimp, Fat B, Trai D, Big Hoodboss, Paper Chaserz—and plenty more.

"With all those guys," Drop says, "we were a major part of breaking those artists."Given the process behind breaking them, it's easy to see why. Kind of turns the whole thing into a science, really.

"It's been great," Drop says. "Dallas is getting its due, but there's a lot more to come. The only thing people have seen is the dance and club music. Thing is, we're still in the first phase of it all. Wait till people hear everything else that's about to come out. This is just the start.

"If anyone would know for sure, it's him. Y'know, 'cause of the process.And those darn meetings.

-Pete Freedman

Best Alternative Club
Jack's Backyard

'Bout a year ago, back when Jack's first opened, a buddy of mine convinced us to check the place out, promising that the then-new Oak Cliff spot was gonna be quite the big deal in the very near future. Sure enough, what we saw upon arrival was, indeed, quite the chic, if somewhat hidden, hot spot. And it definitely didn't hurt that there were only two males in the place aside from one of the barkeeps. But it wasn't long before the place started drawing a bigger, more varied mix of patrons, and for good reason: An upscale bar with primo lounge seating, a well-kept pool table and glass garage doors that lead out to one of the best patios the region has to offer. It was only a matter of time before everyone else caught on to what was, if only for a short period of time, the LGBT set's best-kept secret.

2303 Pittman St., Dallas, 75208-2077
Best Bar & Best Jukebox
The Windmill Lounge

What do we want—no, wait—what do we need from a bar for it to be a great bar, a go-to bar or, if the heavens align correctly, a home bar? Ample seating. Clean restrooms. An area outdoors for the smokers. Music. Stomach lining options. Good classic hooch. Great service. A TV to stare at when someone strange is trying to talk to us. A great jukebox. Prices that don't break the bank of hard-working folk who deserve a drink come happy hour. The Windmill Lounge has all of these requirements along with a simply smashing cocktail list, misters on the patio, themed big-screen nights, a cell phone lounge and chalkboard walls in the loo. Oh, and in addition to some chomp-worthy panini, the lounge also offers Triscuits with cream cheese and jalapeño jelly or Pickapeppa sauce.The jukebox at the Windmill Lounge is front-loaded with a well-chosen and diverse selection of standards (Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald), classic soul (James Brown, Curtis Mayfield), Texas singer-songwriters (Guy Clark, Joe Ely) and admirable young artists (Black Joe Lewis, Justin Townes Earle). But flip a few pages and you'll find the music less and less appealing, unless you're toasted, in which case your inner 15-year-old might giddily plop down the credits for bizarre selections like Pink, the Bloodhound Gang and the Anchorman soundtrack. Think of it as the perfect test of musical mettle also—if your date goes for the Barenaked Ladies, then you know it wasn't meant to be. If she cues up Otis Redding, you've got yourself a keeper.

5818 Live Oak St., Dallas, 75214
Best Bar Food
The Libertine

There are plenty of reasons why the Libertine deserves recognition—the traditional pub atmosphere, the friendly faces behind the bar, and the fact that, even though it's not much of a venue, the place does its part to support local music with live performances. But the best reason to love the Libertine? The food offered up by the folks in the kitchen. The burger, the tuna sandwich, the three-way fries—they're all legit. And the best part: the pricing. Or, better yet, the half-pricing: Every Sunday, from 5 p.m. till midnight, this food, which has no right belonging in a straight-up bar like this, is offered at half the cost. Oh, and the reasonably priced, five-course monthly beer dinners ain't too shabby either.

2101 Greenville Ave., Dallas, 75206
Best Beer Joint
Flying Saucer Draught Emporium

One of the great joys of traveling is trying new beers that are hard to find in your home town. But who has the money to travel these days? Fortunately, if your travel budget has gone from Amsterdam, Germany and Fort Lauderdale to Addison, Garland and Fort Worth, you can still make like a tourist at your nearest Flying Saucer. With an ever-changing draft lineup, there will always be an unfamiliar brew waiting for you. And if you think you've got the liver and the lucre to try 200 different beers, you can join the U.F.O. Club; upon reaching that lofty goal you win a $100 bar tab and a commemorative plate to hang on the wall. Even if you fall short, you still get a T-shirt. Either way, not a bad souvenir.

14999 Montfort Dr., Dallas, 75254-7519
Best Blues Club
Pearl at Commerce

Here's the deal, Dallas: Considering how important a role the blues played in our city's musical history (y'know, "Deep Ellum Blues," and all that), it's really a goddamn shame how there aren't all that many clubs—well, many clubs worth mentioning, at least—that offer up the genre on a regular basis. Last we heard, there's one coming back to Deep Ellum, thank you very much, in the spot behind the Twisted Root, right where the Red Blood Club used to be. But for the time being, may we recommend the Pearl for your misery-loves-company ways? Located on the east edge of downtown, it's close to our city's historical blues home in Deep Ellum, and with touring and local blues performers coming in on a regular basis—including a Monday happy hour residency from Miss Marcy and her Texas Sugar Daddies—along with a slew of jazz and folk artists, it's the only place we can look you straight in the eye and offer up as a cure for your Lack of Deep Ellum blues blues.

2038 Commerce St., Dallas, 75201

Scenes: The Master Of Spin:


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