What is Dallas hip-hop like? Depending on where you hung out this weekend, your answer to that question could go in one of two directions--positive and exciting, or scary as hell.
You would have reached the latter conclusion if you were standing anywhere near Club Hush on Friday night around closing time. There, according to Donna Hernandez from Dallas Police media relations, J.T. Nelson was shot and killed on the 2600 block of Commerce Street around 2 a.m. on Saturday morning.
According to a report at txcn.com filed by WFAA-Channel 8 reporter Bert Lozano, Nelson and a group of friends left Club Hush "when another group tried to pick a fight." Soon afterward, an assailant ran on foot past Nelson and his friends and opened fire, killing Nelson and wounding another. (Shortly before we went to press, WFAA's Dan Roman reported that an 18-year-old murder suspect was taken into custody on Monday morning, but Hernandez would not name that suspect or confirm whether that suspect was tied to Nelson's shooting in particular.)
And the bad news pours on for Deep Ellum.
Recently, I wrote an hour-by-hour account of nightlife in the district (see "Go to Ellum," August 18). After describing large closing-time crowds patrolled by an understaffed police force armed with mace-loaded paintball guns, I said, "By the end of the night, the little things reminded me that if serious crimes had occurred, nobody would've been able to stop them." Right now, Nelson's family has to wonder why DPD didn't take such a warning more seriously.
Now, the public has an exclamation point they can slam on Deep Ellum's hip-hop dance clubs (though Club Hush has techno in its playlists, my few visits to the club have been dominated by rap) and, unfortunately, the local hip-hop scene as a whole. But let's be clear--Deep Ellum dance clubs are meat-market rooms that spin national, top-40 pop-rap dreck. You won't hear Dallas' finest at Hush, Nairobi or Palm Beach Club.
So where do you find the real local hip-hop culture? That's where positive and exciting events like Who's Got The Juice? 3 come in. On Saturday and Sunday, local dance crew Diverse Soulz overtook Fair Park's Food and Fiber Pavilion (surely the, uh, most crunk building in Fair Park) to throw what DS organizer Peter Vattakavanich calls "a representation of all four elements of hip-hop." The third annual competition pitted local break-dancers, battle-rappers, DJs and graffiti artists against each other, and the result made hip-hop competition shows like Dance 360 and Wild N' Out look like Nightline.
The most populated contest at WGTJ3 was popping--part robot, part ragdoll--in which a dancer chains a lot of short, half-jerky, half-smooth movements to the beat, and while contestants danced at each other pretty aggressively in that event, their intensity was nothing compared to the three-on-three B-Boy (break-dancing) battles. It's not every day you see six people on one floor attacking each other with simultaneous, synchronized break-dance moves. Among my favorite moments was when one guy in dance crew Stranger grabbed his crotch at his opponents while pulling off a super-fast 720 floor spin.
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The battle rappers weren't quite as skilled, though Exile managed to rhyme "Food and Fiber" in a creative dis, and Austin's Zeale32 shared this precious treasure with an opponent: "I didn't know you could be so whack/and I didn't know someone could be blacker than Barry White's ass crack." The event was a bit unorganized--the 15-minute intermission that lasted more than an hour was a beating.
But those small complaints were overpowered by the event as a whole. Competitors, even after trash-talking and taunting, shook hands and offered kudos after every round. During breaks, dance circles would pop up out of nowhere--you couldn't stop the crowd from getting down at all times. And outsiders might have been surprised how ethnically varied WGTJ3 was--no minority could be counted among the whites, blacks, Asians and Latinos--but Peter V wasn't.
"We wanted to show the beauty of hip-hop, not just what people think hip-hop's all about," he says. "People think dirty South, or maybe gangsta, when it's not necessarily that. And there's a mixture and melting pot of everybody."
You can expect just as good a time this Friday when Gypsy Tea Room hosts a special edition of Final Friday, the almost-monthly local hip-hop event. There, quality local rappers like Tahiti, Voice Rock and Cainam will perform to celebrate the release of the latest Texas Hip-Hop Massacre mixtape. Once again, wherever you are this weekend will affect how you view Dallas hip-hop, so show up on Friday for the positive and exciting perspective.