Dorrough Music is now the only hip-hop artist in the world whose merchandise is sold at an NFL team’s official pro shop.
Last week the Dallas Cowboys announced a collaborative merchandise deal to sell the rapper's hat and t-shirts. This partnership is only the third of its kind, following Drake's deal with the Toronto Raptors and Chance the Rapper's with the Chicago White Sox, but the Cowboys are the first NFL team to make such a move.
While Drake and Chance the Rapper are clearly the hip-hop leaders of their respective cities, Dorrough's claim on Dallas isn't quite as pronounced. Maybe it’s because Dallas isn’t a hip-hop powerhouse on the order of Chicago or New York or maybe it’s because Dorrough has faded from memory since his 2009 hit “Ice Cream Paint Job."
The Dallas Cowboys said in a release that they chose Dorrough because he's been the only recent hip-hop artist from Dallas to obtain mainstream success, with a national following and chart-topping hits. Even if it’s been several years since Dorrough topped those charts, the Cowboys seem to have confidence that there's much more still to come from him.
“It’s a big feeling to build a relationship like this with an organization like the Dallas Cowboys. I’ve been wanting to do this since I started working with them in 2013, when I did the season’s anthem, ‘It’s Our Time,’” Dorrough says of the collaboration. “It’s about gaining trust, and they know I’m working hard. They know I rep the city; I’ve always been a fan. They did their research.”
To people who don't follow hip-hop closely, Dorrough's career will have appeared totally quiet since “Ice Cream Paint Job,” the single that brought him overnight success, peaked at No. 27 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. it also reaped plenty of profit in ringtone sales. Off the strength of that song, Dorrough earned a Best New Artist nomination at the BET Awards and MTV named him one of their Fab Five, a distinction reserved for breaking new artists.
But seven years later he's trying to fight off the perception that he's a one-hit wonder.
“As an artist you’re always fighting against people’s perceptions. You gotta be strong enough to know that’s how people think,” he says. “There’s never been a stop for me. There’s never been a time where I took a break. Even if people think so, I was working on music, becoming a better artist or building relationships, because it’s a marathon.”
Dorrough says a lot of people mistakenly believe he's signed to a major label, because his music was blasted on cable TV networks and radio stations across the country. But his contract with Entertainment One Music is little more than a publishing and distribution deal that gives him the ability to get his music on TV, radio and streaming services.
“People don’t know I’ve been independent since day one,” he says. “I never had a machine backing me. I never had a Def Jam type deal where an artist has a whole team where each person has one job to do for the artist every day. It was always just me.”
When MTV listed him as one of their Fab Five artists in 2009, the other four on the list were Drake, Kid Cudi, Wale and Jeremih, artists who have all gone on to huge success with major labels. “It looked like we were in the same [major label] situation, but after they made all their moves with their team it makes it seem like their career is taking off in a certain type of way, but what people don’t know is that was their machinery," he says. "So that makes it seem like, ‘Why didn’t it happen to him?’”
Despite not being a star on the caliber of those artists, he’s content with how everything’s shaken out. He was only 21 when he had that smash hit, and it taught him how to handle the intricacies of the music industry. Because he operated independent of a major label, he was able to enjoy 100 percent of the benefits of his success and maintain complete creative control.
“At 21 I was too young to understand the game. I had to make my mistakes in front of people and do everything on the run,” he says. “In 2012 I wanted to get off the road to soak everything in, and from then my ideas are really just starting to manifest.”
That two-year period beginning in 2012 marked the first time since "Ice Cream Paint Job" that Dorrough took a break from touring and releasing music. It gave him time to reassess his career and begin laying groundwork for the future. Since returning to work he has released three mixtapes featuring popular artists such as 2 Chainz, Yo Gotti, Nipsey Hussle, YG, French Montana, Boosie and more.
2014’s “Beat Up The Block” with Boosie represented a big comeback for the artist on radio waves and hip-hop blogs. Since then, other tracks such as "Japanese" and "Yeah Yeah" have also earned him significant radio play, as well as a new fanbase that has little interest in his earlier, more commercial hits. It was also during that time that he started developing his relationship with the Dallas Cowboys.
“Only I know what I’m sitting on and what I’m working on,” Dorrough says. “I’m confident in where I am, in where I’m going and what’s next for me with the music.”
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After writing “It’s Our Time,” the anthem for the Dallas Cowboys' 2012-13 season, Dorrough became a regular guest of the team at home games. During his time in the suites with team executives and marketing personnel he made it a point to network and build relationships with everyone, but he didn’t realize they were paying close attention to his wardrobe.
Dorrough’s manager Kevin Mubenga designed jackets the two wore to the games and quickly caught the attention of the president and VP of branding. From there the merchandise collaboration grew legs and Dorrough quickly found himself on the verge of partnering with the biggest sports franchise in the world.
“This is still the beginning of a long process. Eventually we want to have the team’s trust to where we can build more pieces,” Dorrough says. “I’m just glad they’re catching onto something early that can turn into something big.”
Dorrough’s proven it’s impossible to know what he has planned next, but a follow-up to 2010’s Get Big album has been hinted at. The Dorrough X Dallas Cowboys collection is available at Shop.DallasCowboys.com.