Rappers talking shit is nothing new. It's a core part of hip-hop. Rappers talking shit about their own music scenes is nothing new, either. But it's still a rare thing to see a rapper release a song that takes aim squarely at his own city. You can call Mac Rockstar, and his track "Letters to Hydro," something of an exception to the rule.
Mac, otherwise know as 23-year-old Cameron Thornton, has only been rapping professionally since 2014. The Pleasant Grove native already runs his own record label, VLLN Records, which is apt because he says he didn't really begin rapping seriously until he was in college studying music business. “I’m going to be honest with you, it’s boring," Mac says of the Dallas hip-hop scene. “You see people copying and pasting ideas instead of trying to come up with their own, so it lacks originality.”
To Mac, a big part of this problem can be attributed to a rise in what he calls "blog rap" — a select few artists regularly written about by local publications — and a collective need to be trending, rather than create something authentic and worthy of his city. “When I say ‘blog rap’ you know exactly what I’m saying," Mac asserts. “Some weak-ass suburban kids out in Frisco trying to do trap music."
Moreover, he sees the city zeroing in on Deep Ellum as the hub of all things music-related, which he feels detracts from the truer, grittier side of Dallas. “Deep Ellum is great, I’m not knocking it. But Deep Ellum is not Dallas," Mac huffs, referring to the neighborhood that has largely been the mainline for local music since the 1980s. "It’s a section of Dallas where you can go see good music. It’s not the whole Dallas culture. It’s not Rudy’s Chicken."
To get a better idea of what he's talking about, here's an overview of "Letters To Hydro":
1. Around 1:43 he tackles the "blog rap": "I'm like 2-4 with it/ I'm one in the middle of these 214 critics/ fuck these high snobs/ on the blogs ass niggas/ I could do a Central Track/ and these niggas would've missed it."
2. He calls out Deep Ellum at 2:03: "I'll get more deep than Ellum/ and/ post bail at Crowley for my bars/ test me/ as I Centre my focus/ so much it/ pushes/ the market'n proves/ I'm bishop of these arts."
3. At 2:10: "If AD.d+ wrote for Misfits/ and Slim wrote his hits/ along with the people he chills with/ I hope these niggas writin' their own rhymes/ like rappers should do/ from the very fuckin' start of their lifetimes."
4. Mac even takes a swipe at the Dallas Observer for essentially failing to recognize more local talent at 2:59: "How you claim you observin' the city of stars and not see the real suns with the prettiest bars?"
The track's producer, Hydro, says he can understand where Mac is coming from, but he doesn't necessarily think that the city's current musical climate is as unwelcoming as it seems. “He [Mac] said a lot of things that I do agree with. Especially with the Dallas music scene and the politics, he is right," Hydro says. "But with anything it’s politics. You have to go out, talk to people and be seen.”
Wesley Warhol, formerly Blaze Won, of #Baconomics is well known for his "two middle fingers up for the Dallas Observer" line. And to him, Mac's feelings aren't too far off from his own. "[The lack of community support] frustrates me for other artists who I feel are making a huge wave in Dallas," Warhol explains. "Playdough is a perfect example; him and the Bodega Brovas. They are amazing, but you won’t hear about them — there’s no diversity anymore."
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From Mac's perspective, the problem not only lies with the media, but also with other local artists and booking agents refusing to step outside of their cliques. What some see as a tight-knit community, others, like Mac, see as creative close-mindedness. But Hydro insists there's plenty of opportunity for the taking, if you know where to look.
“You can get big [in Dallas]," Hydro says. "There are so many people here that are willing to invest in artists — like Top Shelf [Texas]. They’ve nurtured the underground scene to where these artists are reaching other people’s ears where most people wouldn’t know who they are.”
As far as Mac is concerned, "Letters to Hydro" is just the beginning. He and his VLLN artists are focused on preparing for upcoming projects and expanding the brand. For now, Mac is happy with his current path and he says he doesn't expect any real confrontation from "Letters To Hydro" as it wasn't intended to offend. At the same time, he says he welcomes any conversation.
"You can find me on Twitter — or if you want to take it to the mic, we can take it to the mic," he says. “I didn’t create the record to diminish anybody, I created it to challenge everybody to step it up. Let’s go.”