The Cultura Dura Block Party Brought Musica y Sonidos to Deep Ellum

Bombón Houston waves the flag for the Cultura Dura generation.
Bombón Houston waves the flag for the Cultura Dura generation.
photos by Marco Torres

Cultura Dura Block Party
Life in Deep Ellum, Dallas
Saturday, September 12, 2015

As the old saying goes, if a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? If you eat lunch, but don't share your meal on Instagram, did you ever really eat? And if Brooklyn-based Latino blog Remezcla teams up with Mountain Dew to produce a high-energy, mixed-genre mini music festival, and only 100 or so people show up, does the party still turn up? With a strong lineup of passionate hip-hop and cumbia artists ready to showcase their culture to the eager yet minimal crowd, the answer for Deep Ellum's Cultura Dura Block Party on Saturday was a resounding, “Si, güey!”

The literal translation of Cultura Dura is “hard culture,” which in itself doesn't really make sense. The meaning is actually much deeper. Across the United States, there's a growing subset of the population that doesn't neatly fit within cultural boundaries. It used to be that people out in the rural areas listened to country music and wore cowboy boots and hats. Kids in the city listened to rap. Latinos listened only to musica en Español. There were rock and metal fans, dance music aficionados, band geeks and any number of different genres, but they were segregated.

Today, however, we live in the Age of the Internet. The Snapchat Generation. The Cultura Dura. And music lovers these days are blending sounds, crossing genres and sharing new, sometimes unclassified music with each other — and loving it. This happens in English, Spanish and Spanglish all over the world, and this open and accepting environment was on display on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon at Life in Deep Ellum.

DJ Crisco Kidd
DJ Crisco Kidd

The event was hosted by DJ and longtime radio personality Crisco Kidd, who is now working at DFW's Hot 93.3FM after stints in Houston, Albuquerque and Los Angeles. The lineup he helped produce included a mix of Houston and Dallas hit music makers, as well as several young upstarts ready to take the spotlight.

Dustin Cavazos
Dustin Cavazos

First up to bat was Dustin Cavazos. The young Dallasite is both a singer and rapper, emo and joyous, and always strikes an emotional chord with his audience. From the tracks “All I've Been Doing” to “I Am Jupiter,” his clever wordplay and lyrical confessions meld expertly with moody and futuristic beat selections.

Bombón's La Comadre Mel dances with the crowd.
Bombón's La Comadre Mel dances with the crowd.

The Bombón Houston DJ Collective provided a much-needed jolt of energy to the party, using traditional tropical tracks of salsa, cumbia, reggaeton and bachata as the base, mixing it with dance and rap to create an energetic and uplifting sonido. Winding the BPMs up, then down, then up again, their performance was definitely the cardio session of the event. Their new EP Bombón x Peligrosa is available now on iTunes and Bandcamp.

DJ BeMyFriend
DJ BeMyFriend

DJ BeMyFriend may not have moved around the stage like the other acts, but he made up for that with his selections of club dance music from across the USA (New Jersey, Baltimore, Chicago, et cetera), as well as some snappy remixes of current rap and Top 40 hits.

Doeman of DYNA Music Group
Doeman of DYNA Music Group

DYNA Music Group hit the stage next with Houston rapper Doeman, who provided lyrical dynamite to the event with his tales of struggles and perseverance. The former boxer attacks his music with the same fighting ferocity, taking quick jabs and moving around the stage. He saved his haymaker until the end when he unleashed an acapella dissertation about unity and respect.

Paul Wall Baby!
Paul Wall Baby!

The Po Up Poet Paul Wall made his headlining appearance memorable by beginning his set with the fan favorite “Drive Slow,” continuing to flash his grill and staying after his set to take photos with every fan. He also gave a SLAB GOD snapback to a young fan who stood front row the whole set rhyming along word for word. Now that's the real People's Champ.

Paul Wall, The People's Champ.
Paul Wall, The People's Champ.

The night ended with an energetic set by Dallas' own Play N Skillz, who provided a litany of Grammy-winning tracks for the fans who stayed until the end.

Grammy Award Winners Play N Skillz
Grammy Award Winners Play N Skillz

It may be hard to find yourself in this world, but luckily music is always ready to assist in the journey. It may not have brought the masses to Deep Ellum, but Cultura Dura was there to provide the ammunition for the next wave of musica y sonidos.

Awwwready!
Awwwready!
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