Other Winning Culture Suggestions From Our Readers 2009 | Best of Dallas® 2020 | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Dallas | Dallas Observer

Other Winning Culture Suggestions From Our Readers

Best Visual Artist
Ron Radwanski

Best Public Sculpture
The Traveling Man
DART station in Deep Ellum

Best Radio Morning Show
Kidd Kraddick

Other Winning Scenes Suggestions From Our Readers

Best Place for a Kids Party
Pump It Up
9201 Forest Lane, No. 100

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

Once again, Mama's Party gets the big ovation as the most consistently entertaining musical theater showcase. The spotlight here is on the big belters, singers who not only hit the back row with a note but send it soaring out the back door and into the next county. Now in a new venue, the big stage at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas, the weekly talent show hosted by "Mama" Amy Stevenson (a fine belter herself) or one of her buddies invites local cabaret singers, musical theater performers and others to shout-sing show tunes for a couple of hours. Over the summer, the stars of Broadway touring companies of A Chorus Line, Legally Blonde The Musical and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang dropped by to show off their belting abilities. Most nights, the take at the door (there's a $5 cover) goes to a charity such as Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Contemporary's full bar adds to the speakeasy atmosphere. And if it's too crowded to get in? Stand on the sidewalk. You'll hear every voice.

You can't help falling in love with Domingo "The Best Voice of Elvis." He's alarmingly captivating. He's incredibly friendly (he wants to be your Facebook friend). He's an accomplished Elvis impersonator. Honestly, that term seems derogatory—Domingo may perform the works of Elvis in the style of Elvis, but he is his own man, after all. Domingo has claimed rank in the top five world finalists in Tupelo, Mississippi's Best of Elvis Competition. He performs at least four nights a week in various local restaurants, but his La Parillada performances are close to legendary, and it's not the chips and salsa talking. Scarf a-flutter and hand gripping microphone, Domingo will serenade your soul. And because he is the best Latino Elvis we know, who loves his fans of all ages, we'll keep fingers crossed he avoids a toilet-related fatality, though the hope for a duet with an Ann-Margret impersonator remains strong.

This exquisite collection of modern and ancient paintings, carvings and artifacts from China, Japan, India and Southeast Asia is the perfect weekday or weekend activity. The two-story gallery is free to enter and loaded with ways to occupy your time. A recent exhibition of Japanese snuff bottles from the late 19th century captivated us while we examined each bottle's intricate handwork. The space is small but nonetheless carefully organized and packed with treasures and is always a relaxing experience.

The aptly named Upstart Productions debuted last season with a blazing staging of Suzan-Lori Parks' Topdog/Underdog and followed with a gripping look at post-adolescent angst with Kenneth Lonergan's This Is Our Youth. This season, producer Josh Glover and crew will dedicate themselves to the plays of Eric Bogosian. First, Talk Radio (October 28-November 22), directed by Regan Adair. Then they'll recreate a 7-Eleven inside the Green Zone theater for subUrbia, Bogosian's gritty take on aimless youth. Upstart's mission is "to usher in the next generation of theater artists." After an impressive first year on the Dallas scene, they seem well on their way.

Catherine Downes

Om...Om...Om...Cosmic Cafe has successfully created a spiritually inspired oasis in a land of concrete and strip malls. From the moment you turn off Oak Lawn and into the driveway of the restaurant, you notice your surroundings have changed. Everywhere you look you see relics of Eastern spirituality: Hindu gods; Buddhas; fountains; and vivid colors of blue, pink and yellow. The music is subtle with the sounds of distant chants and chimes moving through each tune. After enjoying a vegetarian lunch from the chakra-inspired menu, sneak upstairs to one of the three meditation rooms. Catch the sound of the wind chimes and drift off for a few minutes before heading back to the office. You will feel recharged.

Ken Birdsell

What formerly felt like a tomb—Theater Too! beneath the venerable Theatre Three—has lately become Dallas' best underground (literally) theater. Last season, audiences filled the tiny space for the two-man musical The Big Bang and Bruce R. Coleman's new play, Look What's Happened to Pixie DeCosta. Year after year, tickets fly for the return of I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change, which this year had its best cast ever. At $20,000 over last year's box office take for Theatre Too!, the uptick in ticket sales is continuing with the season opener of Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, followed by the intimate musical Another Night Before Christmas, then the drama Bill W. and Dr. Bob about the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous. Director-producer Terry Dobson has done a bang-up job overseeing the makeover of Theatre Too!, which finally deserves that exclamation point.

This is one of the few places in town that's so naughtily diverse. There's always a decent array of fauna, but between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. it runs the gamut from strippers unwinding after a shift and pimps with hookers in tow to hot cops, students in the midst of finals, megageeks glued to their computers, Harley dudes on a road trip and punks rocking Mohawks and ominous tattoos. A bit like the bar in Star Wars, all of these wildly different animals seem to co-exist in relative harmony except for the occasional explosive conflict. But if things do get dicey late-night, by 6 a.m. calm returns when the M-Street exercise crowd arrives in search of some java and post-workout breakfast.

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