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