Last year, if you followed the social media activity of Dallas rapper-by-way-of-Waco DQ Hampton, you probably noticed his regular use of the phrase "The Build Up 2018" as a mantra and/or hashtag. This referred to a series of activities he planned for himself to further his career: honing his craft, creating strategic collaborations and recording Grandiose, his most ambitious album to date. The album was released just before the new year on Dec. 28, and included production from Grammy winner Symbolyc One.
The idea behind the "build up" for Hampton and his label and management team, Black Son Media Group, was to lay the foundation for a breakout year in 2019 for both Hampton and their brand. Thus far, they're well on their way to accomplishing just that, as they release a new EP from Hampton today called Bloody Summer. Hampton and BSMG have accomplished something rare with Grandiose and Bloody Summer. The former is arguably one of the best rap albums of the year, while the latter is undoubtedly one of best rap EPs released so far in 2019.
What stands out about Hampton first is his exceptional lyrical ability. He possesses a punch-like style delivered through a thick Southern accent that distinguishes his voice from others. There are no throwaway bars in a DQ Hampton verse. There's a precision and potency to each line delivered, comparable to a boxer's approach to practicing, and then executing, a combination of punches on an opponent.
A song on Bloody Summer that best displays Hampton's verbal prowess is "Collection Plate," a track produced by Fuego, a member of the production collective Bouncegang. Hampton's verses are filled with unfiltered truths about American culture, delivered over a beat filled with frenetic, futuristic bass lines and reverb-heavy synthesizer chords.
Hampton raps: "Money is the root of all evil, get the fuck back, we've been brainwashed from a fetus just to get scraps, scratch that. Now I'm on a mission just to get dough, physical or crypto from a 9 to 5 or a kick door."
Later in the song, Hampton moves on to a line that speaks to the discipline and wisdom required to better one's position in life: "Understand it's job first, to realize your time worth, can't be rich until you enrich your mind first."
In contrast, the song "Honey Comb" provides a smooth, laid-back change-up to the EP's energy by skillfully combining elements of Southern rap and West Coast hip-hop. It serves as the perfect stage for clever word play and metaphors. "Out Tha Mud," produced by Oktober 1st, is a summertime-rooftop-day-party anthem. It's one of those songs the DJ plays when the crowd has consumed at least two or three drinks and the "turn-up" is right around the corner. The not-so-calm before the storm.
The great thing about the North Texas hip-hop scene is that it doesn't brand itself by being aligned with one particular style. It's a unique occurrence when a community produces an abundance of talent with skill matched only by its diversity. Many hip-hop artists use the phrase "New Dallas," and it invariably means something different to each of them, but the concept consistently speaks to a focus on diversity and lyricism.
It would behoove close-minded listeners from other regions to not let the Southern drawl or stereotypes lead to assumptions about the verbal skills of North Texas rappers. Every so often a song release embodies the particular element of the "New Dallas" sound, and in this case it's the EP's title track, featuring Rakim Al-Jabbaar, King Tree, Trey Galactica, KID, T-Moe and Van Gammon.
BSMG CEO and Bloody Summer executive producer One$elf Salaam spoke about how they chose the rappers featured on the single. The process was both selective and circumstantial, he says.
"DQ and I wanted all real MCs and spittas on this track," Salaam says. "It represents how we want to attack the summer with all of the projects we have scheduled. King Tree and Trey Galactica were chosen because they're super dope. Rakim Al-Jabbaar was selected because he embodies the essence of a real MC and he's DTX fam.
"T-Moe is an incredible lyricist from Waco who just happened to be visiting the studio here in Dallas the day we were recording. He brought an MC with him named KID who's from Alabama. He rapped for us, and we had to put him on the track. We needed one more MC, so we reached out to the extremely talented Van Gammon, and he most definitely didn't disappoint."
The beat was crafted by Houston-based producer Risko Funk, who assembled a stellar combination of sinister kick drums and snares to create what is one of the hardest tracks out of the area this year. Bloody Summer indeed makes an apt title for the whole EP because DQ Hampton is focused squarely on killing the local rap scene this summer and thereafter.
Listen to "Bloody Summer" below: