At 9:30 on Monday—p.m., mind you—Juan Salinas finally awoke from his recuperative slumber. It was a well-deserved rest. For the previous four days, the man who goes by the stage name of Play and serves as half of the Dallas-based, Grammy-winning production duo of Play-N-Skillz with his brother Oscar (stage name: Skillz) had been serving as a Dallas ambassador and host by proxy to the hip-hop community visiting the city during NBA All-Star Weekend. And how: From Thursday to Sunday, Play-N-Skillz threw a whopping 10 parties around the city, celebrating Dallas' moment in the hip-hop sun as the city did its darnedest to prove itself not only a viable market for up-and-coming hip-hop talent, but also as a place worth spending time in—to conduct business, to throw parties and anything else.
And, far as Play could surmise, looking back on this busy weekend in which he barely slept, his efforts paid off.
"A lot of out-of-town people came up to me and were like, 'Hey, man, I didn't know Dallas was like this," he says, pride evident in his tone. "It was almost a perfect weekend."
The only thing holding the weekend back, Play says, was the wintry weather in the early part of the weekend-long festivities. But even that worked to Play-N-Skillz's advantage: While other parties were canceled because of falling snow on Thursday night, Play-N-Skillz's Welcome to All-Star Affair at downtown ultralounge Plush went on. As a result, their party saw the people pegged as the hosts for other parties that night—former Dallas Cowboy Terrell Owens, Dallas-based DJ Drop and legendary Houston MC Bun B—hop onto Play-N-Skillz's party train.
"Man, I give the weekend four out of five stars," Play says. "And it'd be five out of five if not for the weather. Other than that, I have no complaints."
And why would he? Far as branding goes, it was a successful weekend for the brothers Salinas. On that note, Play gives his team a "10 out of 10."
"Call it cocky or call it arrogant or whatever," Play continues. "But we did the best in town as far as branding went. We had this city in a choke hold."
So much so, in fact, that hip-hop luminaries as bright as Drake and Slim Thug were denied entrance into the duo's Saturday night parties at Plush and Skye Bar—not by Play-N-Skillz's choice, but by the demand of the Dallas fire marshal, who, after seeing the lines to get into those clubs on a drive down Main Street, approached club management and said no more people could be allowed entry. But even that, Play says, worked out in Dallas' favor.
"Between the women and the music and even downtown and just how beautiful it looked—people weren't expecting this," he says. "People are definitely gonna be excited to come back for the Super Bowl next year. I feel a lot better about the Dallas hip-hop scene moving out of the weekend than I did heading in—a lot better. People left, at the very least, knowing our songs."
He and his brother ensured as much by passing the mic to Dallas MCs—among them Bone, Big Tuck, Tum Tum and Play-N-Skillz's own recent signee Inertia—and allowing them to perform from the DJ booth along with out-of-town guests like Bun B, Slim Thug, Murphy Lee and Chingy.
"It was a great weekend," he says. "Granted, I'm a little biased. We were so busy with our own stuff this weekend that we didn't get to go anywhere else."
Still, from what he heard, the weekend was a success throughout the city. And, for the most part, it really was. The actual All-Star Game on Sunday night, with its 108,713 attendees, set a record for the most people ever to attend a basketball game in person. Meanwhile, parties hosted by moguls Jay-Z and Diddy went off without a hitch. Even NorthPark mall benefited greatly from the weekend. It was mobbed Saturday as out-of-towners and procrastinating Valentine's Day shoppers alike descended upon the shopping center with money burning holes in their designer wallets.
If there was a downside to this weekend, the biggest entertainment weekend that Dallas has seen in maybe forever, it was in the lack of embrace the weekend saw from the town's whiter residents. You didn't have to look far to hear bartenders—even at the clubs in which the weekend's biggest parties were being held—openly bemoaning the black clientele they expected the festivities to bring in. Similarly, many Dallasites could be heard laughing about avoiding the downtown scene altogether—as if admitting a simple curiosity as to what those scenes would bring would be such a terrible thing. Worse, if letters received in our editorial department are any indication, even members of the Dallas hip-hop scene complained about the fact that this weekend just wasn't for them—without ever giving any regard to the fact that, if they, like those in the Boogie scene they call gimmicky, had been better prepared, they too could've benefited greatly from this decidedly hip-hop-flavored weekend's shine.
Maybe the bigots can't be convinced. But, surely, local rap artists of a supposedly more conscious vein should be able to see the benefits of the dancier side of their genre bringing attention to the city. Surprisingly not, turns out.
It never ceases to surprise me how this point, no matter how many times it's brought up, fails to hit home around here: A little national attention for Dallas' entertainment offerings is never a bad thing. Ever.
Meanwhile, ignorance? And, worse, willful ignorance? That pretty much always is.
On Monday night, Play woke up from his warranted rest knowing that he'd done his part to promote Dallas to this weekend's out-of-town audiences.
Maybe its time the rest of the city woke up too.