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Master of the Mic Was a Hit, But Did It Unify Dallas Hip-Hop as Planned?

When DDFW Master of the Mic launched in 2015, its aims were ambitious: bring unity, collaboration and healthy competition to North Texas’ hip-hop scene, while finding its next great undiscovered talent. The result was impressive enough, finishing off with a packed house at Trees, celebrity judges and plenty of memorable performances.

But with the series now in its second year, one question remains worth asking: Has Master of the Mic actually achieved its lofty goals?

Too Fresh Productions founder, talent buyer and (soon-to-be) two-time Master of the Mic judge, Joel Salazar, believes the answer is yes. “Any platform that brings artists together from different cities, it’s always a plus,” Salazar says. “Not only that, but the amount of people that [founder] Callie [Dee] had behind her, sponsoring it — people willing to commit to her to give up their services, whether it be stickers or sponsorships, monetary sponsorships or donating their time to help out — it said a lot about the community.”

Madame Mims, one of last year’s finalists, says the MotM was an opportunity.  As an artist who spends a majority of her creative time behind the turntables, the competition prompted her to hone her performance skills. “I think being at Trees, at a bigger venue with more eyes, with the celebrity judges — just the amount of people that were there and saw my performance, I think that kind of opened some doors,” Mims says. “I guess it just falls back on just being on top of your shit so that the people who open those doors will want to open up those doors for you.”

Mims doesn't attribute her good year entirely to MotM. “Afterwards, I got even more busy and I’m getting booked more. My network has expanded and I guess some street cred came from it," she says. "I don’t think that came all from the event, though; people like who they like when they get up there and perform.”

The event’s creators also hoped the competition would bring about new collaborations. On that front, Salazar says, they’ve succeeded, as well. “I’ve seen some artists link up and work together who had never worked together before," he said. "So, anytime you can do that, that’s definitely a win.”

Last year’s Master of the Mic, Alsace Carcione, can attest to that as well. Following last year’s competition, Carcione began working out a plan to collaborate with several fellow MotM competitors, including T. Lindsey, Ritchy Flo and Mark Spits.  

“I would say that Master of the Mic gave me a title. But for me, I was already working. However, it confirmed for other people that I was talented,” Carcione says. “It’s something about titles. Like, people don’t want to believe it at first, but they believe it if a title is attached or some kind of accolade.”
Speaking of the prizes — the winner of the inaugural MotM was due to receive an absurd amount of swag, in addition to the title of Master of the Mic, but all didn’t go as planned. According to Carcione, she was able to collect on a lot of the prizes, like business cards, studio time and guaranteed festival placements, but others, like T-shirts, never surfaced.

“I just feel like people shouldn’t agree to do something that they can’t do,” Carcione says. “The T-shirt thing didn’t pan out, but Callie Dee has let me know that she’s going to take care of it and give me, as the winner, something.”

Carcione did receive her guaranteed slots at this year’s 35 Denton and Oaktopia. “If you know anything about Denton, it’s college central. If you can capture the variety of crowds that are rolling through Denton, then you’re great,” Carcione says. “So, because of Master of the Mic, I was able to get that guaranteed slot at 35 Denton. And they didn’t put me on no bullshit stage, either. I got to perform at the Harvest House, which is an excellent venue, and that was truly exciting for me.”

To that end, both Mims and Carcione have kept up the hustle. Mims has been rocking her regular Thursday night residency, The Hangout, in Cedar Hill and booked numerous shows and other appearances. Carcione has been performing everywhere from New York to Los Angeles, the Pittsburgh Pride fest and most recently the Swisher Sweets Pack Night at Granada Theater.

While Carcione admits the MotM title does sound "pretty damn amazing," she has also stayed hard at work in school. "I’m still actively in school for my Master’s, I’m working 50 to 60 hours a week, on top of doing music," she says. "Until music starts paying the bills, I’m still going to do what I have to do. For the most part, you pay your way.”

DFW MASTER OF THE MIC, Round 2, takes place at 9 p.m. Saturday, July 2 at RBC, 2617 Commerce St., $7.