Performing in front of hip-hop legends like the D.O.C., Erykah Badu and Dorrough is a dream for most up-and-coming MCs. But for six lucky performers, that dream became a reality last Saturday night at Trees. The event was the finale of the first annual DDFW Master of the Mic competition, dreamed up by promoter Callie Dee and aimed at showcasing the best and the brightest of what Denton, Dallas and Fort Worth have to offer in the way of hip-hop and rap. In the end, Alsace Carcione came out the winner, but it might have been a bigger win for Dallas hip-hop.
The days leading up to the MotM finale weren't all fun and games for Carcione, however. She was busy juggling homework for her master's degree in marketing, her work schedule and band practice. Not only that, but she had taken every precaution to avoid giving her competition any idea as to what her finale show would look like by practicing in secret and asking her bandmates to refrain from documenting practices on social media. Then her keyboardist had to bow out last minute, and everything seemed to snowball.
“Everything that could’ve went wrong with the show went wrong," Carcione explains. The "everything" she's talking about included drawing the second performance slot of the night with her bandmates running late, a handful of sound issues, no time for sound-check and an impromptu rearranging of the set to accommodate for the missing band members. But according to Trees' marketing director Gavin Mulloy, the audience hardly noticed. "Alsace came out on fire and really raised the level," Mulloy says. "She was dealing with a late backup band so she fought through some issues and came out like a champ."
The judges agreed. Carcione delivered explosive performances of "Black America," which is an eloquent but in-your-face look at the social issues causing racial tension in the U.S., as well as a fast-and-furious rendition of "Been Grindin'," essentially a self-portrait of sorts documenting the hustle and struggle that comes along with the artistic lifestyle. The D.O.C. found Carcione's performance "refreshing:" "The subject matter was what made her stand out to me and she was clearly more than just some rapper," he says. "She’s an artist. And I wouldn’t be surprised if she was on in a way that nobody has seen yet."
Amidst a slew of social stigmas, Carcione has managed to stay original, not succumbing to the typical trends of modern-day radio rap — she has more to say than just that. Moreover, she feels she owes it to her lady, her family and friends to be more than that. "I have an obligation to my nieces and nephews to leave some type of legacy," Carcione explains. "I may not ever see the light of an AMA stage or an MTV stage, but this music is on the Internet and anybody can look it up. And I don’t want them to leave only negative stuff."
What's so crazy about this situation is that Carcione, as well as the other five finalists — T. Lindsey, Ritchy Flo, Madame Mims, Pudge Brewer and Mark Spits — have been right under our noses for literally years. It's even been said in a national publication that Dallas has the best rap scene in the country that you're not paying attention to. And clearly, it's not just everyone else that's not paying attention; we might be to blame as well. Why?
Fellow judge and Dallas native Dorrough chalks a lot of it up to artists not taking advantage of the opportunities given to them, like the Masters of the Mic competition. Instead, they simply rely on social media to build their hype. "One of the main things is just taking advantage of opportunities and events like what happened on Saturday," he says. "Some artists overlook the performances that can give them a platform. With me, there weren’t a lot of resources when I was coming up, so I created them."
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To Dorrough, the thing that really resonated with him about Saturday’s happenings was the event itself. "I was in the meet-and-greet with Erykah and D.O.C. and we were saying that these types of events are what is needed in Dallas and it’s what’s needed in hip-hop in general," he explains. That's because, he adds, "It puts a lot of talent to the forefront. It sheds light on talent that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise."
Mulloy agrees. To him the scene is growing, but its future is still uncertain. Where there had previously been divisiveness, there are now the makings of cohesion. "The scene is growing but where is it growing to?" he asks. "The scene will grow faster when these local things can pack out Trees. Has anyone done a 700-person local hip-hop show recently? Let's take it to that level this year."
And as far as Carcione goes, she hasn't allowed her recent coronation to slow her down one bit. She'll be opening up for the Boxer's Brain on December 19 at Prophet Bar, collaborating with other local favorites like -topic and planning her as-yet-unannounced appearances at local festivals in 2016. But that's not the most impressive opportunity to come out of this event. On December 10, the D.O.C. updated his Facebook with: "Looking forward to hearing the best emceeing DFW has to offer this weekend. I'm planning on putting at the very least the winner completely in the game starting with a feature on my new album. Come wit it!!!"
But despite all of the attention and the hectic scheduling, Carcione refuses to lose sight of her vision. "I’m going to reach right down in the pit of your soul and I’m going to grab everything that you’ve been afraid of addressing, whether it be your happiness, your sadness, your anger, your indecisiveness — I’m going to touch it and I’m going to turn a believer out of you," Carcione asserts. "You know? A lot of people don’t like hip-hop, but they like Alsace."