A.Dd+ When we heard Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy teamed up with super producer PicnicTyme and DJ Sober for When Pigs Fly, we couldn't help but be excited for A.Dd+'s 2011. They confidently took the city by storm, and When Pigs Fly achieved local legend status thanks to a Kickstarter campaign. Add to that a successful SXSW, opening for Wu-Tang Clan and A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg, launching a viral campaign that rekindled the ghetto catch phrase "Like a Mug" and a single produced by Detroit hip-hop icon Black Milk. Even Pitchfork gave them a nod recently.
Highlight: The video for "Under," featuring Dustin Cavazos and directed by Israel Isas, may be the best representation of our city in music video form.
The Mohicans This time last year, very few of us had The Mohicans on the radar, yet the duo shocked many and took home this year's Dallas Observer music award for Best Rap/Hip-Hop Act and followed that up with an opening slot for Devin the Dude. And yeah, we know Dave Morgan and Devin Calvin (who raps as Kashus Klay) live in Lubbock and attend Texas Tech, but with what may just be the local song of the year ("Fa Shiggadow"), The Mohicans will get Dallas on the national radar in 2012. Their recent full-length, Uncas, is easily one of the most solid hip-hop releases in recent memory.
Highlight: "Fa Shiggadow"
-topic This young spitfire appeared out of nowhere, wielding a sharp collection of feel-good hip-hop jams with his soon-to-be-re-released album, Finally Confident. His big break of 2011 was 15 minutes in front of a raucous crowd of hip-hop loyalists opening for Mos Def and Talib Kweli. The strength of -topic lies in his honest smoothness and a grin-inducing flow that is still developing, perhaps into something truly spectacular.
Highlight: The upbeat track "The World" is one of the most thorough examples of -topic's style.
Sore Losers If you had to mark the starting point of this current era of local hip-hop, it would have to be the release of Sore Losers' epic Freeloaders album in late 2009. After going to California and back, the group that started as Brown (rapper) and Blue (producer/hypeman) underwent a change and recruited five-piece band HelloeARTh. Sore Losers is now a six-piece outfit, with Brown as the lyricist. A recent local listening event previewed eight songs from the band's We Are Sore Losers EP, due out next month.
Highlight: The socially-conscious lead single from We Are Sore Losers, "Euthanasia."
Jmil Kly Jmil Kly is a young and hungry rapper whose songs are elegantly arranged for his latest project, The Boy King EP. The songs take on the world with wide-eyed force while still maintaining the musicality to achieve moments that can only be described as beautiful.
Highlight: The title track from Boy King.
Tunk Tunk's 2011 was a steady stream of singles as he exercised his rightfully confident flow, a large presence that covers the beat with Southern authority. He teamed up for a track with Thaddeus of State of the Artist, one of Seattle's top hip-hop outfits, and has been teasing tracks from his upcoming No Defeat EP for the past couple months.
Highlight: "In Da Trunk," a banger from No Defeat that features A.Dd+.
Damaged Good$ One of the most progressive outfits to emerge from the city, Damaged Good$ was actually almost invisible on the local scene this year. But the former DOMA champ made a stunning contribution with this year's Kickin' Teef EP, an exhibit of the always-exciting Coool Dundee's personality. He obviously fits in a unique space, making music for no one other than himself, but the creative places he's allowed himself to go are fresh and inspiring. We definitely look forward to more from DMG$.
Highlight: Coool's explanation of his do-it-for-yourself attitude, the aptly titled "FORTHEIDONTGIVEAFCKS."
Brain Gang Blue The original sonic force behind Sore Losers, it was always evident that Blue had a refreshingly creative approach to production, mixing elements of popular electronic and indie rock music into an already solid hip-hop base. While he no longer rolls with Sore Losers and now affiliates with the Brain Gang, his creativity has still flourished in 2011, with his production appearing on a number of locals' projects. Get A Life, the last collection of songs he produced for Sore Losers, was his only real release this year, but December 30 will see a release party at the Prophet Bar for Numb, an album that showcases his experimental style.
Highlight: The short film "Numb," which teases the upcoming full-length.
Playdough Playdough has consistently been one of North Texas' most proficient rappers when it comes to recording. 2011 was no different with the usual mixtape work, but the gem of his year was stellar full-length Hotdoggin', along with an opening slot for Mos Def and Talib Kweli at the House of Blues. Hotdoggin' is a showcase of Playdough's precise raps and sharp wit and includes a contribution from Gift of Gab.
Highlight: The laid back track "My Cadillac."
K.MC Part of a local group of trendsetters known as the Brain Gang, K.MC spits a frank and at times charmingly antisocial style, along with a distinguished taste for upbeat production. His mixtape, Laptops and Voicemails, was one of the summer's highlights and included guest appearances from fellow local rappers Dru B Shinin', Kashus Klay of The Mohicans, KidWonder and Lou Charle$.
Highlight: "IDK," produced by Brain Gang Blue.