With the 27th annual Dallas Observer Music Awards just around the corner — in fact, voting is open right now at 2015musicawardspoll.dallasobserver.com — we will spend the next several weeks highlighting some of the nominees for this year’s awards. And when we say these artists are the “Best,” don’t just take our word for it: We polled 200 local music experts to pull together the nominees this year, so they come on pretty good authority.
It has been said hundreds of times before, but it’s oh so true: Dallas’ hip-hop scene is rich, deep and seemingly on the cusp of bursting onto the national scene as a powerhouse for the genre. Long gone are the days of Dallas’ boogie raps. Today, the city’s producing popular trap music from the likes of G.U.N and backpack raps from the likes of –topic with the best of ‘em. But this year, these five nominated rap/hip-hop acts released material that stepped outside the norm and pushed the creative envelope to a point that can and should establish a new identity for the city.
Blue, The Misfit
Blue’s long-anticipated 2014 album Child In The Wild was an achievement for the rapper and producer. It was a culmination of the artist’s two halves. For so long, whether he was going by King Blue, Brain Gang Blue or his current pseudonym, he built a reputation in the city as one of the most unique and innovative producers in the city. While he rapped too, it wasn’t until Child In The Wild that his rhymes caught up with his sounds. Now, though, Blue, The Misfit is the complete package: Rapper, producer and performer extraordinaire. Blue has been on a tear, showing off his skills as a performer and winning over crowds at shows and festivals, which also earned him a DOMA nomination for Best Live Act.
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Buffalo Black does not mince words. The rapper and poet does not shy away from speaking on subjects that often go overlooked in popular music today, whether it be political strife, social injustices or his own personal battles. His songwriting and production abilities have gone as far as attracting the attention of famed movie director Spike Lee, who featured Black on the soundtrack for his 2014 film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus. Black isn’t resting on his laurels just yet. He has released an impressive amount of material in the past two years, and added the SURRILLA LP to his catalog just last month.
Lord Byron followed 2013’s remarkable Dark Arts Vol. 2 up with Digital Crucifixion this year. The first album displayed a more brooding and boastful Byron, and this time around he's a more polished rapper. Like his previous release, it’s a rewarding task for the listener to keep up with Byron’s stream of conscious flow and his avant-garde track selection that is sonically unmatched by any other Dallas rapper. Once again, Lord Byron proved he’s one of a kind.
The Outfit, TX
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If there were ever a designation, The Outfit, TX would be the chosen ambassadors of Dallas’ hip-hop scene. In June, the group’s de facto leader Mel Kyle penned a primer for Vice’s music blog Noisey that highlighted the current goings-on in the local scene and stirred a good amount of buzz. As for the trio of Mel, JayHawk and Dorian themselves, they have been busy touring, performing locally and working on new material. In July, the group released the Deep Ellum EP, featuring a gang of Dallas artists, and more recently they’ve announced a new album titled Down By The Trinity is on the way.
Of the nominees listed here, $kaduf is the newcomer. He appeared on the scene last year with the release of “40oz and Big B’s Burgers” from his Grove Side The Realest EP. The soft-spoken Pleasant Grove rapper takes a reflective and introspective approach in his music to share his vivid descriptions and understandings of his neighborhood. $kaduf’s offerings have been enticing enough that we’re looking forward to hearing what else he has in store.