It's not exactly a secret that Dallas hip-hop is enjoying a serious high at the moment. Hell, turn on your televisions. Last week, the almighty MTV ran a series of news segments touting the city's finest efforts of late, laying down some serious praise for Grammy-winning area producers Play-N-Skillz and further spreading the word on regional dance crazes like The GS Boyz's "Stanky Legg" and B-Hamp's "Do the Ricky Bobby."
Yep. The D-Town Boogie and all that it entails—silly dance steps, ridiculous subject matters, rudimentary beats—is managing to turn heads both in and outside of city limits. But if there's an Achilles heel to this burgeoning superpower, it's in the fact that, as goofy as the D-Town Boogie is, it lacks a serious self-awareness, a sense of humor about its absurdity.
I mean, really: A dance song about professional wrestler Ric Flair, called "Nature Walk"? Is it worse that T-Willz released this with a straight face or that K104 and 97.9 The Beat are playing it with one? Club-thumping beat aside, this latest hit almost unwittingly parodies itself and the entire Boogie scene.
Thankfully, there's a beacon of hope in the local hip-hop dance scene, one that has little to do with the Boogie, aside from the fact that it stands as further proof that Dallasites sure do like dancing to their hip-hop songs.
Take this scene from Friday night at The Cavern: Hipsters in droves, dressed in their ironic and iconic best, ditching their practiced arms-crossed and judgmental poses for relentless pogo dancing and fist-pumping. On stage and off, the darlings of the hipster-hop set, Damaged Good$, bantered with and danced alongside the crowd. As the group's two members, Trak Bully and Coool Dundee, swaggered their way through their half-hour, leave-'em-wanting-more performance, the crowd lay at Damaged Good$' every beck and call.
"Maybe it's because we get sweaty?" Trak (aka Theodore Beard) guesses when pressed on how he and Coool (aka Chris Clark) have come to discover the secret to a lively audience. "I mean, it's gotta be the energy."
By all means, it sure helps that Trak and Coool are as charismatic as performers come. Onstage, the guys boast all the bravado of well-seasoned showmen—or maybe just a couple of goofballs who don't know any better.
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Most impressive about Damaged Good$' live-show assaults, though, is that the group is still new to all this; Trak and Coool have maybe a half-dozen area performances to their name as Damaged Good$. But because of the buzz surrounding the group's at-once futuristic and old-school sound, it has had just about as many gigs in Europe. Last month, at a show in France, Damaged Good$' performance was halted by venue security when too many fans rushed the stage at once.
Not bad for a couple of college basketball players who only expected to see Europe if their original plans of playing professionally in Serbia ever came to be. That's how these two Texas natives (Trak's from Tyler; Coool's from Oak Cliff) and friends met, actually. Both attended The University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas, and played for the school's Division III basketball program, enticed by an assistant coach's connections to Serbian professional leagues. But soon the two bonded over their shared non-mainstream hip-hop tastes. And before long, their shared love turned into a favorite downtime hobby.
And there was a lot of downtime in Clarksville.
"It was just so damn boring up there," Coool says. "I'd be the only one in the apartment, so I'd just write [lyrics]. When I got up there, that's all there was. You eat. You sleep. You go to practice."
They'd search the Internet for free beats to rap over and post them to MySpace. Just for fun, really, Trak says: "It was so bad. When we got on MySpace, we were just trying to make good music. We weren't trying to get famous or anything like that."
But a cryptic message from a London producer named Xrabit soon showed up in the group's MySpace inbox.
"It was something like, 'Hey, guys. Really like your page. I wanna remix your songs,'" Trak recalls. "We were just like, 'Yeah, man, go ahead. Whatever.' And he sent it back, and we were like, 'Oh, man, this is crazy.' It was next level."
Really next level. Turns out Xrabit had just landed a deal with the London-based Big Dada record label, home to Spank Rock and Diplo among others. After days of scouring MySpace for a sound to match what he was hoping to do, he'd stumbled across the Damaged Good$ page and saw potential. So much potential, that he decided to bring Damaged Good$ in with him on the deal with Big Dada.
Next week, after a year and a half of creation, Xrabit and Damaged Good$' Hello World sees its official release. The disc is, in a way similar to Damaged Good$' live show: It's high-energy stuff, filled with more than enough pop-culture references to draw a smirk, and stuffed with impossibly appealing European electronica-influenced beats.
"When we go out and perform live, people are gonna be going out and going crazy, not giving a shit about what we're saying," Trak says. "But when they go home with the album, they can sit down wherever and listen, and they're gonna be like, 'Wow, this is even sicker!'"
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There's truth to that sentiment: The wordplay on Hello World is shriek-aloud impressive, as when, on the disc's stand-out single "Follow the Leader," Coool calls himself "the rap Ronaldinho" and claims that "the pimp is pushing Pele" before you even realize he's not talking about American football.
"We just write stuff, man," Trak says. "Whatever the beat tells us to say, we write it. It's like basketball. We just do this—always—and we're trying to get better."
With live performance and album debuts like these, it's kinda scary to think about just how much better—and bigger—Damaged Good$ could become.
No, actually, "scary" is the wrong word. The "Nature Walk" is scary. Damaged Good$ is just exhilarating.