Not long ago, when a pop musician sold a million albums, it was an indication of great success. Today, though, that figure is practically unattainable. Those who move a million singles are considered serious movers-and-shakers.
By that measure, then, Dallas rapper Dorrough is on top of the heap. His buoyantly infectious 2009 ode to candy cars, "Ice Cream Paint Job," went platinum, taking him, and Dallas hip-hop as a whole, to places it had never been.
His is a genuine rags-to-riches story about a poor kid turned Lancaster High School basketball star turned college student turned independent music kingpin. And his challenge with sophomore album Get Big, which will be released on Tuesday, will be to elevate himself above one-hit wonder status. (Or two-hit wonder status, if you will, considering that "Walk That Walk" got plenty of airplay as well.)
A year ago, Dorrough said that his goal was to evolve as an artist, and to win the D-Town Boogie movement some national respect.
Has he succeeded? Well, not entirely. But Get Big has some supremely addictive songs. And, for now, that's probably good enough.
I talked to him recently in the midst of a promotional whirlwind that was sending him to places like Las Vegas and Jacksonville, Florida, as well as the KBFB-FM (97.9) The Beat Custom Car Show here in Dallas, all within the span of a few days. In good spirits, Dorrough was riding the still-substantial buzz from his album's bassy lead single, "Get Big," which is not necessarily a sexual metaphor, but rather a motivational track.
"When I say, 'You ain't got enough money,' it's not like I'm bragging," he explains over the phone. "It's just telling people to step your game up, including myself. A lot of people didn't even expect me to have a second album."
His goal, he continues, was to up the ante this time around, and he did so by snagging Mark Cuban for the "Get Big" video. In it, the Mavericks owner—an actual billionaire, mind you, not a "billionaire" like so many rappers claim to be—emerges from an armored truck and hugs it out with Dorrough, who then takes his place in the truck.
It's pretty sweet.
"I'm a huge Mavericks fan, and I wanted to get some Mavericks players on there," Dorrough says. "But that wasn't really possible, so the next best thing was to get the Mavericks' owner. I'm talking about stepping it up, so I got someone who's never appeared in a hip-hop video."
(It was arranged via Dorrough's connections at the Arlington-based Yums clothing company, which endorses him and has a relationship with Cuban, Dorrough says.)
Last year, the 23-year-old emcee, born Dorwin Dorrough, bragged that his debut album, Dorrough Music, contained practically an album's worth of singles, and he says that Get Big was built in the same vein. It's not hard to imagine hearing nearly every track from the album on the radio, particularly the raunchy ballad "Breakfast In Bed" (which features Ray J), "In The Morning" (featuring female Dallas emcee Tomeka Pearl, a member of Dorrough's Prime Time Click) and the inoffensive-in-the-right-context Yo Gotti collaboration, "Hood Chick Fetish."
That's not to say it's a satisfying album all the way through, though. A disproportionate number of the songs concern our protagonist's exploits "beating up" female genitalia, though in a sexual rather than abusive way. And while he correctly notes that there's a bit more lyricism here, there are still plenty of groaners, lines like "I'm just here right now to make my bitches all believers / So if you really think I'm lying you can call Cheaters / That's a joke not a real statement / But you know it's going down like a real basement." And with its glossy, take-no-chances production, courtesy of mostly unknowns (unlike his first album, there are no big name producers like Play-n-Skillz here), the work isn't going to win over any of the East Coast hip-hop heads who have hated on D-Town Boogie or ignored it entirely.
But, in fairness, Dorrough says he's not concerned with those types. In fact, he no longer even refers to the local scene by that name.
"I feel like we're evolving out of that movement right now," he says. "Last year, that's when it was the D-Town Boogie movement. It was a successful movement that the city was proud of. But now it's time for the next step. Now, I just call it the D-Town, or the Triple D, or just the Dallas hip-hop movement in general. I want to let people know that, whether they like it or not, it's still hip-hop."
The goal, then, is simply to be taken seriously.
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Before Dallas can take its place among Southern cities with respected rap cultures—like Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, Atlanta and Miami—it first has to overcome its reputation for a gimmicky, disposable sound. (This allegation has been made by Atlanta talent scout Mr. Collipark and others.) On this subject, Dorrough gets a bit defensive.
"You can say it's gimmicky," he says of "Ice Cream Paint Job." "But most gimmicky songs don't go platinum. If it was that much of a gimmick, we wouldn't be here on the phone discussing another album."
Fair enough. And, indeed, one suspects that Dorrough has the inventiveness—as well as the underrated singing chops—to keep churning out quality singles for the foreseeable future. When one considers how much the music industry has changed in recent years, singles are pretty much the whole game right now. Dorrough Music sold 70,000 copies or so, which, though actually not a bad figure by current standards, probably earned him less than "Ice Cream Paint Job" downloads did. If any of Get Big's singles catch on in the same way—and, considering how they tend to lodge into your brain, at least one should—you can bet he'll be doing promotion for a third album a year from now.
Raising the stakes for his videos might start proving more difficult, however. One doesn't imagine that Warren Buffet has much free time in his schedule.