Moments before he’s due on stage, Paris Pershun is pacing back and forth in the Trees greenroom. It’s a place he’s been plenty of times before and he’s surrounded by friends, including artist Bobby Sessions who’s the night’s headliner. Yet he’s desperately trying to drown out their conversations to better focus on his performance.
He’s no stranger to concert stages but there is a new apprehension on display here. For the first time in his six-year music career, tonight he’ll be performing by himself.
Formerly one half of the rap group A.Dd+ with longtime friend Slim Gravy, Pershun is reluctantly testing the waters of a solo career. The popular Dallas duo broke up in January, something Pershun only found out about when he started receiving tweets, text messages and phone calls from people reacting to tweets from Gravy.
“I found out through other people. Last time I spoke to him was a week before Thanksgiving and we haven’t spoke since then even with all the stuff that’s gone on,” Pershun says. “I never got an explanation or nothing. All the explanations I got was from other people. Grapevine shit.”
For Pershun, the writing was on the wall long before Gravy officially broke up the group. Communication was deteriorating even as the two recorded and completed a followup album to 2012’s DiveHiFlyLo, which is finished but currently unreleased. “[January] wasn’t the first time crazy shit happened that I had to deal with. That wasn’t the second, third, fourth or fifth,” Pershun says. “If you look back on the group of people that were surrounding us in 2011, none of them are here. I’ve seen motherfuckers walk out, walk out, walk out and walk out.”
Pershun always stuck by Gravy, feeling that the group was destined for great success. Since the group’s inception in 2009, the two have been heralded as one of the city’s most treasured music acts. They ushered in a new era of Dallas hip-hop along with groups such as Sore Losers, Damaged Good$ and The Mohicans. The duo sold out shows around town and had record labels called, but they never found a deal that swept them off their feet.
Their trajectory seemed limitless but throughout the years the group lost a manager who did her best to set them up for success, a DJ who rounded out the group as a formidable trio and a number of other collaborators. Pershun blames Gravy’s impulsive behavior.
“I didn’t think it would ever happen to me. We were in this together,” Pershun recalls. “I saw the signs but didn’t want to believe it. If it ever happened I thought we’d be in a position where we would be straight and we’d be good on our own. I thought it would be when we were like 10 million albums [sold].”
Pershun didn’t think things would go sour before the group achieved real success. That frustration, coupled with the loss of a 13-year friendship, boiled over. While listening to new music from artist Rikki Blu, Pershun channeled his emotions on the outgoing beat to “River Flow.” Within hours Pershun had a diss track about his longtime friend and music partner ready to release. The track is unrelenting and cuts deep. Pershun says he's got no regrets about the emotionally charged song.
In the months that followed, Pershun wasn’t sure if he wanted to continue to pursue a music career. As that funk began to subside, he started recording. His inbox had numerous requests, which surprised him. “Honestly, I almost took it as an insult like ‘Goddamn, what was wrong with A.Dd+?’” Pershun asks. He’s worked with artists from Dallas, Houston and Memphis and just like his work with A.Dd+ it’s quickly received local praise.
Recording features was good practice but he still wasn’t ready to work on anything of his own until Bobby Sessions asked him to perform at his show at Trees in Deep Ellum. After encouragement from his friends and fellow rappers Mga Czar and Tunk, Pershun began writing to get enough material to handle a 20-minute set on his own.
He practiced his lyrics before taking the stage, then took the first crucial steps. “This was the first time I’ve ever been on stage by myself in six years,” Pershun says later. “I had a couple jitters and, honestly, the first 30 seconds I was looking out the corner of my eye like ‘Fuck, I’m really out here by myself.’”
But after the first song Pershun settled into his own and the crowd began to react to his set. During their time together, Slim Gravy was the showman who hyped the crowd and really delivered the energy.
Pershun was able to focus on his sharp delivery but on his own it was a conscious effort to tap into those qualities he learned from Gravy. “It takes me out of my comfort zone but after a couple times it’ll be normal,” he says.
Getting through the first show was the hard part. If he’s going to continue to pursue a solo career he has to be more than he was with A.Dd+. “I’m not concerned about people saying I couldn’t do it without Slim,” he says. “The struggle right now is whatever I do now has to be golden. Gotta show some type of progress.”