Leading up to our November 10 showcase, we'll be getting you familiar with some of our Dallas Observer Music Awards nominees, either via past features we've done on them, or new ones. You can vote for your favorite acts, venues and more right here.
On a Monday night, Dustin Cavazos invited me to carve pumpkins at his bass player's home. It was 8p.m. and I pulled up slowly as I cut my lights off. The house, located in Oak Cliff, was eerily quiet. Cavazos pulled up in a yellow minivan 15 minutes later, got out and greeted me with pumpkin and thrift store trophy in hand.
Dustin Cavazos never listened to music growing up. It wasn't until he was asked to fill in as a drummer at his local church that his musical evolution began. He started going to shows, eventually purchasing Fruity Loops to make elementary beats on. As demand for his beats grew, his confidence rose, inspiring him to try his hand at rapping.
"Everyone is in the back," he remarked as he formally introduced me to Marcitos Jacobs, known as The Internet Trap God, who had opened for Action Bronson just a few weeks before. His band mate, Danny, was cooking fajitas on the back porch under strategically placed Christmas lights, illuminating the group's faces.
"We're putting the pumpkins on Instagram and letting the fans pick the best one."
To hang out with Dustin Cavazos is to hang out with anything but a stereotypical rap artist. There was no alcohol. There was no mysterious smoke. There were no scantily clad ladyfriends. Cavazos brandishes a camera, recording the night's festivities, which he'll edit and post on his blog the next day. His videos are rarely shot in first person. He prefers to shine the light on those closest to him, and people are responding.
"This is a change of pace for me, bro," says Cavazos' manager, Paco Morado. Instrumental in Dirty South Rydaz's prolific rise, Morado is from a time when DJs broke records, opulence was the standard, and viral marketing consisted of putting songs on one's Myspace account.
It was midnight, and the pumpkins had been completed. Candles were placed in the middle of their hollow enclaves, light emanating through the newly carved crevices.
"I really like the classic design for some reason," Cavazos told me when I asked which one was his favorite. We waited until 12:30a.m. to add up the votes. Danny sat on the steps with a Sharpie and a white piece of construction paper as Cavazos read the comments off of Instagram. "Dustin is the kid that advocates every kid get a trophy," Gabriel remarked. Everyone laughed.
In a "what can you do for me" industry, Cavazos' focus isn't on himself. It's what he can do for his team and the people he cares about the most. He never refers to those who enjoy his music as "fans." He doesn't seem to like the term. Rather, he likes to call them supporters.
He didn't win the pumpkin carving contest. He didn't come close. He was too busy capturing the moment. As his new album, In and Out of Sleep, approaches, we asked Cavazos to explain himself.
Who is Dustin Cavazos? Dustin Cavazos... a Mexican dude who raps. Just here, rapping. Writing songs. Hanging out with friends. Playing video games. Riding my bike.
How do you define success? Success is defined on so many levels. Everyone has their own idea of what success is. I think if you look at the root of success, I think anybody, the gist of success for people is being happy. For me, success would be being happy and seeing the people around me as happy. What's the point of being happy if your best friend isn't doing so great? Or the people you grew up with aren't doing so great. There has to be happiness all around.
Do you ever make a mountain out of a molehill? Not in a negative sense. If something comes up that some people would see as a disadvantage or setback, I use it to elevate. I never let a setback, or something that people would see as a setback, actually be a setback. Know what I'm saying?
Is there a difference between "loving" someone versus being "in love"? Definitely. I mean, there's a lot of people who love. I love Paco. I don't look into Paco's eyes and tell him how much he means to my soul. Think about exes in your life, in your own life. You know what? I do love that person. If they had a gun to their head you wouldn't want them to get shot. But, you're not in love with that person anymore.
What's the best advice you could give to your younger self? That you can do it. There's no need to feel like somebody is not going to like it. That should be the least of your worries. Just write. If I were to talk to my younger self it would be like, "You're not going to be an Olympic miler. You should start writing music now that you're 15 years old." I wish I would have done that. I wish I would have started young.
Is money the root of all evil? The love of money is the root of all evil. Money is cool, but the love of money, if that's like your number one concern. I even feel like sometimes just holding a lot of money is evil. Marcus, how many times have I told you that?
Marcus: A lot.
I'm, like, holding all this Scoremore cash and I'm like, this is evil, this is crazy you know? But definitely the love of money is the root of all evil.
Are big shots little shots who kept shooting? Definitely. There's so many people I know that have all the talent but they give up. I've seen people give up. Why are they giving up? I guess they don't love it. Sometimes when you get that load of talent you take it for granted. So yeah, big shots are little shots that kept shooting. I've never given up on what I've been doing at all. I've been close, really close. For the most part I've never stopped making music.
What's your current method of transportation? Other people's cars and my bike. (Laughs)
What kind of bike is it? It's an '80s Centurion Ironman edition. If I've got to get somewhere around town and it's in Oak Cliff I'll take my bike. If I have go out, I'll use my girl's van.
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Do good guys finish last? Do good guys finish last? Man, I don't know. I mean, I've seen a lot of people that I feel like they shouldn't be where they're at because I'm like, man, they're jerks. But at the same time, I like to consider myself a good guy and I don't feel like I'm in last. I've seen opportunities to where it's like, I can cut corners here, use people here. I don't do it. But I know people who would take those opportunities.
If you could change one thing about Dallas, what would it be and why? The one thing I probably complain about the most is that things aren't open late enough. Like if you go to Chicago or New York, you can get pizza at four in the morning. It's a silly complaint but...
What do you want the world to know about Dustin Cavazos? I'm not very good at selling myself. [Paco, his manager, chimes in: "Buy my album."] I don't know. There's not really much to know about me. I want them to know what I see. There's a lot of beauty and stuff. There's a lot of beauty where you're at. There really isn't much to know about me as much as there is to know about the people around me, the city I live in, and the stuff that I love.
Dustin Cavazos performs Friday, October 26, at the Prophet Bar with Playdough, J. Rhodes, Ty City and more.