On Sunday, Dallas producer-impresario Sikwitit premiered his highly anticipated documentary #DallasUp to a bustling audience of musicians, press and tastemakers. The viewers filled two theaters at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar Street.
The film follows Sikwitit as he assembles 13 Dallas-based producers from his Sound Collectiv group — including Blue, the Misfit and Medasin — to create 10 beats in seven days. #DallasUp is the product of Sikwitit's tireless quest for unity among the city’s producers. He came up with the idea for the film in early 2015, but until now he has been sidetracked with other projects, including scoring XXL's 2016 Freshmen cypher.
“I felt like I neglected this project,” Sikwitit says. “When I had pockets of time throughout the year, I would work on it, and so finally to be here today, and [given] all the accomplishments I’ve had since then, I’m really in awe, like, ‘This is really happening.’”
Dallas' profile has risen in music circles since the breakthrough of talents such as Snow Tha Product, A.Dd+ and Leon Bridges. Mel of the Outfit, TX, wrote the op-ed piece "Dallas Has the Best Hip-Hop Scene You’ve Never Heard Of" for Noisey in the summer of 2015. He compared Dallas to the Bay for its hippie-ish versatility and the affection shared between artists.
But while the bonds between Dallas producers are strong and many enjoy a cult fandom, all but a few have yet to break out nationally. The intent of #DallasUp, made in partnership with Creative Currency and iStandard, is to expose Dallas’ beat scene to the greater hip-hop universe and provide opportunities for said producers.
“We need moments like this to reassure that we’re doing something good, so I wanted to capture the home essence and cater to the music community and make something that Dallas can say, 'This is ours,’” Sikwitit says. “We want artists to say, ‘Yo, those [producers] out in Dallas are dope, I want to work with them.'”
The sound of Dallas hip-hop is multifaceted, owing its diversity to a populist ideal that manifests in funny ways, including neo-soul and the "Stanky Leg," both of which Dallas contributed. Medasin is an internet wunderkind dazzling SoundCloud with his spicy trap remixes, while B. Barber makes slinky funk that evokes a Pimp C score of Waiting to Exhale.
“No one can argue that we have one of the most talented producer communities here in Dallas,” says Symbolyc One, or S1, the night's emcee. The veteran producer of Beyoncé’s “Best Thing I Never Had” and Eminem’s “Bad Guy” can testify to the Sound Collectiv’s impact. “I’ll go to a lot of cities, and they’ll notice I’m from Dallas, and say, ‘Yo, your producer community is doing some major things,’ and it’s ’cause we’re coming together, so the perception of it looks bigger than if we were separate."
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The work ethic reflected by the Sound Collectiv recalls fellow production teams such as Atlanta’s 808 Mafia and L.A.’s D.R.U.G.S. Collaboration is key to the success of these teams. Producers often observe each other’s sessions and contribute everything from advice to instruments.
“We’re catering everything from TV placements to R&B to hip-hop,” Sikwitit says. “Kraken did a country record, and he’s primarily a hip-hop producer, and then you have George Rose, who does a lot of EDM. I think the possibilities are endless in terms of what we can produce and where.”
The film screening was followed by a listening session for the 10 beats and then a Q&A for fans and aspiring producers seeking advice and mentoring, including 15-year-old Jordan “Suave” Johnson.
“What we have here in Dallas, it’s different from any other city,” Johnson said. “It’s dope to see that we have the relationship that we do, and that we can all come together for a common goal and make dope music, and just have each other’s backs. That’s a dope thing about Dallas. Southern hospitality is the main true phrase when it comes to Dallas and Texas, so it’s really dope seeing what’s going on around here.”