The element of competition is woven into the fabric of hip-hop culture and it's part of what inspires rappers to create their best work — there are different styles and skill sets within the genre and it's grown to include sub-genres and hybrid artists. But let us focus on the essence of rap music, those elite poets and grammarians known as lyricists. The following artists make superior choices in their use of words to tell stories, and their craft is the core and foundation upon which the music is built. The following are our picks for the best hip-hop lyricists in North Texas.
Rakim Al-Jabbaar is an alpha wordsmith who could easily maintain that status in any market. His first name was aptly taken from “The God MC” of New York, and there’s no denying Al-Jabbaar raised the standard for elevated lyricism in Dallas-Fort Worth. The market is competitive and while some of his peers may disagree with this claim, what they couldn’t do is square off with Al-Jabbaar in a verbal contest to disprove this statement. Al-Jabbaar will be performing at his largest show to date this year at the 3rd annual Fortress Festival. He's also working on new music with Mousequake and DJ Menace.
The self-proclaimed “Young Legend” representing Pleasant Grove came up with his own formula for modernized conscious lyricism. Sessions embodies the spirit of Chuck D, the activism of Nipsey Hussle and the verbal dexterity of Kendrick Lamar. The young rapper didn't stay a local secret for long; Sessions got himself a record deal with Def Jam, which made the historic label look to DFW as a hub for new talent. But all of that aside — everything starts with his music and, specifically, his lyrics. Sessions has bars for days, for weeks and years; he has bars to build a career and a new full-length album dropping soon that could help solidify his status among the greatest lyricists to come out of Texas. Def Jam may have opened doors for Sessions, and that comes with the opportunity for new collaborations, but day-one fans know that all you need to do is lock him in a room with Sikwitit for a couple of weeks to guarantee a collaboration made of napalm-like heat.
Flozilla, aka Flower Child
Flozilla is Flower Child's no-nonsense hip-hop persona, the part of her artistic DNA that she taps into for songs like "Dalluminati," "The Dallas Queen Cypher" and "Spadistic Explosion." She has a distinct staccato-styled delivery with superb wordplay that's easy to recognize on any song she's a part of. Her career picked up momentum in 2018 via collaborations with a loose collective of rappers called DTX. Since partnering with promoter Galaxy 9, her career arc has been on a steady ascent. Last year, Flower Child released several successful singles, and her touring schedule included stops in Toronto, Las Vegas and Miami. Currently she's fine-tuning the production of her upcoming debut album, which will set her up for new career milestones in 2020.
Jroc Obama, “The Trap-Star Lyricist,” plies his craft among the talented GMG/PAEME hip-hop collective through a case of iron-sharpening-iron as they consistently inspire the best showing of each member's individual talents. A prime example would be the song “Jungle Flow” from Obama’s album No Debate. It serves as indisputable evidence that he belongs on this list. He’s had several noteworthy lyrical performances, but if you’re unfamiliar with his work or doubt his status as a top tier rapper, you should start at “Jungle Flow” and work from there.
The Dallas rapper by way of Waco possesses a wide variety of verbal styles that he skillfully applies to his music. However, it’s the consistent delivery of exceptional prize fighter-like punchlines that sets him apart from his peers. After putting in nearly a decade of work and building credibility among his peers via cyphers and mixtapes, Hampton, fresh off his first Dallas Observer Music Award for Best Hip-Hop Act, is finally getting the recognition he deserves. The rapper's label BSMG is backed by a talented group of producers who go by the name Bounce Gvng, and they've played a major role in the work he and his labelmates have done over the last couple of years.
There’s a rare phenomenon that occurs when a musician is severely underrated but critically acclaimed at the same time. This would be true for Arlington rapper B. Anderson, who doesn't get much local publicity but was recognized by DJ Booth as one of the leading artists in Dallas-Fort Worth's hip-hop renaissance last year. As it pertains to lyrical ability, B. Anderson's wordplay is second to none. It should also be noted that Anderson is one of the top rappers in North Texas because of his innovative marketing techniques, the effort he puts into the visuals and artwork that accompany his music and the fact that he's simultaneously built a loyal fan base locally and in Los Angeles. His SoCal connections also extend to LA-based hip-hop/EDM producer Alexander Lewis. Their chemistry is undeniable and they're batting 1.000 when it comes to creating hits.
Committing to hip-hop is something that has taken time for Duncanville rapper Rajiyah (pronounced Ry-yah). She got her start in 2013 to motivate her brother's rap aspirations, but then quit. Rajiyah resurfaced in 2016 briefly, released a video, then decided to put the mic down again. In late 2018 she performed her first show at Three Links with Rakim Al-Jabbaar. The entire crowd was attentive, applauding and locked in to her entire set. Smiling, she addressed the audience and revealed this was her first live show. Then, through laughter, she said, "But I still knew I could do this shit." Rajiyah's growth since then has been significant. She competed in The Premier Live Experience — The One talent competition at Trees last year, and her command of the stage oozed the confidence of a seasoned battle rapper and showed that she's finally taking her music career seriously. In October Rajiyah released her EP S.O.L.O. and is working on new music for 2020.
When it comes to Jayson Lyric, don’t let the smooth taste fool you. Yes, he can sing, yes, he infuses gospel elements into his music, however, if need be, he can throw on a black hoodie, meet up in any alley, grimy studio, or basement to match bar for bar with any rapper in Dallas-Fort Worth. Lyric has the ability to deliver verses where the listener knows that what they're hearing is good even if it goes over their head. Or he can deliver lines that are direct and easy to understand, yet so profound they leave a lasting impression. His cadence and wordplay show strength. Lyric has producer Oktober1st in his corner and it's a combination that's help keep him among the elite in North Texas hip-hop for the better part of the last decade.
Willo has one of the most distinctive voices in hip-hop. The gruff, raspy nature of his vocals make it nearly impossible to confuse him with another rapper. He's someone who speaks and raps from the heart which is why he utilizes a great deal of improvisation in his songs. The unstructured nature of how he comes up with lyrics brings out his best, a technique which could make for a sloppy amateur sound if attempted by a lesser artist. Anyone can create art or pen words "from the heart," though, but Willo has the depth, experience and original worldly perspective to create songs that connect with the listener. His debut album Never Die, released in 2017, is regarded as a local classic. Willo is fine-tuning the production of his follow up album with producer/engineer Donny Domino and a tentative release date for that project has been set for March of this year.
7 Tha Great
You'd better possess exceptional talent if you're going to include the adjective "great" in your name. It'd be extremely awkward for everyone involved if you voluntarily chose a stage name of this kind and everything you made was bad or mediocre. Dixon Circle native Ladarrion Burton, aka 7 Tha Great, has earned the right to use that surname. He seemingly attacks every beat he lends his voice to, which is a testament to his work ethic because the amount of features he's done over the last few years is nothing short of prolific. 7 Tha Great might be booked for many projects, but he doesn't show up with throw-away verses he wouldn't have used on his own material — He's intentional and dedicated to adding value to anything song he raps on.
When Alsace Carcione performs live, she delivers her verses with such intensity and precision that it should be no surprise to audiences to learn that the Virginia transplant is a Marine. What stands out about Carcione is that each line she raps is delivered with serious clarity and marksman-like precision. Carcione is a veteran rapper who has been open about the difficulties of being a member of the LGBTQ community in the world of hip-hop. But regardless of any hardships that have come her way, she's earned the respect of fans and peers as one of DFW's favorite artists.
Jui$e Leroy has the ability to make you dance with tracks like "Tempo," and can make quality struggle music that resonates with all demographics, like "All Eye Got." But Leroy's a tried and true 3-tool battle rapper who excels at metaphors, wordplay and punchlines as is evident by his latest release, "I Shot Ya." 2019 was the biggest year of his career and if his work ethic and progression up to this point is any indication, 2020 will be bigger and better for the Fort Worth native. Leroy does his best work with Z-Will of Blu Magic Beat Company and he has a not-so-secret weapon in director Stack Moses, who provides him with visuals to match the high musical quality.
Doe Cigapom spent years on the streets of Washington, D.C., immersed in felonious activity — a fact that he's candid about, but doesn't glorify. He's one of Dallas-Fort Worth's most underrated rappers whose metaphors, punchlines, wordplay and ease in delivery blend well with every instrumental he uses. Cigapom is simply a well rounded lyricists still struggling to obtain the recognition for his skill. Recently he relocated to Atlanta but will continue to collaborate with Dallas artists and make trips back for live performances.
Rikki Blu is well-traveled; he's lived and performed in various corners of the U.S. for several years but is, and has always been, a proud native of Pleasant Grove. Dallas hip-hop fans can always be rest assured that if Rikki Blu is onstage in another city, the talent and energy of Dallas is being represented properly. When you listen to Rikki Blu, what grabs your attention is the level of ferocity behind each line delivered. But, it's Blu's storytelling ability that should be celebrated. A good example of his lyrical prowess would be his verse on Al-Jabbaar's "KOS." As a rapper, wordplay and metaphors can improve, and punchlines can become more potent, but a storytelling ability is often a skill you either have or don't, and Rikki Blu definitely has it.
Topic has been a treasure within the Dallas hip-hop community since the early 2010s. He's an artist who has and will (literally) leave his blood, sweat and tears on the stage when he performs. His poetic spoken word skills developed into a career in hip-hop. In recent years, his live show resume has continued to accumulate impressive milestones, including touring with Flying Lotus. However, Topic's release of recorded music has paled in comparison to his more prolific peers. In 2020, he vows to release one EP per month and so far he's made good on that with the release of A Saturday in January and Dr. Oddlove's February EP.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.