It's that time of the year again when artists and creatives of the Dallas-Fort Worth area vie for honors in the annual Dallas Observer Music Awards. The polls are open and votes are being cast everyday for the city's most celebrated acts. To prepare you for the festivities -- the showcase takes place on Saturday, December 6 in Deep Ellum and the awards ceremony on Tuesday, December 9 at Granada Theater -- we're taking the opportunity to highlight the 2014 DOMA hopefuls.
One of the most consistently exciting and talked-about DOMA categories for the past few years has been the Best Rap/Hip Hop Act. Many local rap enthusiasts have watched these artists develop right before our own eyes: From the humble beginnings of open mics and opening sets for national artists to headlining showcases, release parties and festivals. Picking a winner may be extra tough in this category, but we'll help break it down for you with some background of each nominee.
If the category "Most Likened to the Greatest Rap Duo of All-Time" existed, A.Dd+ would most certainly be the reigning champions. They are the reigning champions, however, of this category for the past two years and have since continued to generate some of Dallas' most consistent and true-to-form rap music. Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy's latest release, the 5-track Nawf EP, takes the listener on a syrupy 17-minute voyage through the group's place of origin, the streets of North (read: Nawf) Dallas. Utilizing their characteristically intricate narrative rhymes and turnt-up ornamentations, the package is probably the most genuine nod to '90s Southern hip-hop in its present reincarnation. Formed in 2007 and having received generally unanimous accolades since 2009, A.Dd+ has continually solidified themselves as the anchor of Dallas hip hop, both establishing and raising the creative bar and lighting the path for some of Dallas' biggest emerging rap acts. This land is A.Dd+'s, and their fervent and ever-growing fan base is all here to remind us of it, chanting in unison, "ADD, HOE!"
Blue, the Misfit
What can be said about Brandon Blue that hasn't been said already? What began as a relative late-blooming into his passion for beatmaking, after several self-reinventions, has in short time transformed the producer/MC into arguably the most innovative figure in the Dallas hip hop community. With credits that span the international music market including K. Dot himself, it was Blue, the Misfit's debut project, Child in the Wild that brought his array of talents to center stage. The combination of his spacey, EDM-infused compositions, unique brand of lyrical charisma and off-the-wall live performances has helped Blue carve out a lane that he not only pilots but solely occupies. The former captain of Brain Gang, the Dallas rap collective that drew comparisons to Odd Future and Wu-Tang Clan, Blue emerged from the ashes of the group's disbandment and made a strong case for being the most equipped of its eight members to successfully embark the solo route. Blue has since built a remarkable highlight reel of performances that include this year's Index Fest, Oaktopia and an upcoming appearance at Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest. 2014 has been a huge year for Blue, the Misfit and judging by his trajectory, this is only the beginning.
Buffalo Black has fought hard. Hell, he's still fighting. The Oak Cliff-raised MC, born Jamil Kelley, released his first full-length project in 2010 but has only recently begun to reap the benefits of his tireless dedication. Among this year's accomplishments are the debuts of both the "Warpaint" and "Bad Seed" music videos, earning a slot on the soundtrack of Spike Lee's Da Sweet Blood of Jesus and the celebrated release of REDPILLwondrland, his sixth full-length project. The defining characteristic of Buffalo Black is the outer realm that much of his music occupies. As passionately as he can weave lyrics in standard rap braggadocio, Black can just as easily wax poetic on as far-fetched of subjects as theoretical physics. In a hip-hop landscape that celebrates catchiness over content, Black embraces the conscious rap placard and amplifies it with allusions to his affinity for science fiction, cinema and trutherism. And whereas in the four years Black has preached his gospel, it seems that now more than ever the message is spreading like wildfire.
Sam Lao didn't explode onto the Dallas rap scene; that would assume that there was some sort of physical or at least visible presence that required detonation. Lao materialized out of thin air in an ethereal cloud of deep purple incense smoke and sparkling cosmic dust, bringing forth an equally enigmatic arsenal of lyrical firepower. Since first appearing on former Brain Gang member Killa MC's late 2012 project, she's been unavoidable, a presence felt in every layer of the local music community. Her six-track debut, West Pantego, coupled with accompanying visuals for standout tracks "Haze" and "Pilgrims," removed the veil and revealed to an eagerly awaiting audience a formidable MC with the vocal ability of a trained songstress and a rapid-fire, deep-chested flow. Lao, legally Samantha Mattice-Lowery, continues to amaze with appearances alongside not only her rap contemporaries but also several non-hip hop headlining acts, including Goodnight Ned, Zhora and Sarah Jaffe. Lao has all the essential components to become a mainstay on the forefront of hip hop in Dallas: Talent, charisma and the most immaculate head of curly-hair-don't-care (well, it doesn't hurt) on this side of I-35.
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The Outfit, TX
Shamelessly Southern MCs, creating the kind of music you're equally likely to hear at both the intersection of Bruton and Masters and a contemporary art gallery, the Outfit, TX, if nothing else, have who they are figured out. A combination of classic Dirty South aesthetics, including bass-heavy production, catchy lyrics and hypnotizing hooks that cast images of strip clubs in outer space, Dorian, JayHawk and Mel have the potential to finally bring a multifaceted, yet generally scattered Dallas sound a cohesive bond. It would be foolish, however, to consider their role as solely the midpoint between A.Dd+ and Blue, the Misfit. The Outfit, TX have accumulated a seamless series of performances and releases including recent collaborations with Pinictyme of the Cannabinoids, a creative connection that happened not once, but twice. The fellas, who all hail from Dallas, didn't join forces until finding themselves at the University of Houston. Appropriately then, the Outfit, TX's sonic advantage comes from being an ideal combination of the Dallas and Houston sounds. The progressive production characterized by Dallas' youthful roster and a narrative in the same vein of Houston's underground legends, the Outfit, TX have the scene at 106-degrees.