Coming up with an idea is not the same as devising a plan, executing it and bringing it to fruition. When Dallas hip-hop artist and entrepreneur Mozez Tha Great has an idea, he sees it through. A year ago, we spoke with him about the first I Am Dallas Hip Hop show. His goal then was to create a platform that highlights both established and up-and-coming hip-hop and R&B artists. Last year MTG said he was determined to make sure this was not a one-off event. His intent was to turn I Am Dallas Hip Hop into a brand that would grow and include additional programming under its umbrella. Thus far, he's made good on his intentions.
The second annual I Am Dallas Hip Hop took place on Saturday, July 13, at the Granada Theater. MTG headlined along with Cure Paranoia and Rikki Blu. Other performers on the bill that night included 2wice, Kianna, Greggory Stakks, Choice, Tyler Sloan and Sunshine Capone. Many of the musicians were chosen through the I Am Dallas Hip Hop open mic contests that MTG organized.
"We had a series of open mics, but it was a song battle competition also," MTG says. "A lot of the people on the show this year like 2wice, Kianna, Choice, Tor1n and Sunshine came from that."
The open mics took place monthly between October and May. An additional showcase, We Are the Movement, took place separately.
Expansion is usually a goal for upstart live music events. MTG's event had a significant growth, at least in terms of venue size, with the switch from Trees (which has a listed capacity of 600) to the Granada (which holds 1,000). The attendance increase was incremental. The first show drew 400 people, and this year's showcase had 500. MTG says the venue was instrumental in making the show a success.
“I wanted to take it from having a showcase feel, to having it be like a real concert," he says. "So we were able to do a few things that added a little more production value this year. My vision for this is to turn it into a festival one day in the near future."
The North Texas musical festival circuit boasts several successful annual events but still doesn’t rival the live music industry in Austin. There’s a seemingly pervasive void within the Dallas-Fort Worth market for large scale hip-hop events. If MTG has aspirations to turn I Am Dallas Hip Hop into a festival, he'd have little competition.
This year's performances at the Granada will go a long way to helping in the event's growth. Charismatic Pleasant Grove rapper 2wice is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best live performers in DFW hip-hop. Along with his hype man and frequent collaborator singer and rapper XO, 2wice worked the audience into a frenzy with the performance of his church organ-laced "Holy Water," and the melodic lead single from his EP Soul Flow, "Smooth Operator."
Mozez Tha Great proved that he’s deserving of the headlining spotlight, not just because he created the event but also because he creates good music. But holding onto that spotlight is a different story. MTG would converse with the audience for extended time between songs and the crowd energy invariably dwindled. Such was the case when he explained his decision in the middle of performing “Bars,” opting instead to perform “Ride.” The song switch was, in fact, better in line with that particular moment in the show and formed a feeling of immediate intimacy with the crowd, but if I Am Dallas Hip Hop is to achieve an authentic major concert feel, MTG's stage performance will need to become more impersonal. More music, less dialogue.
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MTG’s performance of his EDM trap-inspired song “Killing Me” was electrifying, and its intensity reached a new level with the live drum performance of A.C. Capers of Loyal Sally and the Dallas Mavericks drumline.
At least one-quarter of the audience had cleared out a few minutes after midnight, but those who remained were treated to a masterful closing performance by Rikki Blu. It took a few emphatic calls to the stage by hosts Alsace Carcione and Spaceboifresh for Blu to come to the stage. There were rumors that he might have been partaking in herbal-related activities. Eventually, the critically acclaimed lyricist emerged, with pinned-back blond dreads, dressed in black save for the blue outline of his Triple D basketball jersey. Blu performed "Reign" and other songs off his album You Can't Make Me with the stage presence and lyrical precision that has made him one of North Texas' premier artists.
MTG says he's been in the studio with Dallas-based producer Glo Gaines, and they're prepping a project that is tentatively scheduled for a September or October release date. The timing of the release will coincide with a regional series of shows MTG is planning under the I Am Dallas Hip Hop brand to other cities in Texas. With the time and resources it takes to produce events, MTG says it can be difficult to focus on a solo music career, but says that all of it fits into his plans, the achievements he's setting out to pursue in the music industry.
"I think it takes having a consistent balance, but it's worth the sacrifice because I want to lead by example," MTG says. "I want to share opportunities and be more collaborative with other artists as opposed to just being competitive. That can only strengthen the entire scene, and I think I'm starting to see a lot more of that. It does interfere but I don't mind it because I feel like Mozez Tha Great is I Am Dallas Hip Hop, I Am Dallas Hip Hop is Mozez Tha Great.”