We Are Dallas Is Changing Hip-Hop Culture, One Party at a Time

It was the night before Christmas Eve, 2009, high atop the W Hotel on the balcony of Ghostbar. I was looking out at the beautiful Dallas skyline with Hector Pina, who had just started deejaying under the name Hot$hot for local rapper AnonymousCulture. It was cold out, and the temperature was dropping. We didn't know it yet, but the torrential downpour that would start right after last call would turn into the first white Christmas Texas had seen in 83 years. But right then it was just a cold, cloudy night, and we were talking about the rapidly changing city. The stadium in Arlington had just opened its doors, and the 2010 All Star Weekend was just a couple of months away. With a lot of new money starting to flow in, Pina was concerned.

"Dallas is on the verge of blowing up, but everyone out here tries to be so L.A.," he said. "The city is misrepresenting itself. We don't need to be little L.A. We need to just be Dallas."

I was living in Denton and hadn't yet graduated to the Big D. I didn't quite understand what he was getting at, but I took his word for it. I see this point fully realized in the We Are Dallas party series he's co-founded with Tommy Jay of Common Denominator. Since the summer, these mutual-friends-turned-business-partners have been throwing local rap shows in various warehouse party spaces on the East side of town. Three years later, Hector Pina and I again find ourselves discussing a rapidly changing city.

"Dallas has [hip-hop] culture here, it just doesn't always seem like it does because it's so conservative," says Pina."It's hard to get hip-hop to shine here because people think it's all boogie and dance songs, but Dallas has a different side that needs to be seen. There's so many people in Dallas that want to do a different style of hip-hop. Everyone's realizing you can't do it all on your own."

This past Saturday at Overground Project, a bill featuring Leon the Professional, Glo Gaines and Enertia brought out a room full of young Dallas creatives and entrepreneurs, like local streetwear designers Mike G of Prep St. 1985 and Brandon Blue of Unkommon Kolor and Wage War. Dallas artists A.Dd+, TyCity, Raw Elementz, Picnictyme and DJ Niro were all in attendance. The Overserved's Deb Doing Dallas even stopped through.

The ability We Are Dallas has to bring the city's hip-hop scene together under one roof is something local venues ought to take note of, considering that they've never really had any incidents or altercations at these parties.

"Even at the Dom Kennedy show [last week], I went to a bar across the street to try and watch the Marquez-Pacquiao fight on TV," Pina says. "There was a security guard, and he was telling me he was an undercover cop working security for the night because of the show at Trees. The crowd at Dom was not gonna get that crazy, you know?

"We're trying to get people out who are on a level-minded mentality, who want to hang out and network," he continues. "Nobody's out to prove how tough they are anymore and shit like that. It's about everyone doing their own thing. It's not cool to go out and fight anymore."

For their next party, We Are Dallas will be ringing in the New Year right with a midnight set from A.Dd+ at Qre8iv Rec. Though Pina wouldn't reveal much else about what he and Tommy Jay have planned for New Year's Eve, I would expect anything from the guys who gave us all gold-front top and bottom vampire fang grills for their Halloween party. Whatever these two have up their sleeves, it'll be 100% true to the city.

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Vanessa Quilantan