Oscar Roque isn’t the first rapper to dedicate a song to Dallas. There have been countless others before him who did the same, often releasing accompanying music videos depicting the iconic imagery of the Triple D. It’s basically a prerequisite for any Dallas rapper at this point. What makes Roque, a 19-year-old North Dallas native, different is that he never wanted to have to do this, but felt like it was the only way he could make it as a successful rapper. As someone who was selling drugs in middle school, it was the only way to come full circle.
In the opening sequences for the video to "City That Made Me," Roque is standing on a rooftop in downtown with Reunion Tower in the rear view and scenes from his Webb Chapel neighborhood cut back and forth. He’s wearing a gold chain and showing off a matching gold grill while rapping about life events that shaped the teenager into who he is today. He mentions cooking cocaine but hating the aroma, his old partners getting deported for breaking the law and his OGs who are now in prison.
These are things he never thought he’d have to speak on again, let alone bring up in a song he’s released to the world as he’s put that part of his life behind him. You can hear it in his voice. The song, titled “City That Made Me,” and video that Roque released under his rap moniker Young OG is not a boastful track. Instead Roque’s voice carries a somber and reflective tone. But he’s decided this is the only way to garner any attention from a highly competitive Dallas hip-hop scene.
“It’s something I had to do,” Roque says. “I wish I didn’t have to. A lot of people love to talk about this lifestyle, but I lost a lot friends who either died or are in jail and won’t come out again.”
It’s hard to think that a 19-year-old can speak on such events as if they were in the distant past, but for Roque he was introduced to street life at such an early age he feels like he’s already lived a lifetime.
“That’s why I call myself Young OG, because for my age I’m a little advanced for my friends,” Roque says. “In the streets you have no age. Everybody’s been through the same things so age doesn’t matter.”
He remembers his first introduction to the possibilities of the street life. When he was 8 years old living in a North Dallas apartment complex on Webb Chapel with his parents, a man driving an old school, candy green Cadillac “with flashy things and everything” pulled into the complex and handed out toys to the kids. Roque was given a fire truck. The same guy, who was a drug dealer in the neighborhood, came around often and would buy ice cream for the kids. By the time he was 12 Roque was working for the OG, as he refers to him. As a kid it was hard for him to pass up the opportunity to make that kind of money.
“Back then I thought doing that stuff was cool,” Roque recalls. “We weren’t rich or anything but we were seeing money — more money than any other teenagers were seeing.”
At the age of 15 and 16, his older friends would throw parties or bring him into clubs, but he never enjoyed them. All he could think about was how much money he could be making out in the streets while his friends partied. The money was serving a purpose; Roque used it to buy studio time and beats, and because of that he thanks hip-hop for saving his life. While he was trying to become a rapper and developing his sound, a lot of Roque’s friends were spending their money on “cheese,” a heroin-based street drug mixed with various pills that was popular in North Dallas.
“Eight out of the 10 homeboys that were real close to me overdosed on drugs,” Roque says. Roque refuses to go into much detail about those events of his life and it’s difficult for him to speak about. Until recently he never spoke about it because he felt no one around him could understand the things he went through.
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Although he’s starting to allude to some of those circumstances in the music he’s making today, Roque hates the idea of having fun performing these songs in a club or venue when the lyrics are about someone who’s dead or behind bars and will never see their kids or family again, but he’s put too much time and money into the music business and is now willing to do everything in his power to make it. In an ideal world, he would make R&B love songs or introspective storytelling tracks in the same vein as J. Cole, and six months ago, Roque was doing just that. But he found the only people paying attention to his music were young women, and while he was happy they were listening and fawning over him on Facebook, Roque knew he needed a broader fanbase in order to be successful.
So far the new approach seems to be working. “City That Made Me” has earned over 22,000 views on YouTube in the three weeks since its release and the track has over 8,000 plays on Soundcloud. This past Sunday, Roque opened for Slim Thug at a club in Dallas, so he’s discovering that opportunities are cropping up quickly now that he's being more revealing about his past. The city hasn’t always shown him love, though. In the latter half of “City That Made Me,” Roque speaks on how difficult it is to get support here. Recently at a show in Lufkin, Texas, he was shocked that the audience of 75 to 100 people knew all the words to his songs and wanted autographs from him after the show.
“It was my first experience like that,” Roque remembers. “Here in Dallas they don’t do that. I think it’s because people know that I’m around here and they think, ‘I could be in his position, I know him or my friend knows him,’ so they’re kinda scared to support because they want it instead.”
To combat that, Roque’s decided it’s time to leave. He’s decided Atlanta will be the best place for him because of its rich and well-known hip-hop scene. To establish relationships in the city, Roque’s recorded music and filmed a music video with up-and-coming Atlanta rapper Kap G that will be released later this month. “They said, 'I think what you should do is move out of the state and get popping there,'" Roque says. "And I thought, 'Man, everybody does that. I want to put on for my city for real.'" Before he leaves, he at least wants to let everyone know about the city that made him who he is.