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"Drumroll, Please Dallas Observer Music Awards 2005"

Rap/Hip-Hop Nominees: Tahiti, Steve Austin, Dot Matrix, OneUp, Pikahsso - Dallas Observer

"Peer Pressure"

Peer pressure
Tahiti, fellow rappers work to impress family of local hip-hop artists
11:52 PM CST on Thursday, March 11, 2004
By CRAYTON HARRISON / The Dallas Morning News
The Dallas hip-hop scene still churns and bubbles underneath the city's surface, unable to solidify into a large-scale movement.
Local aficionados of the genre complain that Dallas has no trademark sound, no significant, visionary artist around whom a collective of artists can emerge.
That's why events such as Wednesday night's show at the Gypsy Tea Room are so important. The concert, an overstuffed bill of Dallas-area rappers, felt like a family reunion, the sign of a developing community.
The concert's organizers, who have also promoted "Final Fridays" shows at the Gypsy Tea Room, wanted to present a showcase of local talent ahead of the SXSW music conference next week in Austin. It was a social networking event as much as it was a concert.
Everyone in the small crowd was shaking hands and exchanging backslapping hugs. Performers made up a substantial percentage of the audience, and they cheered boisterously for each other.
The night's best act was Tahiti, a rapper and filmmaker with a flair for stage antics. As surreal video footage played on monitors beneath him, Tahiti lunged and stomped messily around the stage. In a particularly inspired moment, he scatted note-for-note along with a prerecorded jazz saxophone solo, throwing his body into the music.
Few performers have the kind of energy it takes to fuel a small crowd, and Wednesday's other artists could learn from Tahiti's act. It takes at least a little exaggeration and interplay with the crowd to make a show hot.
Rapper Al Lyric, working with a tiny crowd early in the night, seemed to sense the enormity of open space in the room. He had a distinctive vocal style, a Southern drawl ironed long and smooth, like Ludacris without the obnoxiousness. But he shrank from the front of the stage, pacing, still needing the confidence to back up that flow.
The Legendary Fritz had a similar problem later in the night as those with day jobs trickled out to get some rest. His bellowing boom of a voice couldn't beckon them back.
Performing in front of your peers is tougher, in some sense, than playing for strangers. Other acts have already seen your work, and competition for attention is tight.
All of Wednesday's performers had talent - Kin Fok Kru and Mental Chaos deserve special mention - but all were struggling musicians in the most romantic sense. The show's long list of acts didn't represent all of Dallas' stratified hip-hop scene, but it marked one small hotbed of hope for the city's musical future
- The Dallas Morning News, by CRAYTON HARRISON

"Jump on this: Tahiti's new hip-hop CD"

Weekly roundup of local-music happenings:

• Best CD waiting for me when I got back from South by Southwest: The Birth of Whack, the new CD by Fort Worth underground rapper Tahiti. It's a smart, melodic, groove-laden disc laced with comical '80s pop-culture references, bright, clever lyrics and nods to R&B, old-school rap and jazz. Buncha North Texas hip-hop heavyweights drop by, including Strange Fruit Project, Asha and Mosi Archey, Headkrack and Most High. But it's Tahiti's smooth voice and clever wordplay that make this one of the best things to come out of Fort Worth's hip-hop community in a long time

March 25, 2005
- Fort Worth Star Telegram/Malcolm Mayhew

"That Other, Tropicalia-Free Tahiti"

That Other, Tropicalia-Free Tahiti
July 7, 2004

Now here's a guy whose idea of selling music "online" probably has less to do with computers and more with standing in an orderly fashion with some fellow citizens at the DMV. (Underground rappers typically prefer selling c.d.'s person by person, sometimes right out the car trunk.)

With urban mysticism in his heart, local rhyme-maker Tahiti has possibly created Fort Worth's first East Coast rap record. It certainly ain't crunked. No asinine shouting and senseless insensitivity here. And it definitely ain't screwed. Nary a "pink soda" reference or sub-aqueous tempo to be found. These eight songs are plain ol' graffiti-laden NYC-ish hip-hop. The tiny, mellow tracks -- with backdrops all a-twinkle in synth chimes -- mesmerize like luminous chandeliers hanging from the Chrysler Building. The uptempo material rolls and snaps subway-style, motored by sashaying beats and gentle rock-a-bye bass lines. Most numbers highlight wah-wah guitar, female back-up vocals, majestic and comical horn riffs, assorted bleeps and bloops, and the faint echo of a glockenspiel tumbling down a flight of stairs in slo-mo. The main man's flow always scat-a-tat-tats; his lyrics consistently resonate in flavors socially conscious and gritty yet never pedantic or proselytizing. Rooted in urbane melodicism, intelligence, and party-friendliness (especially the multi-cultural, avant-garde kind), Tahiti's words prove that having fun isn't the same as acting stupid. Take note, crunkheads and ballers. Grade: Top-Shelf Hyper-Retro Modern Whimsy
- Fort Worth Star Telegram/Anthony Mariani

"Common denominator"

Sun, Jul. 10, 2005

Fort Worth rapper Tahiti is pretty frustrated with the way hip-hop is going. The bling. The hoochies. The violence.
But it really hit home when his 8-year-old son had a request. "He wanted to get gold teeth like Juvenile," remembers Tahiti, 37. "I said [to myself] 'I'm going to make a CD that he can listen to, not talking about the negative stuff, that he can enjoy.' "

Tahiti's jazzy and soulfully impressive self-distributed seven-track CD, The Birth of Whack, is a mix of various elements - including classic old-school beats, self-mocking lyrics and socially conscious rhymes - that recall such cult favorites as the Pharcyde, Basehead, Jazzmatazz, and even pre-stardom Will Smith, when he was hooked up with the underrated DJ Jazzy Jeff. It recently nabbed Album of the Year honors at the local hip-hop Conspiracy Radio Music Awards in Dallas.

While Tahiti is going against the grain of the "Dirty South" sound of Texas rap - he concedes that neither the doors of radio nor distribution are exactly flying open - he may be tapping into a broader frustration with the current state of mainstream hip-hop.

Last year, Kanye West emerged from Chicago, a city not known for hip-hop, with the multiplatinum College Dropout, a disc that melded intelligence and awareness with a stylish sense of cool that appealed to a broad range of fans. This year, West threw his production weight behind celebrated but comparatively little-known socially conscious rapper Common. Last month, the resulting album, Be, crashed into Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop charts at No. 1, pounced onto the pop charts at No. 2 and spawned a hit single with The Corner.

Coming on the heels of lesser breakthroughs for the likes of the Roots, Dilated Peoples and Jurassic 5, this style of hip-hop - alternately labeled progressive, alternative, underground or conscious and sometimes derided as college-radio "backpacker" music that will never have a wide audience - might be poised to make a leap into the mainstream. Then there are the Black Eyed Peas, who had underground credentials but now have opted for a more commercial approach. But progressive hip-hop's style is wide; it can include everything from jazzlike improvisation to rockish noise, from hard-edged politics to avant-gardist abstraction. What these artists have in common is moving beyond hip-hop's obsession with materialism and turf wars, and making good on hip-hop's initial promise of experimentalism and adventure.

It might not rival hip-hop's creative heyday in the late '80s when the likes of De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, Eric B. & Rakim and Arrested Development were at their peak, and it's not going to hurl 50 Cent or Ludacris onto the unemployment lines. But the slight shift in tastes could help re-energize a genre that has grown repetitive.

"Part of [what's happening] is an opening up of the marketplace for hip-hop," says Vibe magazine senior editor Noah Callahan-Bever who points to Jay-Z and Eminem as mainstream rappers who've incorporated underground elements.

"Then you have Kanye West, who grew up listening to A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul but also [to] Puffy and Biggie. He was able to infuse a pop sensibility into his otherwise conscious or progressive hip-hop, and it's definitely more of a throwback to classic rap than a lot of the stuff that is successful. ... It indicates that now rappers don't need to follow the formula of rap," he continues. "Kanye served to bridge the gap. ... He's a backpacker with a Benz. Now, both sides are edging toward the center."

With Common riding West's coattails to chart success, the music industry is taking notice. "I think he actually will open the door for other hip-hop artists like him," says Amy Doyle, music and talent programming vice president for MTV, MTV2 and mtvU. "The gap between Common and a 50 Cent is getting smaller and smaller. ... There's still an appetite for the Ying Yang Twins and 50 Cent, but [fans] are expanding their libraries to include the deeper side of hip-hop."

Bill Baker, who runs fortworthhip-hop.com, says he's already seeing changes. "There's a movement to better-written songs and all-around better music. You're going to see a return to smarter music," he says. "People are putting more thought into what they're saying. ... Kanye is getting his face on the Mount Rushmore of hip-hop. He's had such a great effect on hip-hop - headphone hip-hop I call it."

Baker points to the airplay that Common gets on stations like K104 (KKDA/104.5 FM) and to a collaboration between Austin- and Dallas-based progressive rapper Bavu Blakes and Houston's crunk-inspired Paul Wall as evidence of the evolution that's taking place on a local level.

Last fall in Los Angeles, a radio station revived the call letters of the legendary '80s LA hip-hop station KDAY and is programming current hits with a heavy dose of the classics that were an influence on the likes of Kanye West and Common. Its slogan: "Hip-hop today and back in the day."

"Look at the Jack format. ... People are looking for a thinking-out-of-the-box kind of radio station," says KDAY program director Anthony Acampora. "There's absolutely a widening of taste. There's not a lot of good current product out, and kids love this. They're learning about [hip-hop history]."

Someone who's counting on changing tastes is B. Wells, who, along with business partner Vincent Brandon, oversees the career of the critically admired underground Dallas acts the Strange Fruit Project and Symbolyc One & Illmind, whose just-released album is called The Art of One Mind. "I think with Common and Kanye West, [hip-hop] is finally making a 360-degree turn. ... People are ready to hear a more intellectual hip-hop, more tough rhymes than what pop hip-hop stations play."

But for all the hope and promise, the sales numbers for progressive hip-hop remain low compared with its mainstream counterpart. One of the most admired underground labels is Definitive Jux, and rightfully so. The company includes such acclaimed acts as Aesop Rock, RJD2, C-Rayz, EL-P and Murs on its roster and recently released Black Dialogue by the Perceptionists, one of the year's best CDs in any genre. But the label still measures success in terms of shipping thousands of albums - say 60,000 on Aesop Rock or RJD2 - not millions.

"It's premature to say the audience is changing wholesale," admits label manager Jesse Ferguson. "Rap is going to change and audience is being developed as it changes. ... But there will always be a place for commercial rap that glorifies money and violence. People like to hear that. There's something refreshing about bravado in music.

"But there will always be a place for something that's thoughtful and well-informed," Ferguson says. "I'm confident there's a place for these guys. ... There needs to be a voice saying something other than violence."

And Baker has been here before. "People have been working toward this moment for a long time. We thought it was going to happen in '97 when Common dropped [the album] One Day It Will All Make Sense," he says. "Things are really going to get interesting. In the next six months, it's either all going to all fall apart or you're going to see something really different happen."

Tahiti, who didn't let his son get the gold teeth, echoes the sentiments. "There's a big divide in the music. There are people who embrace the negative aspect and people who embrace the positive - kind of like the two political parties, you've got your extremists on both sides," he says. "[But] I see the changes and I'm lovin' it. We're back in fashion again. There's a lot of opportunity for a lot of these underground cats to come back and do their thing."


Some spins that take the gangsta outta rap

Here is a starter kit of recommended progressive hip-hop CDs from the last decade. Many other worthy discs are out there, but this covers the basics. And remember, just because these guys aren't gangsta doesn't mean they don't use explicit language.
Atmosphere, Seven's Travels (Epitaph) - With roots in Minneapolis and a record label renowned for its rock acts, Atmosphere might have a credibility problem were they not one of the best-selling crews in the underground and so adept at capturing both the rebelliousness and frustrations of growing up.

Blackalicious, Nia (Quannum Projects) - Political and funky, this outfit from Northern California makes ferociously intelligent and biting hip-hop.

Cee-Lo, Cee-Lo Green Is the Soul Machine (Arista) - Cee-Lo is part of the vibrant Atlanta scene that's given us both OutKast and Ludacris. And much like OutKast, Cee-Lo has a kaleidoscopic sense of black music. This disc is a prime showcase for his often-retro R&B sensibilities.

Common, Be (Geffen) - While the heavy hand of producer Kanye West sometimes overwhelms him, Common still packs a powerful punch with his socially conscious style. If you like this, go back and check out his earlier One Day It'll All Make Sense.

Dilated Peoples, The Plat (Capitol) - A longtime fixture on the LA underground, these Peoples crank up some wall-pounding beats along with some clever rhymes.

DJ Shadow, Endtroducing (Full Frequency) - An instrumental disc made up of samples and beats, this has become a classic of noir-ish mood and down-tempo grace.

Handsome Boy Modeling School, So . . . How's Your Girl? (Tommy Boy) - This collaboration between producers Prince Paul and Dan the Automator proves that hip-hop does indeed have a sense of humor.

Jurassic 5, Power in Numbers (Interscope) - A combination of classic-soul vocal dexterity and hip-hop rhythm makes these guys unique.

Talib Kweli, The Beautiful Struggle (Rawkus) - A mixed bag to be sure, as Kweli's commercial ambitions sometimes get in the way. But this is still an opportunity to hear one of the best conscience-minded rappers around.

Mos Def, Black on Both Sides (Priority) - Though better known to some as an actor, Mos Def began in hip-hop, and his rhyme-tales possess a literary sensibility.

N.E.R.D., In Search Of . . . (Virgin) - Ubiquitous producer Pharell and sidekick Chad Hugo (also known as the Neptunes) blaze their way through a striking blend of hip-hop and rock.

OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (Arista) - What more needs to be said about this groundbreaking duo?

The Perceptionists, Black Dialogue (Definitive Jux) - This is one of 2005's best albums, a scalding blend of groove and word.

RJD2, Dead Ringer (Definitive Jux) - Like DJ Shadow, RJD2 has crafted a cut-and-paste classic, though his approach is more wide-ranging and up-tempo.

The Roots, The Tipping Point (Geffen) - While the Philly collective has yet to make a disc that captures the spontaneous musical combustion of their live shows, this one comes the closest.

Jill Scott, Who Is Jill Scott? Words and Sounds (Hidden Beach) - Scott, like Erykah Badu, holds her own in a male-dominated field, with a mixture of hip-hop, poetry, jazz and R&B that's invigorating.

Kanye West, The College Dropout (Roc-A-Fella) - This is such a powerhouse it'll be interesting to see what West, whose new record is due later this year, will do for an encore.


Bavu Blakes, Create & Hustle (Bomb Hip Hop) - A smart, jazzy gem that should have gotten wider national attention. But buzz is building about his upcoming CD.

Hydroponic Sound System, Routine Insanity (Blackheart) - This twosome sports a playful, genre-hopping style, cruising from down-tempo to jazz , funk and hip-hop and back again.

Strange Fruit Project, Soul Travelin' (Spilt Milk) - An understated mix of brains and beat, this is one of the best discs to emerge from the North Texas hip-hop scene.

Symbolyc One & Ill Mind, The Art of One Mind (BBE) - Strange Fruit's Symbolyc One and producer Ill Mind get together for a socially aware collaboration.

Tahiti, The Birth of Whack (Whack Loser) - At once gruff and smooth, serious and funny, this infectious EP (produced by Symbolyc One) covers a lot of territory in just seven tracks.

- Star-Telegram Pop Culture Critic/Cary Darling

"License to Ill"

- BY ANTHONY MARIANI - Drinks in the face are nothing new to local underground MC Tahiti, a self-professed ‘loser.’ - ‘I’d rather be wack than carrying a mac-10 and be rappin’ about murderin’ black men.’ There’s gangsta rap — music cobbled together with ProTools and rhymes about poppin’ caps, slingin’ sacks, and pimpin’ ho’s. Then there’s underground rap. A whole ‘nother ball of wiggity-wiggity wax, this style forces itself in the opposite direction by employing real musicians and instruments and revolving around rhymes with a little more substance than what you’d find in last night’s police log. Texas isn’t known for its underground rap. In the land of the Getto Boys, Three 6 Mafia, and South Park Mexican, flossin’ and bling-blingin’ reigns. No one wants to listen to anything that doesn’t drape over the ears like Tony Montana’s best white suit. Rappers concerned with the corniness of everyday, like having a broken heart or being unable to pay rent, are straight-up wack. But one local rapper embraces the diss. Taking his cue from the most successful underground rap acts, like A Tribe Called Quest, The Roots, and De La Soul (all East Coast-based groups), Tahiti uses his outsider’s perch to attack what he considers a lesser art, one that perpetuates African-American stereotypes, fosters unhealthy self-images, and simply sounds juvenile. The title of his soon-to-be-released e.p. explains it all. The Birth of Wack holds a mirror to gangsta rap and gets a few good laughs at the tired, clichéd old reflection staring back. With a steely pen, an encyclopedic knowledge of pop culture, and an ability to conjure comedy without being silly, Tahiti proves himself an accomplished satirist. His words are perfect complements to the sonics, provided by S-1 of the rap outfit Strange Fruit. Non-mechanical and as organic as a jazz band, the beats and melodies — a mix of bluesy saxophones, swaying rhythms, and soft, somber, twinkling synth lines — paint an urban skyline at night, where the world isn’t as black and white as gangsta rap suggests but more mysterious, more contemplative, more seductive. ‘My mother tried to get me to sit down and learn the piano, but I just wanted to play Atari.’ Tahiti was raised middle-class. Both of his parents graduated from Howard University with degrees in music. His mother taught piano; his father served in the Air Force. The elder of two brothers, Tahiti always liked listening to pop, mostly old-school R&B (Roberta Flack, Donny Hathaway). But his interest only went as far as listening. “My mother tried to get me to sit down and learn the piano,” he said, “but I just wanted to play Atari.” He signed up for band in elementary school on a goof. Claiming he could play the trombone, he was given a seat for a Christmas performance. Having never touched the instrument before in his life, Tahiti proceeded to hum his way through the event. Growing up all over the country, from Michigan to California to Arkansas, Tahiti said that he actually learned of rap from — of all creatures — a white kid. The time was the early 1980s. The place: South Dakota. The song: The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” arguably the tune that both launched a zillion-dollar industry and forever changed American popular culture. “I was obsessed,” he recalled. “I remember staying up late, trying to write my own rhymes.” It was also around this time that Tahiti embraced his other artistic love, filmmaking. “I bought a home movie camera and just started,” he said. Rap and filmmaking? Yes, Tahiti was born to be wack. He made it official in high school, when his Bionic Beat Crew — a DJ outfit he founded with one of his brothers and some friends — challenged another local DJ to a battle at a party. “We all had black jump suits, with Old English lettering on the back, turntables from RadioShack,” he said. “And this dude, he had nothing.” Then the kicker: “And he beat our asses.” Tahiti’s two passions were just hobbies until he landed at the University of Arkansas. That’s when he and a friend began dee-jaying a radio show and spinning records at parties, and when Tahiti began studying film. He continued his education — both inside and outside of the classroom — at the University of Texas at Arlington, to which he transferred in 1989 following another of his father’s reassignments. Then a perfect storm formed. At around the time Tahiti got his heart broken by a young lady and was given a book of song samples, he met some “cats” from Benbrook interested in the rap game. “I thought, ‘Man, this’ll help me get over this girl.’” Native Poet was created in 1991. “We ordered clothes from New York,” Tahiti recalled. “We tried to get that whole East Coast vibe.” With Tahiti as DJ, the group played shows at various venues across the Metroplex, including Trees, the Aqua Lounge, the Art Bar, and Club Exodus. Tahiti dropped out of school and began concentrating on both of his artistic loves while working various relatively white-collar jobs and fathering a son. After the departure of some members, the group eventually reformed as The Free Agents, with Tahiti as one of the MC’s. Their single, “For All The Girls,” received some airplay on local commercial and non-commercial radio. The group performed at both South by Southwest and North by Northeast, two of the country’s largest music industry events, and all across the Metroplex. The videos made by the group were produced by Tahiti. The Free Agents, according to Tahiti, are still together. They’re currently “working on stuff, at a home studio” — which, Tahiti said, usually means “watching old ’70s movies and playing PS2.” Tahiti’s solo project is a direct result of The Free Agents’ inertia. “It’s definitely from not getting anything done with them.” Beat-maker S-1 fell into the mix after one of his outfit’s local performances left Tahiti in awe. “I watched one of their shows, and he gave me a c.d. I listened to the beats, but I didn’t have any money. So I told him ‘I’ll shoot some videos for you, if you give me the beats.’ He hooked me up with seven beats for the e.p.” In addition to S-1, a cast of thousands helped birth The Birth of Wack, including saxophone player Jason Davis, guitarist Joe Amato, violinist Leonard Haywood, singers Geisha Woodard and Ezell, DJ scratcher Wiz-T, producer Ty Macklin of Alpha and Omega Entertainment, and co-MC’s Chuck (from the Free Agents), Keynote, Headkrack, and Most Hi. “It is,” said Tahiti, “the anti-rap c.d.” He’s right, on at least two tracks, including one in which our hero is chopped in the neck and pepper-sprayed by a woman he’s just said hi to, and the title track, in which Tahiti raps about being “wack like what your drunk uncle be dressin’ in,” “wack like big-screen, rent-to-own tv’s,” and “wack like Big Daddy Kane when he posed buck-nekkid in Playgirl.” Whatever Tahiti is, he’s not mainstream. “But, yo,” he raps. “I’d rather be wack than kick raps about jugglin’ crack or brag about brothas hustlin’ sacks / I’d rather be wack than carrying a mac-10 and be rappin’ about murderin’ black men / I’d rather be wack than turn my back on my black people while we under attack.” Mainstream radio fare it’s not. Then again, Tahiti — with his privileged background — might not be allowed to rap about the streets, considering his distance from them. “Rap’s always been about rapping about what’s real,” he said. “I get dissed by women at clubs, I drive a shitty truck. I’ll admit that I’m a loser.” - Fort Worth Weekly


The Birth of Whack (Self-released)

When Tahiti actually raps on his debut EP, The Birth of Whack, he sounds like a seasoned old-school pro. His delivery is tough, yet light; witty, yet straight-up. The Dallas MC spits syllables like a machine gun one second, only to goof off in laid-back fashion the next. Best are his rhymes on self-deprecating single "The Birth of Whack," such as "I'm whack like Dave from the second Real World/Whack like when Big Daddy Kane posed butt-naked in Playgirl." Too bad Tahiti raps for only four of the disc's 24 minutes. Guest rappers make sense on lengthy albums, but the many MCs on this short debut pad Tahiti's breakthrough far too much. Also, the production often crowds rhymes with five melodies at once. Give the man some room. Despite the small taste he offers, Tahiti proves that he doesn't need the help.

dallasobserver.com | originally published: October 28, 2004 - dallasobserver

"Behind the Music Awards: Artists' secret riders reveal true character, fascinating pickle relish fetish"

Recently, the Dallas Observer has obtained riders for awards show performers Burden Brothers, Radiant*, Tahiti, Dallas Observer supergroup and Zayra Alvarez.


1 -- room for posse

2 -- rooms for posse's posse

3 -- rooms for groupies of posse's posse

PLEASE NOTE: DO NOT mention anything if said posses do not show.

1 -- VHS tape of Swordfish, fast-forwarded to Halle Berry nude scene

1 -- jar sweet pickle relish

1 -- large towel

1 -- Young MC cassette tape

4 -- fresh floral arrangements (PLEASE NOTE: Bougainvillea is lovely this time of year.
- Dallas Observer

"Beyond the Red Carpet"

Unlike other awards shows, you don't need anything special to host the Dallas Observer Music Awards--talent, experience, Tony Danza. Nope, there's really only one requirement for this job: You have to be me.

I was the perfect candidate.

The following is a condensed diary of the 2005 DOMAs that took place May 3. Though the jokes are occasionally lame, the events are entirely real.

8:50 p.m. The show hits its first genuine snag when Tahiti, the rapper slated to play next, isn't ready in time. He's asked fellow MC Headkrack to join him, and Headkrack is MIA. Tahiti's backstage on his cell phone, I'm combing the aisles frantically, and onstage, Zac Crain kills time enticing fellow presenter Sam Machkovech to yell f-bombs as loud as he can. Somewhere, in the balcony, my parents are looking for earplugs.

9 p.m. Headkrack arrives, and he and Tahiti knock it out of the park. I'm backstage, but every time I poke my head in I see white people dancing.

- Sarah Hepola/Dallas Observer

"Secret Society: The Dallas rap scene is good and plenty, so why don't more people know about it?"

Quick question: Who is the rapper pictured above (twice)? If you don't know, that's no surprise. Dallas' hip-hop scene has become a kind of tragically secret society, a group of talented artists too often performing for each other and the same select fans, popping up in odd venues around town with hardly a blip on the radar. But why? While Houston rap has every A&R suit armed with a hefty contract and a bottle of cough syrup, Dallas rap has gone curiously unnoticed. The reason is multi-tiered, more befitting a feature story than this column: Hip-hop and rap radio, while dominating the ratings, rarely (if ever) feature local artists; promotion often isn't strong enough, or organized enough, to get media coverage or bodies in the clubs; there is no designated hip-hop venue; with their pirated samples, mix tapes necessarily have to stay under the radar; we could keep going. But don't think Dallas hip-hop/rap isn't well-known because it isn't good. It is good. If you didn't know that, now you do.

By the way, the rapper pictured above is Tahiti, whose Birth of Whack is an entirely unique combination of positive old-school rhymes and neo-soul with nary a trace of misogyny or street tough: "I'd rather be whack than carry a MAC-10/And be rappin' about murdering black men/I'd rather be whack than turn my back/On my black people while we under attack." Tahiti is the anti-bling rapper, whose press photo is a woman throwing a martini in his face and whose "Loser" details his misadventures with the opposite sex: "If looks could kill, I would have murdered back in the '80s." It's a breath of fresh air in a genre whose biggest stars feel the need to remind us, repeatedly, that their art somehow demands bullet wounds, Cristal and generous ass-slapping.

Tahiti is only one of the many Dallas rappers who will be performing at the Gypsy Ballroom on Friday, May 27, as part of the second annual 2005 Conspiracy Radio Music Awards, presented in collaboration with Final Friday, the monthly local hip-hop show at the Gypsy. Conspiracy Radio is a hip-hop/rap Internet station, www.conradio.com, whose awards are a combination of readers' choices and panel-selected winners. Since voting started, more than 1,200 ballots have been cast for such categories as Best Emcee (Steve Austin, Bavu Blakes, Al Lyric, Knesecary, Headkrack) and Best Album (The Coffee Nod's The Hardcore Casual, Tahiti's The Birth of Whack, Knesecary's Grey Goose, Al Lyric's Above Ground, Massive's Massive Lyfe).

"The primary reason for these awards is to showcase the brightest hip-hop/rap talent in the area," says Jason DiLeo (aka JJ Chianese), owner of Conspiracy Entertainment, which includes a record label in addition to their Internet station. Other performers at this year's show include Bavu Blakes, Money Waters, Steve Austin, Hydroponic Sound System and Massive. This is a chance to see not only the best in local hip-hop but a wide range in the genre: Bavu Blakes is the sharp-witted veteran unafraid to talk race and politics; Steve Austin is the heavy hitter with such crowd-pleasing straight-shooters as "Pussy Is a Wonderful Thing" (currently the No. 1 requested song on Con Radio); Massive is the Twista-tongued rapper whose "What You Goin' Do Wit It" deserves national airplay; Hydroponic Sound System is the all-star collective that marries the city's best emcees to tracks of funk, jazz and soul.

Even if you miss the May 27 show, Final Fridays are trying to return to their once-a-month gigs at Gypsy. "The hip-hop community is a bit of a bubble," says Brian "Viz" Walker, who promotes the shows. "And as much as I try, there are people who don't know there are talented acts here."

Well, what are you waiting for? Prove him wrong.
- Sarah Hepola/Dallas Observer


"The Birth Of Whack" EP


Feeling a bit camera shy


Tahiti is from Fort Worth Texas - I am an underground emcee. I am influnced by any and everything. The thing that sets me apart from alot of other emcees is that I'm not afraid to make fun of myself.