A.Dd+ Talk Their Recent Tour, Their New Album and Their Thoughts on Dallas Hip-Hop As A Whole.
Just over a year ago, lifelong friends Slim Gravy and Paris Pershun released their second album under the name of A.Dd+, a free-to-download release called When Pigs Fly.
At the time, there was but a small clamor — nothing too crazy. From the outside looking in, it appeared nothing more than another release from another upstart Dallas rap duo with big dreams and little knowledge of how to reach them. A year prior, the twosome had released another album called The Power of the Tongue. At first glance, this new record was just a follow-up.
Then the reviews started coming in, and everything changed.
The release was universally praised, with a number of critics in town (this writer included) even going so far as to call the disc, which was fully produced by local luminary Picnic, the best front-to-back hip-hop album Dallas had ever seen.
Practically overnight, the duo's high-energy live shows, in which they were backed by the revered DJ Sober, became one of the region's bigger draws.
Before long, others began taking notice. Rap blogs picked up on Slim and Paris' grimy-yet-lyrical flows and yin and yang personas, comparing them to a young Outkast in the process. And by the end of 2011, the group was earning praise from the likes of Gorilla Vs. Bear, Spin and Pitchfork.
But aside from a few quick jaunts around Texas as part of a Red Bull-sponsored tour, the group stayed close to their home base in Dallas, helping them remain Dallas' best-kept secret, but more likely stunting their growth at the same time.
Last month, the group finally got the chance to change that much, hitting the road with famed Detroit rapper and producer Black Milk, with whom they share a manager. And this was no small trip, either: The month-long effort, which featured a break right in the middle so the group could play South by Southwest, found the band playing such esteemed haunts as L.A.'s The Roxy, New York's The Knitting Factory and Minneapolis' First Avenue.
Last week, with the group now back home in Dallas and settled from the road, we met up with Paris, Slim and Sober for some afternoon drinks at the Elbow Room to talk about the tour, the perspective it gave them on Dallas and how, if it all, they've been changed by their new experiences.
So was the tour what you expected?
Paris: It was more than I expected. Just all the shit we saw. Like, I'd never seen that type of scenery like there is on the West Coast. And then just all the different people — people we'd never meet otherwise, and they knew all the words to our songs and shit.
Like, we were in Portland and there was like a whole group of motherfuckers singing along to every song. In Portland! It just made me realize that the stuff we're doing is worth it. Like, our stuff actually pulls people together through hip-hop and that doesn't really happen. People have been sleeping on hip-hop lately. No one really wants to listen to a rap single that drops any more. But maybe our stuff does. Maybe it makes them want to listen to rap music again.
Slim: It was overwhelming, actually, it was a lot to take in, all that driving and traveling to places we've never been and settling into the weather and whatever. I'm so accustomed to the setting I'm from. Seeing mountains and lakes and big bodies of water, I've never seen any of that shit. We don't have mountains in Dallas! And we don't have big bodies of water. All we've got is White Rock Lake and, like, Lake Lewisville and, like, the Trinity River. But the most overwhelming thing about it was the fact that we got to spread our music around. Not everyone gets that chance. Especially in Dallas.
We were blessed to do that. It was a lot to take in. It was like a movie.
How did it work out with Black Milk?
Slim: It was cool. Black put a lot of knowledge on us and we learned a lot just from watching his posture and whatever and his interactions with the crowd. I noticed, too, that he basically alienates himself from everyone for at least a good 10 minutes before the show, just sitting by himself and getting in a zone. I've started that too now, and it actually does help me.
You've worked with him in the past, but there's some differences stylistically in your music. Were you expecting your own fans to show up to these shows?
Paris: I felt like it would kind of be a cool fit. We don't necessarily make the exact type of music he makes, no. But I always feels like the music we make is pretty universal. So, whether you're there to listen to Black Milk or whether you're there to listen to us, I think you'll kind of like the both of them. We have our own style, sure. But we also have the boom-bap stuff.
Sober: And, personally, I think it's cool to mix it up a little bit. When it's too much of one thing and it's flat the whole show, people get bored. That was one thing that I noticed. In different cities, besides the actual tour lineup, some of the local groups would just set us up for the spike. They would come on and all be similar and because of that kind of boring and our show is up and down — kind of like a DJ set.
We're over here and then we're over there. We have something to offer for all types of people.
So I thought that was kind of cool. And then, y'know, people who are Black Milk fans who might not know what to expect, they might hear us and hear his track and say, 'Oh, OK. I can get with this.'
It sounds like there were people who came out just for y'all, like with that Portland crowd.
Sober: They did! And then they told us they were going to the strip club afterward! And we were like, 'Man, you should stick around for the Black Milk show. It's ridiculous.' And they're just like, 'Nah, we're gonna go to the strip club. But y'all can come!'
Did you go?
Paris: Naw. I'm not really a fan of strip clubs. They're just a big-ass tease unless you've got the right amount of money.
Had you ever been on a tour yourself Sober?
Sober: More just one-off stuff. I've never done a tour like this.
What did you learn? What were your expectations heading in?
Slim: I learned that Sober farts a lot. And he can't hold his pee for shit. He was always the reason we had to pull over.
Paris: Well, first of all, I was already weary. Like, before we even started, I was just like, 'Fuck, we've gotta drive everywhere?' And we really did. We had to drive all across the country. And I'm not the road trip type.
But because we were on tour or whatever, it didn't end up bothering me as much. I would just turn on some music and zone the fuck out. But the actual experience? It was what was expected — just go out there and rock the fuck out every night, gain more fans, gain more listeners and that type of thing, which is really just scratching the surface. A lot of this helped me realize that though we might not be bigger than we think we are or anything like that, the impact of our music is felt damn near everywhere. And not just Dallas. Or Texas.
Sober: We were bigger than we thought we were when we got back from tour and weighed ourselves from eating all that fast food for a month!
Paris: Actually, I lost four pounds!
Sober: [Laughs.] I did too!
Paris: That's crazy! All we ate was Subway and McDonald's!
Sober: One part Jared, one part Ronald.
What was the city that most surprised you guys?
Paris: Iowa City.
Slim: Yeah, the crowd in Iowa was awesome. For one, I didn't know it was a college town. As soon as we got to the venue, we saw a huge group of people walk in behind us. There was, like, some sort of music festival going on that we were a part of and people were walking up and down the street, with motherfuckers stumbling around drunk and shit, but the venue we had gave us this, like, upstairs room.
Sober: It was kind of like a mini South by Southwest.
Paris: Exactly. And people were coming in and seeing one act and then going out. And, in Iowa City, I just didn't expect anybody to know us. But, by the time we got on stage, when Sober was setting up, the crowd just started filing in. It seemed like there were over 500 people in that bitch.
Sober: It was cool. It was like this narrow venue that went back pretty deep. And it was up some stairs and it had this low ceiling. It reminded me of a bigger Rubber Gloves. And like he said, people were just instantly reacting. There were tons of people taking photos.
Slim: And we got to pop champagne afterwards, too! It was real cool.
Paris: We got an encore!
Have you ever gotten an encore in Dallas?
Sober: And everyone there was chanting “ADD HOE!” It was cool.
Paris: Once you say it once, they kind of learn to go with it themselves.
Sober: It's funny, about that Iowa City show. I tweeted once we got there that, because the city looked boring, the show was probably going to be crazy. And it actually was. I didn't know it was a college town, but smaller places like that are usually hungry for things, like when something like our show comes out, they show up in masses. They're open to things that other people aren't because so much passes it by. Like, 'I don't know who Black Milk is, but it sounds cool and they're playing this music festival, so I might as well check it out.' And, like, there's this record store right on the square there where the college is, and just for something like that to exist and thrive is really cool. I think, just as far as different cities, there were things like that that stuck out to me.
Sober: Just what cities had to offer. Like, Portland definitely was a stand-out to me. The sound was just so great in that club.
And that's another thing: Sometimes you go to the bigger venues and they're fancy and it just doesn't resonate like you thought, and then you go to the hole in the wall, which I'm usually partial to, and it sounds amazing, the vibe's good and it's a little more grimey.
Sounds like you experienced a whole mix of venues, from the holes in the wall to places like the Roxy.
Paris: Yeah, man. I mean, I knew we were playing the Roxy, but I didn't realize, 'Like, damn! We're playing the Roxy!' until like a week before the show. As that date got closer, I was just like, 'Man, we're playing the motherfucking Roxy!'
Sober: Name on the marquee and everything.
Paris: Right! That, too! Even though they fucked it up. What did they do again?
Sober: They got the punctuation wrong.
Sober: It was close, though. We should just start bringing our own letters for them to use.
What was that Roxy show like? Intimidating?
Paris: No, not at all. It was like when we played in Minneapolis. We played First Avenue, and I guess that's where Purple Rain was filmed or whatever. But they had all these stars out front with the names of people who'd played there. I was just, like, man, 'I wonder if we do good enough if we can get added to that shit by the time the night's over!'
Slim: The Roxy was just so crazy. Like, backstage, there's a picture of Bob Marley on the wall in their green room. It was cool to say we were hanging out where he did. L.A. was just the bomb. It was cool as fuck. That's a place where I fit in, for sure.
Who'd you meet out on the road?
Paris: We met Jake One in Seattle. We met Lupe Fiasco in Portland — he had a show in Portland that night. We met the Fool's Gold people.
Sober: We met Dam-Funk. I'd talked to him online before, but he came out to check out us and the Black Milk show and then he invited us all out to come out to his night the next night.
Slim: I met this dude from Chicago named Audacity who reminded me of Fatman Scoop. And there was this chick named Christina from San Francisco. Oh yeah, she was bad.
Paris: We actually finally personally met the dude that's been doing our artwork for the past year and a half, Upendo, in Portland. We'd never met him face to face.
Sober: He works for Nike out there.
It sounds like this was a pretty amazing experience.
Paris: Oh yeah.
Slim: I miss the road already. I like meeting new people.
But it sounds like you guys were a little nervous about it before you left.
Paris: Yeah, but I just don't give a shit now. I even drove some of the way!
Slim: Maybe, but I think we've improved a lot because of this tour. Like, we always had chemistry, but being on tour and performing everyday, we know, if we were to mess up, exactly where that will happen, where one of us needs to catch our breath or whatever. And we got used to doing certain moves in certain ways, too, where some of it actually just became a regular part of every show.
Sober: I think it's cool just because, through this, you experience things you never would experience If you went straight to big time and they were flying you everywhere. We have to do this, and we saw different parts of the states and countryside that we never would've seen otherwise.
I think that's important because you get the full experience of what these different regions have to offer. If someone were to fly to Dallas and go to Mockingbird Station and Uptown, they wouldn't know what Dallas is really about, or even Texas as a whole. It takes you driving to Austin or Houston from Dallas to really feel that Texan thing. That's just super important.
And it's cool because all the music you listen to your whole life, if you haven't seen these places, you kind of understand certain things more. I've been to the East Coast and the West Coast plenty of times, but I haven't visited the Midwest that much. You kind of know that the West Coast sounds very much like the West Coast looks. You hear the music and then you picture palm trees and '64 Impalas. On the East Coast, you picture Bubble Goose and Timberlands. So it all makes sense.
Paris: I noticed that a lot of the Midwest, like St. Louis and Chicago, it basically feels like the South in a sense. Just the people and the way they act and their mannerisms.
Slim: St. Louis is a lot like Texas, yeah. Very humble. Good hospitality.
Paris: It felt like a lot of Southern influence. But even in New York, where everyone's supposed to be an asshole or whatever, it's not like anyone was ever an asshole to me. No one had attitudes or whatever.
I don't know if I should say it, but I just think New York is an overrated city. I didn't dig the whole subway and walking everywhere thing. It's not too much for me. It's just like, 'What the fuck?'
Slim: In New York, it's really diverse and there's just so many people. They're not so friendly because people are in their face all damn day. But in places like Montana, where there's not many people, it's different. Also, being black there, where it's like 0.4 percent black people there, it's crazy. I went to the corner store there and they were looking at me like, 'The hell you come from?'
I imagine this all gave you a lot of perspective on Dallas, too, though.
Paris: It actually made me realize that the City of Dallas, as far as the hip-hop culture, is kind of, if not in the lead of other cities, it's up there. Some of these cities we went to, the scenes had no identity or togetherness or any of that shit. Like, a lot of the locals didn't even know the other locals.
I know a lot of people like to shit on Dallas and the unity of it and all that shit, but in a sense, it's damn near better than every other city out there. Maybe not music-wise, but unity-wise, for sure.
Slim: I realized that the Dallas hip-hop scene is, like, by far the best underground scene, bro. Like, yeah, with the open mics and all that. People say that we're not unified and don't come together and all that, but after going on tour and seeing all these other cities and how the locals do things, we have way more unity. Big names and little names all come to one spot. They don't do that in L.A. They don't do that in New York. Chicago has a little scene, but Dallas really has a cool scene, like damn.
Sober: I think a lot of people think the grass is greener on the other side, especially in Dallas. People shit on Dallas, but a lot of people who are from here are the main culprits of that. It gets old. I love Dallas.
And on a DJ sense, everyone that I've brought through from 2006 when I was doing The Party through now, they all had a blast and saw a side of Dallas that they didn't think existed and wanted to come back, whether they're from New York or L.A. or wherever. A lot of times, those places, they have so much going on that the turnouts aren't as big as they should be because there's so many people bouncing around or whatever. I think the scene here is great.
Did you feel like you were ambassadors for Dallas when you were out on thee road?
Sober: Definitely. I would not stop repping it! It's not like I would go somewhere else and go like, 'Yeah, we're big time now.' I will continue to rep Dallas.
Paris: We made sure that at every fucking show people knew where we were from.
Sober: We were wearing clothes from Centre that said 'Triple D' at every show we played and in every picture we were in! I played “I'm So Dallas” before every show we played, with me introducing the guys before we started the show. And everyone seemed to be into that song, even if 90 percent of it, they probably haven't heard before.
You mean other cities don't know “Southside da Realist”?
Sober: [Laughs.] They need to!
Paris: No joke!
What was the reaction about Dallas in general?
Sober: When the guys would say we were from Dallas, places would erupt.
Paris: It was surprising as fuck. Maybe at the beginning, people were just cheering just 'cause. But at the end of the night, people were like, 'Really? Dallas put out that? I thought they just did dance songs.' I think people were just pleased to see that Dallas is capable of lyricism and artistry.
It surprised most every crowd, I think.
Sober: Yeah, like why were they cheering when we said we were from Dallas? Maybe it was a perception thing that this is maybe an underdog-type city. So maybe they were just excited to see something cool was happening? I don't know. Maybe they just like the Cowboys. They're America's Team. Maybe we can be America's Rap Group.
It's been a year since When Pigs Fly and I know you're dropping your “loosie” tracks. But what's the current plan?
Paris: We're working on our next album, which we're now calling Dive Hi, Fly Lo. As far as the loosies, we'll continue to drop those. Maybe not every week. But we're writing a lot of songs for Dive Hi, Fly Lo. We've got production, of course, from Picnic, but also Black Milk for sure and S1. As far as that, those are the three we're working with so far. We don't have a definite date for it, but that's what we're working on right now. We may drop it over the summer. We may drop it tomorrow. We just don't know yet.
How are you feeling about the Dallas hip-hop scene in general at the moment?
Paris: I think it's growing. I don't think anyone is where they want to be just yet, but as far as people making a name for themselves, I think that's happening. Like even just at the open mics, which bring good crowds out.
People are opening their eyes and ears to new music, which is great, just because people are usually scared of the unknown. It's getting to a point where it should be respected in a minute.
Sober: I agree. I think a long time ago, Dallas had that with the Final Fridays, which I guess they started doing again recently. But as the scene changed, that kind of died off. Now, there's a lot of younger kids, who are the future of what is coming out of Dallas anyways, and I think that's a good thing. Just new talent and new promoters. There are a lot of young groups and they're all active, and it's just getting bigger and bigger.
It seems like there's a wider diversity of audience in Dallas hip-hop, too, of late.
Sober: I think so. Like, we did a show at South Side Music Hall put together by Jesse Porter and Sore Losers were on there with us, and there were Dallas hip-hop people that I wouldn't have expected to be there. Like Definition DJ cats, like DJ Drop. They're more on a radio tip and I don't know them personally, but it's really cool to see them come out. And I know that Drop was at our Red Bull show and he shouted us out.
I think it's cool that they too see that Dallas has something else to offer other than what it's maybe become known for. And I'm not saying that stuff is bad. I play all that in my sets. I love Treal Lee! But to be diverse as a DJ and get out of that, I think that's healthy, and I think it's cool to see those people in the mix.
And then you've got other artists. Like, the Burning Hotels, those guys always support us. We're gonna do a remix with them. We get put on bills with all rock acts, but people book us, and when your stage show is on point, people are gonna listen. And I think that's important and what lends to gaining a bigger fan base.
What's gonna be different about the next album?
Paris: We want to go a little darker than When Pigs Fly. Not necessarily on some depressed-type shit. But on that album, a lot of songs — like “Mary Go” and “Likeamug” — they were just upbeat as hell. Damn near every song on there, really. We want this next one to be a little more personal, too. “Darker” is the word I've been using.
Is that scary? That up-tempo stuff has all been really well received.
Paris: It's not. People expect us to change, to evolve. The loosies help with that, too. We can drop different-sounding shit to help prepare them for what's coming. I mean, we'll still have some upbeat shit on there. But it won't necessarily be as “fun.”
Download the group's latest free single below.