Scenes From Saturday's 16Bars.XXX Showcase in East Dallas.
Dallas is flooded with talented hip-hop acts — although, if you want to see or hear these up-and-comers, you'll sometimes have to go out of your way to do so.
That was certainly the case on Saturday night. In a nondescript East Dallas house not too far from the typical Deep Ellum music venues that might usually offer a stage to showcase young talent, event organizer Rico Slice chose a less conventional setting for his somewhat unconventional http://16bars.xxx showcase.
Slice, who's had his hand in show booking in the past and currently works with local Dallas hip-hop station K104, handpicked himself the night's bill, which included Jarvis Hodges, Brandon Ford, ThatKidCam, Terrence Spectacle and Crit Life.
The first in what is planned to be a recurring series, 16bars.xxx began with an open mic session that offered a quick spotlight for anyone willing to put themselves out there but mostly served as a fluid warm up for the crowd, which was similarly still in loosen-up mode as it took in the sounds shared by the night's DJ, bemyfriend.
It was an overwhelmingly young crowd, too. During his set, Brandon Ford asked if anyone in the crowd graduated from high school last week and before the crowd cared to respond, he quipped, “Not me, I'm only 17.”
Or maybe not: The whole idea behind this show was that it represented “Nu Dallas” — or yet another faction in Dallas's multi-tiered hip-hop scene. The saving grace here was that this set appeared to be a tight-knit group, with each performer having a well-established relationship with the other acts on the bill. Jarvis Hodges and Brandon Ford have been featured on each other's tracks and each joined the other on stage for their sets. Terrence Spectacle, too, joined in on nearly every set before performing with his backing band.
It's a notably cohesive set, too. And an ambitious one. With each act on the bill boasting lengthy Soundcloud profiles with numerous tracks and/or an EP that's either just been released or is coming soon, it's clear that the music is the mission with these youngsters — and, even when the night started to feel more like a house party than a music showcase, the artists each made it clear with the mic that they were there to showcase their talents first, party second.
Still, the house party vibe is indicative of Dallas' usual reaction to hip-hop in the city. The music is rarely the attraction — it's the event itself and the people in attendance that are. And that makes for an uphill battle. Still, most of the performers worked hard to earn their due attention: ThatKidCam, who, of all the performers on the night, possessed all the characteristics that a young up-and-coming rapper in this city needs showcased and on-point and varied flow behind words that featured actual meaning. He was charismatic enough to hold the crowd's attention, too, offering up two separate a capellas that set him apart from the rest of the night's performers.
Crit Life, meanwhile, grabbed attention through other means. At around midnight, the group swarmed around the mob of rappers, with its supporters warning that the group throws a bonkers, mosh-filled set. The attendees were ready and not disappointed — it was mayhem, for sure, even if the music was largely inaudible. No matter: The young attendees ate it up.
Hodges and Ford, on the other hand, showed a need to improve their live emcee talents before reaching the bars set by ThatKidCam's abilities and Crit Life's antics. Yet their sets too offered intriguing glimpses of talent — especially when the two performed together and flashed an intoxicating camaraderie.
In the end, the night felt like a win-win. 16Bars.xxx appears to have primed itself as a series ready Dallas' brightest newcomers — and, better yet, in environments where the scenes feels comfortable.