Scenes From Friday Night’s Impressive North Texas Hip-Hop Showcase at the Granada.
At this point, who still needs convincing?
It’s almost becoming a tired narrative for those who are already aware, but here goes again: The Dallas hip-hop scene is as rich and teeming with extraordinary talent at this moment as its ever been.
Still, for whatever reason, Dallas hip-hop seems to still be struggling to blossom beyond the local scene, still living in the shadow of Houston’s reputation — even after national recognition from as prized a hip-hop publication such as Complex.
So it seems highly appropriate that the city makes a point to show its talent in as many ways as possible. A promising example of this took place Friday night at the Granada Theater in which the Dallas Observer presented the first volume of its North Texas Hip-Hop Showcase, which featured a sampling of the area’s most celebrated acts, including AV The Great, Jaeson Green, Lord Byron, -topic, Sam Lao, Blue The Misfit and headliners A.Dd+.
The most impressive takeaways from the rich lineup? Not only the diversity of talent from each act, but the level of showmanship brought to the stage. Aided by a full-size boxing ring, each round of performers used the prop to their advantage in their own way.
AV The Great showed off the dedication to craft that the Dallas hip-hop scene has. During his set, AV The Great made it clear to the audience that his music was his source of pride as he makes it a point for his lyrics to mean something. At one point, the rapper dedicated a track to a 15-year-old high school student from his city of Denton who committed suicide earlier in the week. Ending his set on a lighter note, AV The Great relished his moment in the ring provided and closed his set with the unforgettable WWE entrance Stone Cold Steve Austin used, clapping to beer cans together, chugging them and then climbing from corner to corner, basking in applause from the audience.
And the fervor only heightened from there.
Very few artists work through technical difficulties as calmly as Jaeson Green did on Friday night. While waiting for his DJ’s equipment to be setup — eating up precious minutes of the 20-minute sets that each performer was given — Green calmly sang along to the house music, offering a preview of his soulful voice to the crowd. Once finally able to properly begin his set, he continued the crooning with remarkable performances his tracks from last year’s Victorious LP, with “Trust” being the stand-out performance.
Lord Byron, the newest performer on the bill, confidently took the stage next — just as he has since his live debut this past October at Index Fest, but this time with a live band in tow. The band provided a new, soulful element to Byron’s much-celebrated and breakout Dark Arts Vol. 2 album
His performance was followed by one of Dallas’ most talented musicians regardless of genre. Showcasing his emcee talents and productions skills alike, -topic put on a performance that arguably earned the greatest response from the crowd. Performing tracks from his just-released Be Good & Do Well LP, -topic got caught up in the moment and decided a backflip off the top rope of the ring. More impressive? He stuck the landing perfectly. Then, per ritual, the backpack-donning rapper showered his audience with snacks from his satchel — this time with the aid of his adorable niece.
Sam Lao came next, and it’s hard to think of an artist in Dallas who ended 2013 stronger than she did. Off the strength of her debut EP, West Pantego, Lao has been featured on an almost alarming amount of bills lately. But, each time, she seems to have walked away from her sets with a memorable showing, even when opening for a national act such as Jessie Ware, as she did back in October. Friday was no different: The fresh artist — predicted by many a local media entity to boast a meteoric rise in 2014 — confidently displayed on this night the rapping, singing and stage presence that has garnered her so much attention of late.
Still, even she would be topped.
Heading into last night’s show, those in the know well knew: If any performer could come close to stealing the show from the headlining duo of A.Dd+, it would be Blue, The Misfit. And he didn’t disappoint, choosing to forego the ring prop and settle instead for the sliver of stage in front of it, performing in near darkness as Granada Theater’s three projection screens showed off his personally crafted imagery. Blue’s long-awaited new project, Child In the Wild has been winning over audiences in live settings for a while now and it did once more on this night. By the end of his performance, Blue and his Brain Gang associate X saw the front of their audience break out into near-mosh pit hysterics.
Lastly, to close out the night, Paris Pershun and Slim Gravy launched into their headlining set like the heavyweights they are, entering the stage clad in boxing regalia from back of the venue in true MGM Grand fashion. That kind of spectacle is just part of the reason as to why A.Dd+ has become the city’s most celebrated rap entity; their experienced performance abilities feel larger than life at times. It’s rare to see a hip-hop show with so much effort being poured into it, but, while performing tracks from DiveHiFlyLo, an album the group released at this same venue a year ago, the duo proved that their efforts aren’t in vain. Their set — featuring cameos from fellow locals Tunk and Dustin Cavazos, as well as a reunion of sorts between Tony Vice and Blue, The Misfit, who once together made up tjhe regionally adored Sore Losers duo — soared.
So, too, did the night at large.
Dallas has a lot to be proud of with its hip-hop scene of the moment. More impressive? Friday night was just a sample of the talent the city has to offer — even if no others are quite doing it as well as A.Dd+ is at the moment.