Que P's Dallas Zoo.
There are a ton of songs about or inspired by Dallas, and they say a lot about who we are. So each week in this space, we'll take a closer week at one of these songs — and we'll try to determine what, exactly, they say about this great city of ours. Check out this feature's archives here.
Like his fellow Dallas-based rapper Lil Twist, today is Quincy “Que P” Bradley's birthday as well. Though hardly in the news as often as Twist — he's neither signed to Lil Wayne's Young Money Entertainment label nor making national headlines from his alleged corruption of teen idol Justin Bieber's previously squeaky clean image — Que P did release an album on the Dallas label Rich Mind Records last September.
That effort, entitled Southern Gravy Smothered Shit, contains the track “Dallas Zoo,” which, as you might infer from a title like that, contains references to quite a bit of Dallas history.
Sprinkled throughout the song's lyrics are lines that reference an allegorical plot similar to the film Rise of the Planet of the Apes — only, in this story, Dallas is the fictional zoo that's being overtaken by its inhabitants. Que say the apes are rising up. In other verses, guest rappers Tum Tum and T-Cash reference apes “slinging iron,” a zoo that is “full of gang bangers” and an “orangutan killer man.”
Sure, the Dallas Zoo has gotten a relatively bad rap over the years, but it's fair to say that at least some of the jokes about the Dallas Zoo resembling an animal prison can be attributed to the fact that the nearby Fort Worth Zoo has been called one of the top zoos in the country by Family Life magazine, Southern Living, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today.
But the Dallas Zoo isn't all bad, either, especially when one delves a little into its history.
It became the oldest zoological park not only in Texas, but the entire Southwest when it officially formed in 1888 after the city purchased two deer and two mountain lions for $60 from a private seller in Colorado. Of course, back then the zoo was located at City Park (now Heritage Park). In 1910, the zoo and its expanded collection of animals and moved to Fair Park, where it stayed for two years before relocating to the 36-acre Marsalis Park in 1912. It remains in that location to this day.
These days, the park has expanded to over 100 acres, making it the largest zoo in Texas in terms of area. The zoo is also home to 2,000 animals representing 406 species.
More Dallas Zoo fun facts: Its “Giants of the Savanna” exhibit is the only one in the country to mix elephants and other species in the same habitat; it's the only zoo in Texas (and one of only 10 in the entire country) to house koalas; and 20 percent of all the okapi in the U.S. and Japan were either born or bred in the Dallas Zoo.
There are times when the real-life zoo does tend to resemble the imagery from Que P's lyrics, though. For instance, back in March of 2004, a gorilla named Jabari “rose up,” escaping from his enclosure and injuring three of the zoo's visitors while running amok in the “Wilds of Africa” exhibit. Even though the gorilla didn't turn out to be slinging any iron, that didn't stop the Dallas SWAT team from fatally gunning the rogue ape down.
Elsewhere, Que P mentions that he does his shopping at the Galleria Mall. Both Galleria Dallas and Galleria Houston (which opened in 1982 and 1970 respectively) feature glass-vaulted ceilings, which were modeled after the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The four-story double arcade in Milan was constructed between 1865 and 1877, making it the oldest shopping mall in Italy.
Galleria Dallas, however, isn't the oldest mall in town, though. Constructed in 1959, Big Town Mall holds the honor of being the first enclosed, air-conditioned shopping mall in the entire Southwest. And while the now-defunct mall (it was demolished in 2006) was technically located in Mesquite, that was very nearly not the case. During construction locals held a vote to see whether Dallas or Mesquite would get to claim the mall as its own.
Shortly after the Galleria line, Que P lists of basketball players Kenyon Martin, Larry Johnson, and Dennis Rodman as examples of “how we ballin'” in Dallas. Of course all three NBA superstars have Dallas ties. Kenyon Martin, who graduated from Bryan Adams High School in 1996, became the first overall pick in the 2000 NBA draft when he was selected by the New Jersey Nets. He was the last American-born college senior to earn that distinction. Born in Tyler, Texas, Larry Johnson grew up in Dallas and graduated from Skyline High School in 1987. He is best known for his years playing alongside Alonzo Mourning and Muggsy Bogues during the Charlotte Hornets' glory years. During his playing days, Johnson was often referred to as “Grandmama,” after the elderly basketball phenom he portrayed in a series of popular Converse ads (and eventually in Family Matters).
When Dennis Rodman graduated from South Oak Cliff High School in 1979, he was still in the mid-five-foot range and never succeeded in making the school's varsity squad. After graduation., though, Rodman, who had begun working as a night janitor at the DFW International Airport, grew nearly a foot. It was only after reaching the height of 6'6″ in less than a year that he decided to try his hand at basketball again, eventually enrolling at Cooke County Community College. In the span of a few years, the enigmatic Rodman transformed himself from a janitor with little-to_no experience playing organized basketball at any level to one of the best rebounding forwards in the history of the NBA.
Like the story of Rodman's unlikely success to the way the Dallas Zoo ascended to national acclaim after starting with just four animals, the city has a long history of rising up against the odds. And that's a fact that this song's authors seem to be aware as they make references in their verses to the proverbial apes rising up and running the zoo. Like T-Cash says when closing out his verse, “This is Dallas. Do your research.”
Check out “Dallas Zoo” right here.