Dallas Got Next: Why the Next Hip-Hop Mecca Never Got Its Due
Rap duo The Outfit, TX aims to drag Dallas out of Houston and Atlanta’s shadows — and get the national attention the city deserves
“In Texas, our OGs put us in a precarious division, because they was so autonomous,” rapper Mel says on the phone from Maryland. Half of Dallas duo The Outfit, TX (TOTX), he’s fresh off stage after performing an opening set for YelaWolf’s national tour. “They didn’t even need to fuck with the industry because we had our own industry.”
For decades, Houston has been the default capital of Texas rap. Built on the foundation of homegrown labels like Rap-A-Lot Records and Trill Entertainment, the city produced artists who garnered Billboard and Grammy success, helping the city emerge into national prominence. But the success of its independent ecosystem ultimately cut off oxygen to the rest of the state; major labels have largely ignored hip-hop outside of Houston and its surroundings. Dallas, in particular, has languished in Houston’s shadow — despite long producing music and dances that have influenced the country at large.
Mel and his partner Jayhawk are bent on changing that. Since meeting as undergraduates at the University of Houston, TOTX has spent a decade making music and receiving coverage in several national publications like NPR and Pitchfork. Yet, the group has repeatedly run up against non-Southern journalists who aren’t steeped in the city’s hip-hop history. “How the fuck you going to write about Dallas and don’t know who Big Tuck is?” Mel says, name-checking the hometown hero who signed to Universal back in the 2000s. “You can’t write about Dallas rap unless you’ve been here. It ain’t like Houston. It ain’t like Atlanta.”
That doesn’t mean Dallas’ unique culture hasn’t popped up in those places, and others. Los Angeles group Cali Swag District might have achieved platinum success with 2010’s “Teach Me How to Dougie,” but not before coopting the dance from Dallas, where Lil Wil rapped about it two years previous. (To be fair, the L.A. kids paid homage with lines like “I ain’t from…