The D.O.C. / All photos by Karlo Ramos
The universe can be quite the dramatist. And this past Saturday in Dallas was definitely a powerful act in an unbelievable story, as The D.O.C. played his first show in his home city in a quarter century. A tragic 1989 car accident severely impaired his commanding voice and halted his promising career, but Dallas’s first-ever breakout rap act recently had his voice miraculously return after a brief stint in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation facility. His return to the city, in the midst of its current nationally eminent and rising hip-hop wave, was a triumphant and welcome plot twist.
The D.O.C. hits the red carpet
The Bomb Factory, the newest and biggest venue in Dallas’s historic Deep Ellum arts district, brought out a literal red carpet for the historic event, which, in keeping with The D.O.C.’s high-profile part in the story of N.W.A. and the blockbuster movie on the group, was called Straight Outta Dallas. I found myself mingling backstage with a lineup of 13 opening acts that lived up to the show’s name, a festival’s worth of Dallas hip-hop heroes. It was a bill that under normal circumstances would have been worthy of celebration and a handful of whiskey-and-7s. Still, it was bittersweet. Sweet because those in attendance got to see Mr. Pookie, Big Tuck, Lil Wil, Fat Pimp, Dorrough, A.Dd+, and more grace the same stage, reliving each of these significant moments in Dallas hip-hop time almost chronologically. Bitter because each opener’s impressive, industry-ready performance reminded those in attendance of a regional rap prophecy not yet entirely fulfilled, one in which these excellent local stars had struggled to find a national platform.
One glimpse at the harmoniously euphoric reaction of the Dallasites crowded in the middle of the 50,000 square foot venue, to Big Tuck performing “Southside The Realest,” along with other street classics, should have left even an out-of-towner wondering why Big Tuck isn’t mentioned in the same sentence as Houston’s Slim Thug in regards to Texas rap. Fat Pimp damn near conducted church, his masterful sermons in between his regional hymnals just as memorable and entertaining as his music. A.Dd+ shined a light on some of the next generation of talent, bringing out a half-dozen local acts. The crowd loved every bit of every opener, with Laydee Savage, Lil Tony 214, and the likes also providing concertgoers with a silvery glimpse into the future of the bona fide, DFW gangsta rap The D.O.C. provided The Formula for in the late 80s. It was like a glimpse into an alternate reality of what might have been had one of Dallas’s most important hip-hop ambassadors not been jerked from the spotlight so early. Yet it was also a reminder of the city’s and the night’s headliner’s many successes.
As The D.O.C.’s big moment neared, the backstage area became an American Ninja Warrior Level Four challenge in poise. Briefly look down at your phone, look up, and there is Scarface standing next to you in a gray sweater. Look down and up again, and there is DJ Lowdown Loretta Brown, a.k.a. Erykah Badu, playfully laughing with Gulf Coast super-producer N.O. Joe, bumping into your shoulder while doing so (I may be a respectable artist myself and all, but let me tell you, I ain’t washing this inadvertent, Badu-assaulted shoulder ever again). The energy was palpable. As D.O.C. marched on stage, the fellow legends in attendance and the energy followed behind. This was it.
The D.O.C. and Scarface
The D.O.C. hit the ground running, jumping straight into his first record, “It’s Funky Enough.” It was nearly impossible to hear him over the backing track at first, with the mix low and his voice both understandably not yet at full mast and nowhere near its original timbre. Regardless, the emotion and energy was high, and once the sound man turned the mic up in between records, the show was on and popping. All those in attendance thinking they would never see this moment had no qualms in rocking, hand and fist in the air, with the man of the hour. Marlon Yates Jr., the actor who played The D.O.C. in Straight Outta Compton, made an appearance. Scarface and 6Two joined him on stage for several songs. Scarface and another member of the entourage that surrounded The D.O.C. onstage also presented him with a plaque in the middle of his set. At one point, Scarface even took a bow to him. The emotion in the room climaxed as The D.O.C. exclaimed, repeatedly, as loud as he could into the mic, “I love my city!”
The D.O.C. and Marlon Yates Jr.
The D.O.C. closed his set with two new, darker-sounding records, disclaiming that he was sensitive about them prior to performing them. The crowd was all ears. His newer records obviously fit his new voice better, and his voice at this juncture of the set was the most intelligible moment of the night. The crowd gave him all they could muster as he raised his hands and walked off stage. The city still loves him, too.
Erykah Badu as DJ Lowdown Loretta Brown
As Sunny South Dallas’s own Erykah Badu began her closing Lowdown Loretta Brown DJ set, this moment in time within the scope of the hip-hop universe finally dawned on me. The heartbreaking and sudden short-stopping of The D.O.C.’s rap career was a loop that had to be closed to prevent any subsequent, Interstellar-like, confounding outcomes. Dallas cannot know where it is going unless it knows where it has been. Saturday night, the D.O.C. and his legendary successors reminded the city that it has been Funky Enough.
Mel is a member of Dallas hip-hop group The Outfit, TX. Follow him on Twitter.
Karlo Ramos is a photographer living in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter.