One of the more grotesque trespasses of Dallas culture has been the systemic, yet at times subliminal, exclusion of hip-hop acts on multi-genre bills.
Rap and hip-hop also continue to be mostly removed from underground DIY circuit. It’s a curious phenomenon: Rap and hip-hop fans have obvious buying power. And if Thursday’s Rick Ross and Trina show at Gas Monkey Live is any indication, these fans will come out in droves for artists they respect and support.
The venue played host to a premiere rap show produced by Piscapo Entertainment that featured six local openers. Most had one or two elements needed for success: Mo3 possessed lyrical pedigree and R&B singer Imaj had onstage swagger. But it was South Oak Cliff born and raised C Struggs who stole the openers' show. Invited by Rick Ross himself to open, the fierce MC was joined on stage by at least eight compatriots, part of an intimate crew that has been with Struggs since the start of his journey. (And while Struggs and Ross did not perform their collaborative song, “Do It,” Struggs said afterwards Ross showed nothing but love for the Dallas MC.)
Also on the bill was DJ Duffey, who possesses a keen ability to read a crowd’s temperature. Duffey played in-between sets and acted as co-host with fellow KKDA-FM (104.5) on-air personality, Bay Bay who is a maestro on stage.
Trina served as opener for Ross, and it's been 19 years since her first feature with fellow Miami rapper Trick Daddy. But judging by audience reaction and sheer legacy, it’s no surprise she turned out to be the star of this tour.
She hasn’t lost a step, even diversifying her playlist to appeal to fans seeking nostalgia with past hits (“Baddest [Expletive],” “Pull Over,” “Here We Go”), and integrating modern-day colloquialisms to deliver anthems that dissect and reveal modern-day romance and sexuality. Trina is a forebear of textured, feminist rhymes.
A rapper with razor sharp lyricism and wordplay, Trina's greatest attribute is her unabashed raunch. She has railed against extreme misogyny in rap to deliver rare hyper-sexual messages from a woman’s point of view. For a genre with many social misgivings, Trina pushes rap’s boundaries of race, gender and sexual orientation.
This was a decidedly female affair, with an audience mostly filled with young millennials looking to have fun and Snapchat with their idols merely yards away on stage.
Ross was cool and calculated on stage, well aware of cues for ad libs where he released booming bellows of “huh” and “uh” into the mic between words. A slimmer Ross has also changed the standards of beauty within rap, making it sexy again to be a big, bearded man. Ross ran through his hits, “Hustlin,” “B.M.F.” and his verses on Lil Wayne, Jay Z and DJ Khaled tracks.
Backstage, Trina spoke about her love for Dallas, grateful for her large fanbase here. She was well-aware of the throng of fans here to see exclusively her. But as she stood in front of a mirror, calm and collected before going on stage, her mind was on something else:
“When I come to Texas I have to get Mexican food," she says.
Less than five minutes later she was onstage, owning Ross’ “boss” nickname, clutching her sparkly mike and proving no single genre of music is more misunderstood or culturally important than hip-hop right now.
Look inside the Trina and Rick Ross concert in at Gas Monkey Live in Dallas:
By LEE ESCOBEDO/Special Contributor