On the national stage, Dallas hip-hop long has lived in the shadow of its counterpart down I-45 in Houston. But as the captivating and informative documentary We From Dallas proves, North Texas hip-hop has no reason to be ashamed.
Director Teddy Cool takes a straightforward, historic approach to the scene, concentrating on the glory days from the ’80s and early ’90s, giving props to radio stations KNON/89.3 FM and KKDA/104.5 FM (K104) and a clutch of Deep Ellum clubs for offering exposure to local talent.
Out of this hip-hop hothouse atmosphere came the likes of California transplant Dr. Rock, Nippy Jones, Ushy, Ron C, Nemesis and the most critically admired Dallas rapper, The D.O.C. Cool gets some of these pioneers and others who were influenced by them to reflect on what things were like back then.
Those featured include rappers Pikahsso, Tahiti and Picnic Tyme (formerly of PPT), producer Symbolyc One of Strange Fruit Project, rapper Mr. Pookie, Play from the duo Play-N-Skillz, Kessler Theater’s Jeff Liles (formerly of Decadent Dub Team), rapper/indie-rocker Astronautalis, and Jeff “Skin” Wade (from radio’s Ben & Skin Show), who was in the Hydroponic Sound System back in the day.
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Of course, the most popular face to emerge out of Dallas — Vanilla Ice — was also the most controversial and, somewhat surprisingly, Cool doesn’t mock the Ice Ice Baby hitmaker. In fact, the often maligned Ice is admired by many of his contemporaries as a guy who put in the hard work and reaped the rewards. And, in We From Dallas, Ice now sets the record straight on one of the mistakes that was often repeated about him: He’s not from Carrollton but Farmers Branch.
Cool also spends much of the film celebrating the sometimes overlooked segments of hip-hop culture — breakdancing and graffiti art — with remembrances of those in Dallas who pursued these as their passions. From the Boxheads dance duo to the late artist Minus Won, Cool emphasizes that these elements were just as important as the music.
For all that Cool includes, many things get left out. Erykah Badu is barely mentioned, Fort Worth is overlooked, and he doesn’t deal with the scene in the here and now.
Yet as a look back on a musical history that has been forgotten or was never widely known, We From Dallas — like so many of the recent documentaries that have been made about the North Texas music scene — is a revelation.
Exclusive: 7 p.m. Friday at the Texas Theatre, Dallas; the theater also will host the third annual Dallas Hip-Hop Dance Fest at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information, go to thetexastheatre.com.
WE FROM DALLAS
* * * *
Director: Teddy Cool
Cast: Vanilla Ice, The D.O.C., Money Waters
Running time: 85 min.