Continuing our series on underrated local music scenes, today we take a look at the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The North Texas region has been off the radar for far too long, and so has its underground music scene. With that in mind, here are eight Dallas-Fort Worth R&B artists, rappers and producers who are worth your time and attention.
As an artist who embodies the same spirit and mystique as a professional wrestler, Fort Worth rapper Jigsaw Paul has succeeded in putting into perspective what gimmick music should be. His influences include artists like Slick Rick, Shock G and Eminem who brought wit and levity to the rap game. “I always wanted to make people laugh, or I always wanted to shock and be appalled. Get it? Be a-Paul-ed,” Paul said in a recent interview. He realized his love for rap at the early age of five, when he would listen to music in a rocking chair. By the time he was 16, he had released his first mix tape. While continually finding ways to innovate and outdo himself, Paul has gained a following that continues to grow and thrive. With the release of Turnbuckle Tales, his latest solo album on Dallas label Sunday Dinner Records, Jigsaw Paul has unleashed himself into a brave and new frontier. The project reflects his progression as an artist while retaining the same wit, charm and eclectic style that have garnered him a strong local fan base.
As Black Taffy, Dallas-based producer Donovan Jones crafts meditative instrumental records that feel like distant echoes from bygone eras. His tracks present cryptic musical landscapes that lie somewhere beyond the visible horizon, with piano and harp notes growling like beasts in the distance over gliding strings and bass-heavy percussive flourishes that allude to a future where lo-fi hauntology becomes its own genre. It’s meditative, ambient, trunk-rattling music with a cinematic vibe. Black Taffy’s 2020 album Opal Wand is a good example of how Jones recasts granular samples into something fresh and revitalized, as is his collaborative work with fellow Dallas artist Mattie (more on her below).
If you’re looking for some new music to fill in the dark spaces of your fall days, try a few tracks by MATTIE. The Dallas artist presents a pungent and syrupy slice of contemporary lo-fi R&B that takes listeners on a journey into the atmospherically lit world she creates. MATTIE experiments with hypnotic and dreamy vocal layers underpinned by thick, sludgy beats. MATTIE’s debut album, Jupiter’s Purse, is a hauntingly beautiful yet uncompromising work into the outer boundaries of genre exploration. A deep collection of dark alternative R&B songs, the album features MATTIE’s deep and idiosyncratic vocal delivery alongside production from Dallas producer Black Taffy.
Related Reads: Genre-Bending Alternative R&B Artists You Should Know
If rap music is a form of poetry, then Dallas rapper Lord Byron fits the mold. As a kid, he won poetry recitation competitions in part due to his ability to memorize verses after just one reading. As a rapper, he melds his penchant for wordplay into an approach that vacillates between traditional southern styles and the cutting edge of hip-hop. His music is as beautiful as it is ominous—tight flows laid atop sample-heavy, ambient-laden beats that creep at a codeine crawl—and his songs have a classical quality to them but with a much darker aesthetic. Listening to his music, it’s clear he’s taken lessons learned from years of listening to rap and other kinds of music and applied them to his own work; in doing so he’s created something wholly individual but with echoes of many different styles — from Houston-style chopped and screwed to Memphis lo-fi to the east coast experimentations of iconoclasts like Roc Marciano. Lord Byron is an artist on the rise, and one of the best rappers in Dallas.
Related Reads: 10 Southern Rappers You Need To Know
The path of an emcee is one that’s often anything but straightforward. Often it’s a series of abrupt turns, twists and dead ends — a true test of tenacity to remain on course with your vision. Born in Bed-stuy, Brooklyn, P$O Kwama was attracted to the arts at a young age but it wasn’t until he came to Dallas that his voice really started to take shape. His unique blend of hip-hop and R&B has garnered a loyal local following. Kwama knows the power of words and how they can make a song relatable on a deep level. He’s a multi-talented artist, a technically gifted rapper who can also sing incredibly catchy hooks. With time his career has evolved, and through the power of his rhymes he’s refined his skills to become one of the best rappers in Dallas and is ready to show them to the world at large.
Dallas singer/songwriter Liv.e (pronounced “Liv”) is carving out her own way in the world of music. Her sound combines the soulfulness of neo-soul with smoky, lo-fi hip-hop beats, creating something unique and forward-thinking. Having found her voice over dusty loops and sun soaked productions, Liv.e is a singer/songwriter who crafts her own style of R&B and hip hop. Liv.e’s sound is a breath of fresh air in the Dallas music scene. Her voice is hypnotic and soulful, with a deep personality that draws you into her songs. And the way her production blends with her vocals and lyrics creates something that’s very special to listen to, moving fluidly from soulful jazz rhythms and lo-fi hip-hop beats. Her sound and style are visceral, and enchanting. Her voice and lyrics are hypnotic, penetrating through the core of your soul. And the tone of her music is deep, smooth, fluid, and soulful all at the same time.
When it comes to rap music in the North Texas area, Justin Christopher has made himself known as one of the best of the genre. Currently based in Dallas, the rapper, singer and songwriter keeps his music fresh by expanding his repertoire day after day. His work as a recording artist has been notable in part due to his expansive range of influences, which can be heard in his music’s instrumentation, his dense and soulful rapping style, and his unique voice. His lyrics are raw, honest and his sound is original and eclectic. He sings and raps; his songs are melody-driven with thought-provoking hooks. He’s an acquired taste that’s instantly identifiable with musical characteristics and an artistic personality all his own.
Nowaah The Flood
Nowaah The Flood is one of the most talented, unapologetic and charismatic rappers on the Dallas circuit. A rhymesmith at heart, a lyricist by nature and a man of many talents, Flood has been blazing trails with his music since he first started. Combining raw delivery with the story-telling ability of a veteran wordsmith, Flood’s mastered the mechanics and possesses a passion for the art form itself. As he continues to rap circles around his competition, Dallas is now recognizing Nowaah The Flood as one in a long line of talented artists – past and present – who continue to give rap music a new lease on life.