Damaged Goods$ and the H Word

Texan Rap duo DMG$ and Dalston-based produced XRABIT hopes the world is ready for their debut album Hello World

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Photos by Elinor Jones
It’s not often you see a stylish emcee rapping in nothing but long johns, while his partner in rhyme lays down on the stage rapping his heart out…welcome to the world of Texan rap duo Damaged Good$ now known as DMG$. Though laid-back and expressive conversationalists in person, onstage their Dallas swagger takes a turn for the truly unruly. Teaming up their sharp lyrics and slowed-out Southern pace with the electronic sway of Hamburg-born, Dalston-based producer Xrabit, the unlikely trio have created a hip hop scene-shaking album titled, rather appropriately, ‘Hello World.’ With their next-level artillery of Third Coast party antics, and a Texan take on fashion (think wooden beads and cowboy belts), the duo is undoubtedly the hippest thing to come out of Big Dada in a long while…but don’t you dare call them hipsters.

After storming through Europe a few weeks back, we sat down with DMG$ a week before they release their debut record to talk chance meetings, getting their Doug E on, and the inevitable H word…

Dazed Digital: How did you two meet?
Theodore: The funny thing about how this all started is that we were on the basketball team in Arkansas together. I’m from Brownwood, Texas, Chris is from Old Cliff, Texas and we just randomly met up in Arkansas; we both went to University of Ozark. I wasn’t even going to University of Ozark, I was going to school in Memphis and transferred randomly to Arkansas, out of the blue. Chris was the same way, he was going to a school in Dallas, and transferred out of nowhere. The school was so wack, it was in the middle of nowhere; the best thing for entertainment was Walmart!
Chris: Yeah, we met on the basketball team. I remember I was shooting around with the team and all these new kids were coming in. There was this one dude – and that was Theo – who came in like, ‘I’m ready to hoop!’ He’d just got out the car, an 8-9 hour drive, and jumped out ready to hoop. I remember everyone in the gym heard me go, ‘Who’s this?!’ He looked at me, and that game, the whole day in fact, we were going at each other like we was the enemy! We didn’t really become friends til later. One day I was walking by and he was talking about the Carlos Mencia show and I was like, ‘You like Carlos Mencia?” So we started talking and then we got on the bus and he said something about Gym Class [Heroes] – and when he said that, we started realising how much we have in common musically. I’d been writing stuff for a while but didn’t have anywhere to record. We actually had this one friend in common, Chad, who was a producer - he got us both to jump on this one song he’d produced that sampled Johnny Cash, and that’s basically how it popped off.

DD: And how did you guys meet Xrabit?
Theodore: At first we put up some songs on Myspace, just be messin’ around, we recorded this song on some crappy mic, it was like a little pencil-looking mic, it was horrible. It sounded like we were out in the bathroom! But we put some songs up on Myspace and with that song ‘Killin ‘Em,’ we tried to beat out our sound clicks - and that’s when we got approached by Dom [Xrabit]. He remixed it and we were like, ‘Hell yeah,’ because we wanted some producers at the time; we got tired of taking beats off sound clicks. So we asked him to send some more beats and he sent some more, and we wrote some more songs. Then he told us he was signed to this label, but I didn’t know who Big Dada was at the time – Chris did though. Dom was going to play it to Big Dada and Chris was all excited, and I was like, ‘Man, I’m trying to play basketball!’ Because I never claimed myself as a rapper, I’ve always been gung ho on basketball and school. And rapping, that just started in ’06 so this is all new to me.

DD: What do you think of London?
Theodore: I will say this – it’s fast as hell over there! When we first came over last year, I remember we had to take a bus. Everyone was moving so fast and we was moving slow, and this old dude – he had to be at least 85 – he bow-guarded me to get on the bus! He was like, ‘Get yo’ ass out of the way!’ So from then on, we were walking real fast trying to keep up with everybody.
Chris: This time was our second trip to London and it felt more like home. We knew how to get around and we finally figured out how to use the buses!

DD: What’s the scene like over in Dallas?
Chris: After we did our first show in Dallas, people started hollering at us, but for the most part we were left alone. People try to act like, ‘Yeah, we all together in Dallas, we’ll help each other out’ – man, it ain’t like that! People will be like, ‘Man, I want to work with you!’ – so we tell them to send us a beat or whatever, and they never call. And then they’ll be the first ones to be like, ‘I seen y’all in such and such magazine and I heard y’all were in London – did y’all play at Fabric?’ Where were y’all beforehand?! To be honest, it’s not that we choose not to mess with people; they choose not to mess with us. I guess they don’t like what we do or they just selfish or whatever. That’s why no one from Dallas is really anything right now, outside of Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee; not outside of the South, really. Artists in Dallas don’t go worldwide, and that’s why.
Right now musically, Dallas is more like all the snap music and snap dancing. People make up dances in the clubs and then they’ll make it into a song, and then the radio will play it…that’s how it’s going right now, there’s just a whole bunch of songs with dances! I only know one, ‘My Doug E.’ It’s the Doug E Fresh move, when he’d wipe the back of his head – youtube it and you’ll see what I mean.

DD: How would you describe your lyrical style?
Theodore: Basically, our personalities are in our lyrics – whatever we say, that’s pretty much the truth. We don’t talk about how we got money, cuz we don’t have money, we don’t talk about we ridin’ 24’s cuz we don’t got 24’s, we just talk about stuff that goes on in our lives in a passive sense and basically it’s what we’re about and who we are. That just comes off in the music.

DD: And what about your fashion style?
Theodore: We dress however the hell we feel like. Sometimes Chris will dress like a damn hobo, a complete HO-BO - but it’ll be super dope! And then I’ll wear some tight pants with a bandanna and people will be like, ‘Man, you ain’t no cowboy!’ I don’t care, I wanna dress like this so I’m gonna dress like this.

DD: The crowd goes wild when you guys perform – do you have techniques to get people to let loose?
Chris: Before we started doing shows, I would’ve never imagined shows would be like this. Most of the time I don’t even pay attention to the crowd - how I act is how I’d be if I was at home, know what I’m saying? We did this New Years Eve show in Dallas and everyone was on stage and going crazy and I didn’t even notice! We have this other song called ‘Hip Hop and Roll,’ it’s a rock song, and when we play that song in Texas – man, it’s like a riot! People go crazy. And that’s when we really get crazy too; we just take off our shirts and lay on the stage and crowd surf and wile out. A girl got knocked out when we were doing that song one time, that’s how crazy it gets!

DD: So do you guys always strip down to long johns, like you did at fabric?!
Theodore: No! I don’t know what the hell happened that night. Before I came to London, they said it was going to be extra cold – the last time I was there, that wind was eating through my jeans so I bought some long johns. So I had the long johns on and thought, ‘It’s getting a little hot in here, I might as well take all this shit off.’ Why not?! I was wilin’ out! And the crowd was too. That’s the reason why I did it: when I took my clothes off, I was able to crowd surf. It was kinda weird because I was shirtless in nothing but long johns and as I was telling people to come up on stage, all these dudes came up. That’s when I jumped back into the crowd! What does it look like – I’ve got my shirt off and it’s all dudes up on stage?! That don’t make no damn sense! Where the girls at?!

DD: How do you guys feel about being called hipsters?
Chris: If that’s what people say it is, we’ll let them do the categorizing. I’d never heard that word before we started getting press, and it didn’t seem like a good word to be called. But then, some people are all proud about it, like, ‘I’m a hipster!’ So I don’t really know if it’s a good or bad thing. Everywhere we go, there’s a new definition – if we knew a solid universal definition then we could go from there, but we still really don’t know what it means!
Theodore: What is a hipster? Can you really just go off fashion? There are so many definitions to the word – a hipster used to be someone that was up to date on new things, what’s hip – so just because someone’s dressing like that, they might not know anything about hip shit. But I’m coming to the conclusion that a hipster is how they dress, until proven otherwise. I don’t even know, the word hurts my soul.
Chris: There’s this guy that writes for a paper over here called The Observer, and he said he was going to write a piece on us called ‘Hipster Hop.’ We were cool with him before then but when he said that, we were just like, ‘Why would you do that?!’ And he said, ‘Well, look around at your shows, there’s nothing but hipsters at your shows.’ And I thought, ‘There’s a lot of different people here, I see a dude with a blue bandanna in his back pocket, it looks like he’s in a gang…’ So then we asked him what a hipster is, and he couldn’t even come up with a logical explanation.
Theo: We don’t dress like typical hipsters but we’re always trying to find new music and a new sound and the music we’re doing, well…I don’t think it’s hipster-ish, but…shit. I’m so confused!

DD: All hipster tags aside, how would you classify yourselves?
Theo: I think what we’re doing is progressing rap, so maybe I’d say our genre is progressive rap. We’re open to interpretation!
Chris: My cousin just got out of jail, and he’s kinda the reason that I started rapping (I never used to want to be a rapper, I used to want to make beats and that was it). So he asked me how I’d describe our music and I said, ‘Well, you know I ain’t no gangster, but it’s like…world music, I guess.’ And he was like, ‘Huh?!’ We’re not trying to stick to the DJ Premier route, or start rapping about how messed up hip hop is or whatever, we’re just trying to have fun. Especially right now, because a lot of people are stressed!

Hello World out on 17th March.

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