Written by: Niki Jones of Houston TREND
What truly separates an underground artist from achieving a mainstream stature? Is it that one mega hit? The right record deal? A boisterous delivery? Maybe the grind? Well, in a likely case, it’s a compilation of all these entities and the attainment of longevity that constitutes the successor to be deemed a true music artist. But most importantly, it’s the foundation which an artist lays in the alpha stages of embedding a music career.
As many underground rap artists vie for the ultimate goal, “Mainstream,” Houston newcomer, 26 year old rapper Doughbeezy is focused on building his foundation through his brand and admits he’s in no rush to sign to any major labels. “I’m more patient with being signed. Folks just take the words “getting signed” and “getting a deal” and don’t even know what comes with that. I feel like right now, if somebody were to come with a deal they would see what I’m worth, but wouldn’t give me what I’m worth, just because of where I am in my career. So, I’d rather sit here and build a brand and make it more valuable, that way when someone does come with a deal. I have a lot more to bargain with.”
Only recently emerging from the shadows to the popular underground culture that has seemingly evolved into a catalyst of its own; where many artist find fame before ever copping a major record deal, Tai “Doughbeezy” Carr has undoubtedly proven to be a force to be reckoned with in the South, as if his catch phrase “The Southeast Beast” didn’t already prelude the obvious. His slightly pinched voice, dispersing witty punch lines with an unorthodox temperament and telling a story with every bar, has given Doughbeezy the credentials to be labeled just that. A BEAST! After all, MTV Hive proclaimed him to be one of the top 5 underground artists in Houston right now. “I feel like I’m a monster. I’m a beast. Every time I touch the mic you’re going to hear my delivery. I’m only 5’6, but I feel like I’m seven feet when I’m on the mic. That’s where the Southeast Beast comes from. I’m from the Southeast side and I’m a monster,” says Dough.
Originally from Cleveland, OH, Dough was raised by his mother who he considered to be both mom and dad, after his parents split up, which he explains was hard, but didn’t have a huge impact on his life, ultimately fostering his character today. “My dad did try; I wouldn’t say he was a deadbeat or anything. He tried to do his part within our situation, but I’ve always been a mama’s boy, just because of how strong she was. She did it pretty much all by herself. It made me stronger to see how she was so independent; it made me more independent.”
Leaving Ohio at the age of 13, Dough and his mom would move to Texas for what Dough recalls, a better living and where he would eventually find stability and his niche of rapping. Through lunch time ruckus of friendly free-style battles around the lunch table, Dough would gain popularity and praise from his peers on his rapping skills. “It started to become a normal thing where people would actually skip their lunch and come to ours, just to watch the free-styles. Folks would tell me I needed to take it serious and really pursue rapping as a career and that’s what made me want to jump out there and really do it.” Dough says.
Through many adversities following his move to the Lone Star State, Dough knew that if it was anytime to step out and make it happen, the time was then and the grind had to begin.“When I was 16, I was kicked out of school and it seemed like I didn’t have any other choice. Once I decided that I wanted to rap, I felt like it was all I had; becoming a rapper was my number one goal and my ONLY calling. I always knew in my heart that my only gateway would be music and nothing was going to hold me back but myself.”
Dough explains getting kicked out of school wasn’t one of the smartest moves he’s made and still regrets it to this day. “I got kicked out for truancy. I would always go to school but I would never go to class. After being warned so many times and going to court they kicked me out. I was just being a little rascal. I definitely regret it though. Not staying in school was one of the dumbest decisions I’d ever made. One of my goals will be to get my diploma and go to college. I want to make my mom and myself proud.”
No longer in school, Doughbeezy began to do features for other local underground artist. This generated a buzz from Webster, TX, a small city on the outskirts of Houston where Dough resided, all the way down I45 south. Dough then linked up with a local rap group, the TMI boys, but would face a major roadblock that almost resulted in Dough giving up on his dream. “We were doing our thing. We ended up doing a song with Manny Fresh and when the contracts came me and another guy were the only ones out of six, who didn’t sign the contracts because we didn’t feel like it was for us at the time. The other four signed their contracts and next thing I know, we see them on BET. They took our verses off the Mannie Fresh song and that really put a n*gga through a time where I was depressed because I was seeing other n*ggas living my dream. It was then when I thought about not rapping anymore,” says Dough.
Luckily through the support and motivation of his manager, Al Hughes, his family and friends, Doughbeezy wouldn’t be so easily defeated and in 2004, it was his transition to Houston and the introduction to the city’s underground rap scene that would breathe life back into a dwindling rap career. Dough states, “Right when I was about to stop rapping I was told about a real underground scene that boys didn’t really know about. So when I moved out here, I started going to events to see what they were about and that’s what really motivated me to get back at it. During that second go around I had to ask myself if I had really done everything I could to pursue my career before I called myself a failure and once the answer was no, because I hadn’t pushed my hardest, I went out there and gave it my all and that’s when the buzz started coming.”
With a new found faith and a passion to dominate, Dough would go on to enter a rap contest, The Best Rapper in Texas, but with a disappointing loss his first go round he would try again and go on to win 3 consecutive times, leading to an early retirement and once again establishing his right to be casted a Beast! “I entered the competition four times but the first time I ended up losing. Not to take away from who won, but when I lost there was an awkward silence, like that wasn’t what it was suppose to be. Everybody kept telling me to enter again and when I did that’s when I won and then won two more times after that and was retired from The Best Rapper in Texas competition.”
Around the same time he was annihilating that competition, he was attending a weekly underground music event; Kickback Sundays, hosted by a popular Houston clothing store, SF2. Kickback Sundays would be an avenue for underground artist to boast their musical abilities in front of a Houston audience, who also judged the competition.
“That was one of the events that everybody in the city was going to. It was a lot of events going on, but that was the one event that everybody knew that there were real results coming from. You could go there and if you could actually spit, the word would travel around.”_Doughbeezy
Kickback Sundays served as the extra momentum for Dough, and ignited a fire around the city, of who the “Southeast Beast” was. He actually earned the name “Kickback Killa” during his time competing against other rappers there. “Kickback Sundays definitely played a major part in where I am today. My momentum was already running and that just made it take off. I would definitely say that was one of the main things that kept me going.”
In 2011, Dough took to the studio to work on his first project Reggie Bush and Kool-Aid after proving to his city he was a true lyricist, he then dropped his second highly anticipated mixtape in 2012, Blue Magic, where he states he doesn’t write down any of his rhymes. “When I said I was going to stop rapping was also when I discovered I could do it (remember my verses without having to write them down). It was a late night and I was watching Fresh Prince, the episode where Uncle Phil was having a flash back to where he was at prom and the song, ‘Your all I need to get by’ came on,”
Yes, Dough actually serenades to Houston TREND for a moment.
He continues, “I started free-styling on it and remembered everything I said. I went to the studio the next day and laid it down. It made me want to keep doing it. I think I may go back to writing though, but for right now I’m Mr. No Pen No Pad.”
Dough has been featured in XXL’s “The Break,” and is now selling out shows and touring and with the new wave of Houston artist emerging, he’s been labeled as one of the moving forces behind the “New Houston” Era, which is something that Dough wanted to set the record straight on.
“It’s no disrespect to the word, the term or anything. I understand what people were trying to do when they were rolling with the term “New Houston”, but I think the majority of folks don’t understand it, so there was a lot of negativity that came with it. Bottom line, my view is; if there’s new, there’s old. So if you’re saying “New Houston”, you’re categorizing that there’s an “Old Houston” and I don’t really like that. What I want to do is put it out there that we ARE Houston. I don’t hear a new Atlanta or new Cali. I hear people putting on where they’re from. So whether you’re a new person or old person, when someone from the outside is hearing this and getting a perception of what it is, I want it to be Houston, not new or old.”
With heavy circulation around Houston, the city he calls home, and in the South, Doughbeezy’s sound isn’t like most Houston rappers that people outside the city expect to hear, but does Dough try to detach himself; not at all.
“I don’t try to separate myself. Until the point that I become mainstream, when I perform, I want people to know that I am an underground artist. I want them to know that I do represent Houston. I don’t want to separate myself from my city, but I also try to do certain things to stand out. I try to put as much energy outside my music as I do within it. I have my own merchandise line. It’s not just my name on a t-shirt, you can actually walk into a store and pick my stuff up and not know that it belongs to an artist. I just try to stay hands-on with the business side of the clothing and shows. I think that’s what makes me stand out as well.”
And when asked about individual’s imitating his business endeavors he added, “I do feel like it’s a few out there that mimic what we’re doing, but I don’t want to stop anybody from doing what they’re doing. If they feel that’s going to be beneficial to what they’re doing then so be it. Lets all get it. It’s enough money out here for everybody; it’s no big deal though. No biggy.” Dough says with a chuckle.
Successfully confirming that he is a true all around artist that can deliver good sustainable music, with, Blue Magic, Mr. No Pen No Pad is now working on his third project, Footprints on the Moon, indicating that the sky is NOT the limit and there is much more to achieve. “How can you say the sky is the limit when you have footprints on the moon? When I was younger, it was only a dream to be able get on a track with Bun B, and when you tell someone they would say ‘Oh yeah! Do THAT and the sky is the limit’, but I’ve accomplished that; I’ve done a song with Bun. I’ve also gotten on MTV, so now it’s like, where else do we go? Those are my footprints on the moon, now it’s time to go beyond that. It’s time to turn up!”
Building his brand, his team and career, Doughbeezy is one of those rappers destined to make it to the top, no doubt about it. His humility keeps him grounded and his family and friends keep his grind steady. The beast is hungry, so the beast shall eat. “I have to stay hungry. There’s so much more that can be done. I don’t ever want to get comfortable and let it stop me from getting to the ultimate goal.”
Photo credit: Raul Buitrago