From the opening sample on Failure, Tawaine Hall's debut full-length, the Fort Worth hip-hop artist and producer establishes with intensity that he intends to be heard.
The album, on perfect rhythmic point throughout, ranges from deeply philosophical to casual, then aggressive, but remains forceful regardless of subject matter.
By the sheer volume of lyrics, hip-hop, more than any other genre, provides space for a wide variety of themes. Failure, inspired by a series of shortcomings in his personal evolution, encompasses the whole of Hall, from the political to his private inner musings.
By the end of 99%, the last track, he has successfully painted a glimpse into the revelations, parties and bad decisions that make him a relatable, unique artist.
Throughout Failure, which he recorded twice until it met his expectations, "I'm speaking with a purpose," he says. "I got something to say."
He derived much of his message from his experiences growing up in one of Fort Worth's rougher areas.
Hall's grandparents raised him in an East Berry Street neighborhood he calls "the south side." Worried about the surge of gang violence on their streets and shaken by the drug-related murder of Tawaine's older cousin, his grandparents insisted he head to the city's suburbs for high school.
Though he personally never took part in any thuggery, Hall eventually grew concerned by the increasing violence in his environment. After graduating from Everman High School, he said he did not want to grow into another of the neighborhood characters stuck on repeat, so he moved out and started working at Eargasm, a small music store in an area mall. There, he would play his own tracks on the store's speakers when local artists came in to shop or put their discs on consignment.
After the birth of his son five years ago, Hall went back to school and studied information technology. He took a serious corporate job managing networks while continuing to sell beats to rappers and DJs. He produced the track for It Goes Down, a collaboration between Paul Wall and Denton's Wreckamic. The song ended up on a mixed martial arts video game published by Electronic Arts. Not negotiating for royalties taught Hall a valuable business lesson for the future.
By the time he made Failure, which he released last July, he had assembled a long-range business vision as well as a support and management team. The beats, produced by Hall and his team, the Necksnappers, are professional and robust. Repeated listens reveal a plethora of nuances, skillfully panned and mixed at a range of volume levels. The music, like the message, is complex.
Though he waited for the heyday of area rap to arrive before proceeding with Failure, Halls feels frustrated that unlike in Dallas, the wider Fort Worth music audiences are not yet paying attention. As far as outside help promoting his style of music, "I don't feel like there is any engine there, period," he says.
"There is a bad reputation associated with hip-hop. In the '90s, I recall [local rap] being a majority gang-related. When hip-hop started to become more prominent, people were like, 'Whoa, what is this? We're not getting behind these guns and weapons.' And that taste in their mouth I feel like has stayed there, and they don't want to give an opportunity to anyone from a new time frame."
For the record, he does not advocate, either personally or musically, violent or illegal lifestyles.
Tawaine Hall, like rappers all over the country, has moved on from that era of gangsta rap music, even if the stereotypes still linger. He will soon be launching the online forum Circa 1985, which will cover various types of local art and music that he feels don't receive sufficient attention. Hall - who's playing Hailey's in Denton on Thursday as part of the "Aero-Circuit" Show series - is also producing music for other local rappers, including Da Deputy and Killa MC, as well as collaborating with friends in a party rap group, the Union. (The latter released the album Mind Wine on Feb. 12.)
No matter what he touches, Hall wants it to remain authentic to both his roots in Fort Worth's south side and his reality as a parent with a full-time, corporate job. "The balance that I have between both worlds is really needed," he says. "I feel like I can play the part between connecting the more urban side of things with the more suburban side."
And successfully bridging cultures is not a failure by any definition.