It was two years ago, almost to the day, that we at the Scene first encountered Dee Goodz. He'd sent an email to then culture editor Tracy Moore — possibly the least likely person to pick up on a talented rapper — who then passed it on to me. It was rare at the time to be tracked down by a local MC and even rarer to be tracked down by one with talent, one with a sense of presentation and style — this was, after all, a time when the biggest media outfit with consistent coverage of local hip-hop was cable access television. The fact that Dee seemed to have his shit together, that he could put together a press release and put all of his meta-data out with his tracks — tiny-yet-huge details that a lot of folks still don't get — was what sold me first. But it was the music that kept me interested. Landing between East Coast backpack style and some classic Dirty South vibes, it was unique for a town then drowning in bad Young Buck impressions.
Goodz was a fresh voice — an Alabama A&M grad, hell-bent on figuring out exactly what made the music industry tick. He had a student-of-life/student-for-life air to him that ran counter to the cocksure braggadocio that defined a lot of the other small fish in this relatively small pond of a hip-hop scene. Sure, his first mixtape with DJ Crisis, CKDO Vol. 1, had the requisite amount of rap bravado — but in between boasts there's a world of worry and work and genuine human concerns. You could tell that Goodz knew the odds, had read the stats and saw the hard, uphill battle ahead of him as a young artist in a changing musical landscape. While student loans and accounting degrees don't really have the sex appeal that most rappers think is necessary to move units, Dee's embrace of his less glamorous traits set him apart from the cookie-cutter gangstas and faux-CEOs that had been dominating the local-rap landscape until then.
Twenty-four months, four mixtapes, a countless number of singles, videos and freestyles and one Scene cover shoot later (see our Year in Music issue from Dec. 15, 2011), Goodz is dropping his debut album The Introduction of Donald G. The hip-hop community in Nashville has evolved and matured — exploded, one might even say — and Goodz is no longer the only rapper in town who knows how to use the Internet to his advantage. But Donald G. still stands out in an ever-crowded field. Every rapper in town is tweeting about his or her grind, but Dee is one of the few who has enough evidence to back up his boasts, cranking out content when other folks just blast the same played-out shit — he's touring and playing in town when other folks are sitting at home spewing motivational platitudes into the Twitter-sphere on a Saturday night. He releases more tracks in a month than your average local MC does in a year, and he's on more mixtapes than almost any MC in town. Plus, I'm pretty sure he's the only rapper in town with his own iPhone/Android app. Yes, really.
That, ladies and gentleman, is what we in the industry call staying on top of the game.
But it hasn't always been a smooth ascent — when he opened for Big KRIT this summer, the audience was, er, audibly impatient, and blog love is the No. 1 agent for breeding blog hate. His first foray into touring — the recent Shut Up & Listen trek with DJ Crisis — was as unpredictable as one would expect from an indie artist's first real stretch on the road. Still, Goodz has done all this on his own, without management or publicists — without a team in the industry sense. There's a strength and resilience, a "Fuck it, I'mma do this" attitude that permeates Donald G. in tunes like "Life Time," with its pulsing synths and taut snare hits, and his rework of the De La Soul classic "Stakes Is High." There's a maturity and smoothness in the lead single "Weekend in Miami" — with its chiming, swanky funk guitar — and the LL Cool J-goes-back-to-Houston, screwed-down sex anthem "Doin' It" featuring up-and-coming local Millie Roze.
The Introduction of Donald G. has all the hallmarks of an artist really hitting his stride for the first time: It's got classic influences but isn't beholden to suffocating nostalgia or parochialism; it's very much of-the-moment, but doesn't succumb to novelty, doesn't feel trendy or trite. "NVR Change" has a laidback swerve, the sort made for sunset drives in the summertime. "We Get High," with its helium-voiced hook and glittering keyboard stabs, is like sprinkling AM Gold on a blunt of purple kush — woozy and lush, hazy and warm. There's a depth of character on Donald G., more cohesive and more evident than on his previous four mixtapes, all on top of what Busta Rhymes would call "that head-nod shit that make you break your neck." Certainly worth the wait.