It’s hard to believe, but Dallas, Texas hasn’t produced a hip-hop star since The D.O.C. in the late ’80s. Thankfully, Tony “Tum Tum” Richardson is looking to change that. As part of Dirty South Rydaz (DSR), a 7-man collective that has been making noise below the Mason Dixon line since 2001, Tum Tum, a.k.a. Zilla, has played an integral role in shaping Dallas’ hip-hop scene. Originally a solo artist, Tum Tum joined the group in 2002 after playing his demo for George Lopez (no, not the comedian), owner of local record label T-Town Music. Since then, Tumzilla has released countless mixtapes, collaborated with the likes of Chamillionaire, Paul Wall, Slim Thug and Mike Jones, and released Respect It or Check It, a street album with fellow DSR member Fat Bastard. It wasn’t until Houston’s movement blew up in 2005, though, that major labels started to take Dallas hip-hop seriously. That same year, T-Town Music signed a four-album $7 million deal with Universal Republic after releasing several DSR compilations and mixtapes that garnered a huge following down South. Now, with his single, “Caprice Musik” getting heavy rotation on MTV, BET and Southern radio, and the recent release of his major label debut, Eat or Get Ate, Zilla is first in line to put his hometown back on the hip-hop map. Tum Tum discusses the Dallas hip-hop scene, the impact of DSR and his solo album with XXLMag.com.
Houston is known for candy paint, slabs, and chopped & screwed music. Is the same true for Dallas hip-hop?
Oh, nah. If you listen to my [album] snippets that leaked two weeks ago, you can tell it ain’t gonna sound like a Houston album. That’s what I wanted to do. I love Houston, but I want my city to be heard. I don’t rap about the candy paint and fo’s, ’cause we don’t even do that down here. So it would be asinine for me to jump on a track talkin’ about that. [Laughs] That’s a whole other world down there and people don’t even understand that
How would you describe the Dallas sound then?
Dallas is different from everywhere else. People clown me about my [shag] haircut, but that’s how Dallas is right now. I don’t knock nobody from The Bay with dreads or Florida with gold teeth. We wear leather shorts and crazy haircuts. I ain’t even trippin’. You can go to the blocks in Dallas and see a 100 little messy kids with shags. If they ain’t wearing leather shorts with the shag in the back, then they ain’t from Dallas.
What was it like growing up in Dallas?
I come from Oak Cliff. My mama worked so much and I used to stay with my granny all the time [in Pleasant Grove] so I saw two different sides. Me and my mama stayed in the hood. I come from nothin’, really—peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. My mom had like three jobs, so I would basically take care of my little sister. She was on the streets hanging out everyday, so I was tryin’ to keep her in check. Dallas makes you grow up a lot quicker, I know I [did]. I was learning how to do a whole lot of stuff way younger because my mama worked so much. I was like 8-years-old, always outside with the homeboys, [playing] street football, all that kinda stuff. Me and my homeboys banged, but we ain’t sell no drugs. I always had some weird ass job, like UPS or something. But we kept it gangsta, though. When I was out here on these streets, I used to get into a lot of fights, gunplay and all that. I had a gang jacket as an early teen. All that [influenced] how I rap, what I rap about [and] how I get down. There are only like two songs that are kinda commercial on my CD. Everything else is real gutter, grimy [and] street ’cause that’s all I know.
DSR has been really big in Dallas for a while now. How did you hook up with them?
I had knew George [Lopez] for a minute. I used to hang out at his music store. That’s where we used to hang out, mess with some girls, things like that. He let us know he was trying to start a group. He already had like six members, but he said he tried to make it like Wu-Tang. So I gave him my demo, he played it [in the store] and everybody started going crazy, like, “When [he] coming out?” [After that] George was like, “I’ll see you in the studio on Tuesday.” I’ve been rockin’ with dude ever since. The crazy thing about it was, I was supposed to leave that day and go to the TSU basketball game. But something told me not to go. I’m glad I didn’t go.
Was it a struggle for you and DSR to get on the radio at first?
We was grindin’ and couldn’t get radio play. We was out of town, doing paid shows and played everywhere else, but we couldn’t get our own radio stations behind us.
Being that it was so hard getting hometown love, so you think the average fan outside of Texas knows how big the DSR movement is?
Me and my homeboys were just talkin’ about that the other day. We were explaining the difference between fans and fiends. A fiend, they might like “Caprice Musik,” but a fan will know the movement, the nicknames [and] all the little stuff. People just didn’t understand how big the movement was.
Since Houston blew up a few years ago have you found it a little bit easier to get your music out there?
Yeah, I would say so. But I think that fuels hater’s opinions, though. Haters will say things without knowing, but then they hear the music and they get convinced. You have to understand there’s another generation of rap music listeners right now. There’s a group of people who think that [Lil] Wayne is better than Biggie. There are people who look at [Young] Jeezy and don’t know anything about Kool G Rap. It’s a whole different world right now. I had to hip to my little sister to Jay-Z. [Laughs] That’s how the world is right now.
What do you want fans to take away from Eat Or Get Ate?
I’m just ready for everybody to hear it. They heard “Caprice Musik” and I heard a whole lot of fans talkin’ about, “He on there whisper rappin’.” My hardcore fans probably didn’t want to hear “Caprice Musik,” but that’s the song that got me on the radio. All my hardcore fans know that was the first time they ever heard me whisper rap. I’m one of them crunk yellin’ dudes. So that threw everybody off. But I’m anxious for everybody to hear it. We put a lot of hard work into the album. The singles only take me five minutes to rap. “Caprice Musik” took me like 10 minutes [to make]. We put a lot of thought into [the album]. We got crazy joints.