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Freak Block fire: DWalk has created a hyperlocal hit and won the attention of hip-hop kingmakers

DWalk at FSP Studios. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.
It was a rainy early November evening when I met Kansas City rapper DWalk at FSP Studios. The Independence, Missouri recording space is popular and well-regarded within the area’s hip-hop scene and sits a stone’s throw from both the Truman Sports Complex and Kansas City’s Northeast. Slowly, but surely a small chunk of the rapper’s crew trickles in. Everyone chats about a structure fire we all drove past down the street before the conversation pivots to basketball, plans for an impromptu trip to Los Angeles, and some teasing of their young photographer after he brings up a time when he went a bit overboard with some edibles."

A member of Walk’s team assures me that the rapper isn’t often on time and simply moves slow regardless of the occasion. I don’t take it personally – I’ve encountered artists who’ve arrived for interviews far later or no-call-no-showed. After all, I considered myself lucky to be meeting with one of the city’s most buzzed-about artists. Finally, not more than half an hour after our arranged time, Walk appears, greets me and his team, and quietly plants himself on a leather couch in the studio’s front lobby.

Walk’s unhurried nature in his day-to-day obligations is mirrored in the way he’s been building his career in music. He started recording raps for the first time around the age of 18 in a makeshift studio setup his cousins had created in their basement. “I thought I was Lil Wayne and shit,” Walk remembers as he discusses the impact that the Young Money era had on him as a young artist. It wasn’t until 2013 that he switched over from burning CDs for friends to releasing mixtapes online.

After grinding away for years, releasing several projects and playing his share of smaller shows, Walk found himself with a local (and regional) hit. Familiar with the music of Bay Area rapper Too $hort from a young age thanks to his mother’s interest in hip-hop and R&B, Walk was listening to the infamously raunchy track “Freaky Tales” when he realized he could put his own hyperlocal spin on it.

Named for Walk’s 69th (nice) and Paseo stomping grounds (you’ll also hear him refer to the area as “the 6”), “Freak Block Tales” was recorded rather spontaneously – “It was a no-brainer. I hopped right on that shit,” he says – and has been an unstoppable force ever since its release in the summer of 2019. The song, even without a music video, has racked up over one million plays on YouTube alone.

Search for the song title on Twitter and you’ll find posts about people encountering a busload of 10 year-olds rapping it or a 65 year-old white man blasting it at the gas station. Hot 103 Jamz DJ Brian B Shynin called it “the hottest song in the city.” Every video clip I’ve seen of Walk performing it, or even just a DJ spinning it at a bar, club, or party features a full-room sing-along.

When you have a hit like that, you’re sure to get recognized around town – Walk has tweeted about pulling up next to someone playing it at a stop light in the city before – but he’s learned that the song has even hit the suburbs. “It’ll be like a little white kid come up to me,” he says. “That shit crazy as hell. I’ll be like, ‘Damn, this shit real as hell.’ … I’m at Chick-Fil-A in Liberty. Little worker in the window is like, ‘You DWalk ain’t you?’”


DWalk at FSP Studios. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.


Walk says that due to the prominent Too $hort sample, he’s grown a small following in the Bay Area and has been in contact with a couple rappers from the region. He’s even followed up with another Bay Area remix, “3M,” which features Walk rapping confidently over the E-40 classic “Captain Save A Hoe.” He told me he’d visited the Bay Area once before making these two songs, but is looking forward to his return.

Needless to say, when a song from an independent artist achieves one million spins, mostly via word of mouth and some local radio play, the music industry is going to take notice. Over the last couple years, Walk has cultivated a relationship with Lil Coach, the son of Quality Control Music co-founder Kevin “Coach K” Lee. The elder Coach (for those lacking in their trap music knowledge) has managed and helped launch the careers of some of the genre’s biggest stars like Gucci Mane, Jeezy, Migos, Lil Baby, and others.

Though no official deal has been inked yet (Walk’s team says both sides are still in the process of making sure a deal would be mutually beneficial), the connection alone has bolstered the rapper’s credibility. The meetings he’s taken with labels (not just QC) have also altered how he approaches his music and provided valuable feedback and insight regarding what type of music gets the attention of industry types.

“When I’m in the label meetings, they made it make sense that I should focus more toward the Midwest sound [opposed to more melodic sounds] because I could potentially be the face of Kansas City,” Walk explains. “You got all the other Midwest cities, but they never really just heard a hardcore Kansas City sound, so when I dropped “Freak Block Tales” and shit like “3M,” they were like, ‘Damn, this is something the game never heard before.’”

Walk says he’s grateful for what he’s been able to learn from Coach K and fellow QC co-founder Pierre “P” Thomas. “[Soaking up game], that’s all you can do. You do less of the talking.”

Though Walk seems to know now which types of sounds he wants to be zeroing in on, he did have a brush with something quite different back in 2018. In September of that year, he had released a single called “Clappers,” which is arguably one of the most compelling twerk anthems Kansas City has ever produced. Despite its potency, Walk decided at one point or another that he didn’t want to promote the song too hard, so as not to be pigeonholed as a “twerk rapper.” I raved about the song in a blog post not long after its release and apparently I wasn’t the only one whose ear had been caught. Walk gave DJ Rocky Montana his blessing to remix the song with an added verse from Houston’s BeatKing – a figure known for his lewd, strip club-ready raps.

Nearly three years after the song’s initial release (exactly eight days shy of the anniversary), the remix and an accompanying music video were released. This video (directed by Shawn Riddle) is a sight to behold, featuring Walk, Montana, and BeatKing partying at a rental house in Raytown surrounded by what appear to be at least one or two dozen scantily clad women shaking their asses by the pool, in the kitchen, and even on the roof. Perhaps Walk is glad that the song and video have only collected roughly 30,000 plays combined, but he says he doesn’t regret the remix, noting that it’s won him the attention of many hip-hop DJs.

Less grandiose but equally appealing is the “3M” video that sees Walk and a few friends grooving in a golf cart and on the putting green of a course in suburban South Kansas City. The rapper and his crew are all rocking custom Dagalleria (video director Davin Jeremiah’s production company) athleisure polo tees and matching Gladism ball caps and shorts. Gladism is Walk’s own brand that he’s been repping for several years now (GLAD being short for Golden Links Art Dynasty; the ism because “it’s just a way of life me and my brothers was livin’.”) 

 

DWalk at FSP Studios. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.


The video was so clean that I was intrigued enough to ask when I could own such garments. Walk says he’s keeping the drops limited for now. “I be trying to keep it limited so only fresh people can have that shit,” Walk says. “I don’t want everybody wearing that shit. I just want it to be some exclusive shit. Not everybody can get Virgil’s shit when he drop.”

Will we see a merch drop next year? Maybe. What Walk did assure me of was that 2022 would certainly hold a new project, features, music videos, and plenty of shows. He released an EP on New Year’s Eve (which happens to be his birthday) back in 2019, so who knows what this Capricorn season may hold. (I asked him, from one Cap to another, if he puts much stock in astrology: “I’m pickin’ up on that shit, [but] that shit confusing sometimes.”)

“This shit about to go crazy,” Walk says of the coming months. And who would I be to not trust a goat from the 6?

 

[This article first appeared in Issue 5 of Shuttlecock's free monthly print edition. Click here to order a copy online, or pick one up for free at locations around KC/Lawrence/JoCo.]      

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