D. Tall: “I missed a step. I went from kind of being completely unknown to having that record with the mainstream artists.”

In 2013, D. Tall thought he was on his way. His first major single, the catcalling trap tune “Dem Heels,” was getting a lot of play in clubs around the country and various radio markets. The track’s popularity was no doubt helped by features from national artists like Waka Flocka Flame, E-40, and Omega Tha Kid. As a young no-name fresh in the game, going straight from obscurity to recording in luxuriant studios in L.A. and hobnobbing with superstars at the BET Awards, D. Tall felt he was he was on the verge of becoming a star himself. 

But then, he didn’t. “Dem Heels” proved not to be a golden ticket but a simple stepping stone, one that he’s still standing on, looking for the next stone to be put into place.

Since that initial flirtation with success, he’s had to re-rack and refocus. He’s had to learn the rigorous process of development as an artist — a process filled with misses and disappointments, half-wins, and inconsequentials. In other words, he’s had to dive back in and fight his way through the hyper-competitive trenches of a regional-level rap scene.

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“I missed a step,” he said in a phone interview. “I went from kind of being completely unknown to having that record with the mainstream artists, and I felt like I kind just skipped a big step. Since then, it’s been about going back and laying a groundwork — trying to reach out and touch the fans [more directly], just being more hands-on and interactive, solidifying that relationship to make a more solid fan-base.”

He’s hoping the next step in his climb is coming into sharper focus with the forthcoming release of his next single. Dropping on Dec. 8, the track is called “Flex 101.” Like “Dem Heels,” it should again get a lift from a mainstream feature, this time in the form of Atlantic Records rapper Kirko Bangz.

“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Kirko,” said D. Tall, who is originally from Dayton, Ohio, “especially [with] the smash he had, ‘Drank in My Cup.’ For a long time, he was one of the only [artists] putting on for Texas. I told myself, ‘At some point, I’m going to work with him in the future.’ And now that’s finally happened.”

Like Kirko Bangz, D. Tall is proud to be a Texas rapper.

“I’ve grown to love the DF-Dub,” D. Tall said. “Whatever it is that you’re into, it’s here. I don’t really count anything I did when I was back in Ohio as far as music. When I moved here, that’s when things started to pick up, as far as the grind, you know –– going to South by Southwest, meeting DJ promoters, and that sort of thing. This is home now.”

D. Tall moved to North Texas in 2006 to be closer to his ailing grandfather, who passed away shortly after his arrival, but the hip-hop artist already decided his roots had grown too deep here to go back to Dayton. With this new single, he was particularly excited about teaming up with another Texas rapper. 

The resulting joint effort checks all the boxes for a buzz-worthy club track. Produced by Jay White (Cardi B), the beat, made from chimes and bells and a snappy hat and snare, lays a thumping groove for Bangz’s catchy Auto-Tune-affected sing-along vocal hook and D. Tall’s rapid-flow-style lyrical prowess. He’s also working on a video for the single, which is a daunting enough challenge with many moving parts, he said, but it’s even more so when a major label artist is involved. But it’s a process D. Tall believes is necessary to becoming a ready-made brand for potential label suitors.

“The tide is changing,” he said. “The difference now is that, back when I was a kid, a label would pick up a talent. They would put everything around you — a stylist, a producer, all this jazz. But now, you have to have the package put together already on your own. That’s what I’m trying to do now. I’m trying to make sure I’ve got all my t’s crossed and my i’s dotted in that respect, so that when a label does come around, they’re like, ‘Damn, he’s ready to go.’ They just have to put the engine behind me.”