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David Allen Dope: “When I first started, I would be in class, writing 50 Cent lyrics.” Photo by Madison Simmons.

Like Spider-Man and the Avengers, David Allen Dope is all about the team-up. On a business level, that means the Los Angeles-bred Fort Worth rapper is grateful for the efforts and contributions of his manager and producers. He is also down to partner with other artists in the pursuit of cool, whether he’s freestyling over the jam band that rocks the regular Monday night open-mic he hosts at Dino’s Live on Race Street or trading verses with former NFL players in the studio. 

That latter genre of team-up, surprising as it sounds, has happened not once but twice. Dope shares rhyming duties with former Bears tight end Quintin Demps on The Gold, the new EP the pair dropped last week. Before that, Dope appeared on an album in 2017 that showcased ex-Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett. Naturally, I wanted to know how those sessions happened.

“It’s because of my team,” Dope said.

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Dope is a sports fan who roots mostly for the L.A. Lakers, so it’s no surprise that the concept of teamwork underpins much of what he does. He treats his music seriously, which is also no surprise given that the 29-year-old rapper has been honing his skills since he was in middle school. “I heard 50 Cent when I was 11 or 12, and right there I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do,’ ” Dope said.

Like most aspiring artists, Dope learned through imitation. “When I first started, I would be in class, writing 50 Cent lyrics, and that grew into me writing about school stuff, what we learning in class, or regurgitating all the gangsta shit I was listening to,” he said. “It would be shit we was learning … like breaking down the Pythagorean theorem.”

Dope settled here permanently about a decade ago, making his first forays into the rap game with guest appearances and mixtape  contributions. The  aforementioned Marty B collab was on the album I’m Not a Rapper, but Some of my Friends Are. In 2017, Dope cut his first solo album, The #GoDope Project. Last year, he released his second full-length, DopeChillin, along with the single “Craft Beer and Chill,” in which he shares lines with Fort Worth rappers J/O/E and Wrex.

Dope’s manager, Dessie Brown, is tight with Bennett, so he got Dope in on the former Cowboy’s album. Later, Brown ran into Demps, who was pivoting to music after his NFL career ended in 2018. Demps has a recording spot in Chicago called Seventeenth Ave Studio, so Brown pitched Dope to Demps as a potential album collaborator. In January, Dope flew to Chicago and spent about a week with Demps and house engineer Chris Nava shaping The Gold’s four songs.

Dope calls his music “alternative hip-hop soul,” which is an accurate description of his new EP. Over skittery beats and the swells of synthesized orchestral flourishes, Dope’s flow is seamless and engaging, and Demps’ chops suggest he’s made the right decision in moving on from hitting lines to spitting rhymes. “We split the verses,” Dope said. “He went first on ‘Touchdown.’ I went first on ‘Lionhearted.’ He went first on ‘Trophies.’ Then I went first on ‘I Feel like Winning.’ ”

If a football player rapping on such sports-centric titles seems a little on the nose, that’s kind of by design. Dope’s aspirations lean hard toward doing music as a full-time job, and he’s pretty savvy about marketing his songs. “Me and the team came up with the idea to make it loosely sports-based since [Demps] is coming out of that world into this [music] world,” Dope said. “The market for that is crazy, so we’re thinking Madden soundtracks, NBA2K soundtracks. …  We wanted to create something for that audience that exists already, so that way, it’s easier to pitch it.”

Dope is also working on a soundtrack for Smoke BIG, a documentary about Los Angeles’ cigar culture. He got the call for that project when his friend Pree, a camera operator on the doc, played some of Dope’s music for producer Kareem Fort.

David Allen Dope has a lot going on but is quick to credit the people helping him along. “They say ‘teamwork make the dream work,’ ” he said. “Anybody who compliments me on anything, they’re complimenting the people around me. You like a song, you like what the producer and the engineer are doing. And it’s the manager who helps you link up with people, and the photographer who shoots the pictures, and on down the line. We all a team.”

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