Texas Music

The D.O.C.: A Show Worth Driving to Dallas For

The list of Texas rap artists who have released an album usually ranked with the very best of all time is pretty short, perhaps beginning and ending with the Geto Boys. But not so fast: there's also No One Can Do It Better, the 1989 album by the Dallas-born rapper known as the D.O.C.

“One of the best rap albums ever,” agrees former Houstonian Matt Sonzala, the promoter supreme and former SXSW rap mogul. “Fact, not just opinion.”

A former member of Dallas' Fila Fresh Crew, which formed before even the Geto Boys, D.O.C. moved to L.A. and fell into N.W.A.'s orbit pretty quickly, signing on to Eazy-E's Ruthless Records. The Fila Fresh crew had four songs on N.W.A. and the Posse, the Dr. Dre-produced 1987 compilation sometimes credited as the gangsta-rap trailblazers' first release; it pre-dates Straight Outta Compton and features Eazy-E's “Boyz N the Hood” and an early version of Compton's “Dopeman.” D.O.C. quickly became one of Dre's go-to ghostwriters, helping punch up the lyrics on Compton and his 1992 solo debut The Chronic, where a young Snoop Dogg gives him a shout-out on “Nothin' But a 'G' Thang.” D.O.C.'s contributions also merited a small part in this summer's blockbuster Straight Outta Compton biopic.

As for No One Can Do It Better, it's no gangsta album, lyrically, but production-wise it's a crucial bridge from Straight Outta Compton to The Chronic; a largely overlooked gem in Dr. Dre's discography. The D.O.C. shows off an aggressive and nimble flow not lacking much at all on Rakim and KRS-One, the legendary East Coast MCs he admired. Tragically, his vocal chords were crushed in a car accident not even five months after the album was released, almost robbing rap of one its most gifted wordsmiths.

The D.O.C. continued feeding lyrics to other rappers, but understandably struggled to put his life back together. According to an article in Thursday's Dallas Observer, he was locked up in a rehab facility about a year and a half ago, when he noticed his voice would return when he yawned. D.O.C. began doing exercises, and gradually brought his voice back to a point where he could do some measure of performing again. He reconnected with Dre, sending him some tracks by a rapper he discovered by the name of Justus. Last week D.O.C. performed in Southern California, and this Saturday he will be onstage in his hometown for the first time in two decades at Dallas' Bomb Factory, with Erykah Badu opening with a DJ set as DJ Lo Down Loretta Brown. Special guests like Snoop are expected.

“I'm going to take you through every stage of my vocal transformation,” D.O.C. said in an interview on Sonzala's Pushermania Podcast earlier this week, which you can listen to in its entirety below. “I'm going to do a medley of all the old No One Can Do It Better records, and I'm going to give you some of the Helter Skelter [1996] and Deuce [2003] records, and then I'm going to end the night with two brand-new songs that I recorded with this new boy.”

240 miles doesn't seem that far to drive to witness Texas rap history.


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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray