With a Samoan/New Zealand European ethnic background, the artist formerly known as Con Psy started rapping in the late 1990s before forming hip-hop duo Frontline with producer and DJ Nick '41' Maclaren in 2001.
In 2003 Dallas featured on a remix of ‘Not Many’ by breakout New Zealand rapper Scribe.
Dallas started recording and performing under his given name in 2008. Since then he has worked closely with Auckland hip-hop producers Fire & Ice, though his Frontline partner 41 shared the beat production with them on his debut solo album Something Awesome (2009), with P-Money producing.
Something Awesome debuted at No.20 on the New Zealand Album Chart and reached No.1 on the NZ iTunes album chart. The following year Something Awesome won the award for Best Urban/Hip-Hop album at the New Zealand Music Awards. It was also shortlisted for the 2010 Taite Music Prize.
Dallas’s music caught the attention of prominent US-based hip-hop bloggers.
Dallas' music caught the attention of several prominent US-based hip-hop bloggers in 2010, including Kanye West, who posted the video for his song 'Big Time' on his website. Soon afterwards Dallas signed to New York record label Duck Down Music.
Dallas released his second album The Rose Tint in 2011 as a free download. The album was downloaded over 50,000 times. Following a deluxe physical re-release in New Zealand, Australia and North America The Rose Tint debuted at No.3 on the NZ Album Chart. It also peaked at No.9 on the NZ iTunes Chart. The album was nominated for Album Of The Year and Best Urban/Hip-Hop Album at the 2011 New Zealand Music Awards. It was also shortlisted for the 2012 Taite Music Prize.
In 2011 Dallas recorded and performed 'So Close Now', the entrance theme music for American Samoan professional wrestling duo The USOs.
The following year he released The Buffalo Man EP, a collection of songs inspired by, sampled or interpolated from Jamiroquai as a free download.
In September and October 2012, Dallas went on a 24 date tour of America, opening up for Aer.
Update by Gareth Shute, 2023
David Dallas’s first visit to the US actually dated back to 2010 when he performed at the SXSW festival in Austin. His bid for a stateside audience was given a boost by his track ‘Caught In A Daze’ which featured a verse by Madlib collaborator Freddie Gibbs. Gibbs also appeared in the music video, with his homelife in LA contrasted with footage of David Dallas in South Auckland.
With all this groundwork carried out, a lot rested on his aptly-titled next album, Falling Into Place (2013). His previous tracks hadn’t had female singers on the chorus hooks, with the notable exception of ‘Turn It Around’ which featured a wonderful multi-layered R’n’B chorus by Aaradhna.
However Dallas returned to this approach when one of his friends put him in touch with the manager of indie-pop act Ruby Frost. She provided a song idea called ‘The Wire’ but even though Dallas liked it, he wasn’t sure how to rap over it, so he got Frost’s permission to send it to Fire & Ice. They cut it up into a new form and what had been a big-voiced vocal piece was turned into a darkly atmospheric hip hop track.
Enthused by the result, Dallas sent Frost a demo of another track ‘The Gate’ to sing on and the two tracks ended up providing bookends for the album. It turned out to be good timing. By the time the album came out, Ruby Frost had been chosen as one of the judges on X Factor NZ and her profile couldn’t have been higher.
Jordan Iusitini suggested creating a track about South Auckland with some real heart to it.
Fire & Ice were also fundamental to the track ‘Southside.’ Jordan Iusitini – who is part of the duo with his brother Aaron – suggested that it might be good to do a track about South Auckland with some real heart to it; to upturn the stereotypical narratives of Dallas’s home suburb, without being “corny” about it. Dallas knew the most thoughtful lyrical wordsmiths from the area were Mareko (Deceptikonz) and Sid Diamond (aka Young Sid from Smashproof), so he brought them together for an anthem to their shared hood.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t any of these tracks (or a second hook-up with Freddie Gibbs ‘My Mentality’) that provided Dallas with his breakthrough. Instead the album’s bombshell track arrived near the end of writing for the album, when Dallas felt like he still needed another potential single. Aaron played him a beat he’d made using a sample of a Catholic nun singing (though this particular nun apparently sang with such passion because she believed she was the bride of Christ).
The image Aaron had in his head was of a runaway slave (given it was around the time of Tarantino movie, Django Unchained). Dallas decided to flip this metaphor and apply it to his own life as a rapper – always on the move, trying to get a break. ‘Runnin’’ was a Top 10 hit at home and the album hit No.2, with Dallas being awarded Best Male Solo Artist and Best Urban/Hip Hop Album at the following year’s music awards. Lydia Jenkin in the NZ Herald gave it 5/5. Yet this local acclaim was less of a boost in an era when CD sales had died a death and streaming had only just arrived in New Zealand.
The most important revenue stream was synch placements – ie, having your music used in other media (films, ads etc). ‘Runnin’’ gained two big ones right off the bat – EA Games used it for the 25th anniversary edition of popular American Football game Madden NFL (25) and they also placed it in FIFA 14 (the No.1 game in the UK at the time). Team New Zealand later credited it with helping energise their team during their successful 2017 America’s Cup bid and UFC fighter Dan Hooker used it as his walk out music.
In 2015, Dallas married his partner – the writer Leilani Momoisea– who was an important sounding board for him as he wrote new tracks. The single ‘Don’t Rate That’ arrived that same year and Vice in Australia named it as one of the “best NZ hip hop tracks of all time”. What’s more, Duncan Grieve wrote in The Spinoff that the track had “the best and fiercest lyrics of his career.” Certainly there was great poignancy in lines such as:
“... finance companies in the hood / posing like they’re doing something good ...”
“Wish that I could aim at those finance companies in the companies in the hood / posing like they’re doing something good ... always putting more brown people on the ads, knowing damn well they’re trying to trick us out of cash / Sports stars front the campaigns and it’s sad, really selling out, do they know we don’t rate that shit?”
Two more quick singles followed – ‘Life Is Pt.2’ and ‘Fit In’ – before his releases dropped away for a couple of years. That’s not to say he wasn’t busy. In 2015, Dallas came up with the concept for the 64 Bars Challenge, which was a series sponsored by Red Bull in which local rappers have a couple of minutes to lay down their best rhymes with no hooks or other filler. It became the benchmark for local rappers and enshrined Dallas’s reputation as an elder statesman in the local hip hop scene. 64 Bars subsequently became a global phenomenon, with Red Bull running it in India, Japan, and South Africa.
His next album, Hood Country Club (2017), continued the broadening of his subject matter. ‘Don’t Flinch’ was a stark reflection on the “toughen-up” school of New Zealand masculinity, while the title track discussed the difficulties of being a successful rapper in a small market like Aotearoa – “think of pro athletes with no management / make money, we’re never taught to handle it.”
In the intervening years, Dallas’ single ‘Runnin’’ had continued to prove its worth. In 2022, it appeared in the film Hustle produced by LeBron James and starring Adam Sandler. The tracks’ streams on Spotify quickly went from millions to tens of millions. Dallas kept fans happy with a run of one-off singles. ‘Seems Impossible (Freestyle)’ showcased the irrepressible wit: “Know how long I had it on lock? / Shoulda been lifted up in a line out.”
There was no doubt he deserved the respect shown to him by the local rap community. He had hit the big time in a way he could never have expected, and came through it with rap flows that remained as vital as ever.