By: Lauren Whiteman | @itsmewhiteman
It’s been 23 years since Andre 3000 stepped to the microphone at the Source Awards and let the world know that “the South got something to say”, and the pop-up party series #ANDWINGZ is sending a reminder that the South ain’t done speaking yet.
What began as a Washington D.C. house party that required either a bottle of Hennessy or an order of chicken wings for entry, soon evolved into a fully curated event, with its national tour kicking off right here in Dallas, Texas.
For Rob “DJ NiteCrawler” Owoyele, a Dallas-area native, this was especially important. “I would see Black people flourishing and creating dope things and events in D.C. and knew Dallas had so much potential and so many ideas. There just weren’t as many resources.”
Some of this was due to the idea that Dallas folks don’t party. For those who, like NiteCrawler, grew up in the era of Cirque on Friday, DMX on Sunday, and the Dallas Boogie Movement, we know this to be false.
But sometimes you can show people better than you can tell them.
NiteCrawler, and party creators Q, Kwame the Prince, and Jamie (pronounced like Jamaica without the –ca) knew that this “Henny & Wingz” could be big. They were right. Since its inception in 2014 the event has exposed the east coast to the way the South moves. If you attended one of the Henny & Wings pop ups, you might remember a day party setup alongside games like spades and dominoes. Or maybe you remember the Hennessy wing sauce.
Or maybe you don’t remember anything, because, well . . .
Dubbed the “Lac’d out musical journey through the dirty south”, the imagery of cadillacs rolling through the hood, driving slow, windows down, oldies playing, and heading to the cookout has heavily influenced the event. Thinking about it just feels good. But what’s impacted the event the most is the highlight on southern music.
DJ NiteCrawler is no stranger to the impact music has on an experience. He grew up playing several instruments in the church and in school. As a result, his ear for mixes isn’t just tuned into beats per minute, but also into keys and musical composition. If you’ve been fortunate enough to hear his mixes, complete with high-level scratching, you know this to be true.
These ain’t your little cousin’s mixes, fam.
Though he was already a musician prior to becoming a DJ, his experiences on the turntables still manages to teach him lessons about music. The biggest one? Music really is a universal language. A powerful one.
While DJ NiteCrawler now lives in D.C., he recognizes the stigma other regions have when it comes to the South, but firmly disagrees.
“They think people from the South are behind on the times and behind the curve”, he says. “It might be different from how you grew up, but there’s nothing lacking. Period.”
If anything there’s something to be gained.
Whereas the culture of other places leads people to meet and get to know people as a means to build potentially lucrative connections first, embodying the experiences of the South allows for people to build connections and meet just for the experience of meeting new people with no strings attached.
Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how much Hennessy you drink), the market for Hennessy-inspired events soon became oversaturated. Some felt Henny & Wingz was just a spin off or a replica of several other Henny-focused events you may have heard of. But the founders of Henny & Wingz knew what they had was different. Because the South moves differently. This wasn’t just a turn up.
“It isn’t a club environment where the focus is on popping bottles and flashing money, this is a party where people focus on having a good time.” NiteCrawler says. Because when it comes to southern culture, good times are prioritized, just like in the music the South champions.
Though some consider Hennessy to be the "official" brown liquor of the Black community, the creators knew that while everyone might not be a fan, there was still room for people to get in on the experience. They just needed to shift the focus and the name.
“We pivoted.” NiteCrawler said of the rebranding. “We decided to make a more inclusive experience focused on the wings instead.”
While Henny & Wingz has been rebranded, &Wingz is still giving you the same vibes as before: a cohesive experience of food, music, and liquor, with the young Black professional and urban sophisticate in mind.
Regardless of whether you eat chicken or drink, &Wingz is really about one thing: Good people, feeling good. While the alcohol and wings are options, having a good ass time? Consider it mandatory. And if there’s anything Black folks need more of these days, it’s good times. Get into this Southern Hospitality. Dallas’ very own edition, featuring DJ NiteCrawler, one of Dallas’ very own.
&Wingz Dallas returns to Dallas on June 16, 2018 at Sandaga 813. Doors open from 3 – 8 p.m. Click here for tickets and to learn more about the event.
Lauren Whiteman is from Dallas, she eats Rudy’s, it’s been a while since she’s been to Big T though. She has a couple of degrees from the University of Oklahoma and is now an educator in Dallas area. Lauren’s work focuses on advocacy, student development, and the miseducation of Black and African American students in higher education. She’s a TEDx presenter and hopes future generations never forget what to do for the 99 and the 2000. For her twitter shenanigans, visit @itsmewhiteman.