Arts & Culture News

Top Ten Records Embraces Chicano Culture With Sundays on Jefferson

Desiree Giutierrez
The team behind Top Ten Records, which is keeping the Latin spirit thriving in Oak Cliff.
On any given Sunday, as the sun begins to descend on the horizon on Jefferson Boulevard, the sounds of Latin hip-hop, Tejano and cumbia can be heard in the distance with bass so fierce pedestrians cannot help but turn and look. What follows is a parade of Hispanic and Chicano culture — the heartbeat of Oak Cliff natives.

“I had no idea this culture was here,” Susan Ramey, a Denton resident, said Sept. 12 when she stumbled upon the spectacle on her way to dinner. “It gives the community something to do and groups people together. It is a healthy way of expressing part of the culture.”

Sundays on Jefferson is an Oak Cliff tradition where the street's familiar landscape becomes the stage for a spectacle of automotive artistry. Lowriders, trucks and bikes line the street as they cruise down Jefferson slowly booming music as generations of families gather along the sidewalks to bask in the affair. Top Ten Records wants to keep it this way.
click to enlarge Vintage cars take the streets on Sundays on Jefferson. - DESIREE GUTIERREZ
Vintage cars take the streets on Sundays on Jefferson.
Desiree Gutierrez
“The music died,” Mike Polk, former owner of Top Ten Records and current board emeritus member, said. “In the last two years I was here, I was here only because of DJ Daniel Boom and DJ Big Baby. They made mixes and that's all I sold because the music industry changed. There was no more product in the street.”

The store closed for a year and a half in 2015 and reopened as a nonprofit record store and lending library in 2017.

Top Ten Records recruited Rosilinda Sanchez to the board of directors in March. Sanchez’s goal was to reconnect the Hispanic community with Top Ten Records by “keeping la raza rooted in the community.”

“We needed to get out into the community a little more,” Barak Epstein, Top Ten Records board chair, said. “When Rosi got involved, I think we got an extra hand out there directly because she’s a little more active on social [media] and tries to engage with people more directly.”

Sanchez propelled grassroots efforts to embrace the Hispanic community. By foot, Sanchez has gone business to business down Jefferson to saludar, say hello, and reintroduce Top Ten Records.

However, the community greeted Sanchez with angst. With an influx of new business, change in demographics, renovations and new housing in the Bishop Arts District, the division between north and south Oak Cliff is allusive of a future involving displacement and gentrification that Jefferson tenants want to avoid.

“When you go into Bishop Arts, it's sad,” Sanchez, who’s an Oak Cliff native, said. “It feels like we don't even belong there anymore.”

Jefferson Boulevard is not up for grabs. Top Ten Records, which has been on Jefferson Boulevard since 1956, is not sacrificing any effort to retain the authenticity of the street and preserve the culture.

“When we say preserve, it is because we want to make sure that the lowriders, the Mexican people here know that this is their home and our neighborhood,” Sanchez said. “We're not going anywhere. It's extremely important because there is so much heritage and tradition in lowriding and in freestyle music.”
Sanchez's efforts made their way through the grapevine to Joey Gonzales, Dallas’ DJ Storm.
click to enlarge Inside Top Ten REcords, a Dallas institution since 1956. - DESIREE GUTIERREZ
Inside Top Ten REcords, a Dallas institution since 1956.
Desiree Gutierrez

“We love everything that's happening, we love the changes, but we're just gonna stay true to who and what we are and what we do,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales, who began his career as a DJ in Dallas at the age of 12, is the last of his generation still producing Latin freestyle mixes. With the release of his new mixtape available at Top Ten Records in nostalgic compact disc and cassette format, Gonzales hopes that this venture will open the floodgates for more DJs to embrace Chicano culture and its music.

Top Ten Records kept the doors open late Sept. 5 and Gonzales set the tone inside Top Ten Records as he spun a newly released Latin freestyle mix for the Monte Carlos, Impalas and car clubs to cruise to as families lined the street.

“When you get here, you get that brown pride and it says, ‘I matter, I come from a cool tradition and culture,’” Sanchez said.

“This is family,” Josie Cortez Lozano, president of the United Lowrider Association, said. “It's like our Sunday family dinners, a family dinner cruise before Monday.”

Aiming to break misconceptions about Chicano culture, the United Lowrider Association has used its platform to organize street cleanups, toy drives and efforts to support businesses on Jefferson.

“We don’t want a bad reputation,” Lozano said. “We don’t want any problems, we aren't doing anything wrong. We are supporting the businesses.”

It's a sentiment that echoes repeatedly by attendees.

“Family is what it is all about, that's what it comes down to, being a role model for them,” Jimmy Garcia, a Phaylanx car club member, said as he pointed to his family. “We are not gang members, everyone thinks we are gang members and drug dealers. We ain't nothing like that.”
click to enlarge A woman shows off her hot wheels on Jefferson Boulevard. - DESIREE GUTIERREZ
A woman shows off her hot wheels on Jefferson Boulevard.
Desiree Gutierrez