How That Mexican OT Is Putting Tejano Rap on the Map With ‘Johnny Dang’

The inspiration for “Johnny Dang” came to That Mexican OT (Outta Texas) in an unexpectedly casual manner — while listening to Slick Rick’s flow in “Children’s Story,” the hip-hop legend’s 1989 top 5 hit on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. For the cowboy hat-donning Texas rapper, creative outbursts arrive with no notice. “Louis Vuitton umbrella when I walk through the rain,” he raps with a familiar lilt while on the phone with Billboard.

“Johnny Dang” is also an ode to the highly sought after Texas jeweler of the same name who appears in the music video. Johnny Dang is arguably hip-hop’s go-to jeweler, designing extravagant chains and grills for artists like Beyoncé, Migos, Nicki Minaj, Travis Scott, Ye and many more.

Another surreal experience for the Bay City, Texas rapper came through enlisting Houston hip-hop legend Paul Wall and rap newcomer DRODi, who is OT’s close friend. “It was cool, it really was. But it’s mostly crazy,” OT says about pulling Wall to the track. “It’s cool to bring it back [home] because my uncles grew up jamming [to his music], you know?… And DRODi is one of my best friends. It’s beautiful watching him grow.”

The results have paid off. The rustic single with a slow-burning trap beat is quickly climbing the Billboard charts, making it That Mexican OT (real name Virgil René Gazca) and DRODI’s first time on the Hot 100. The song — which was released May 26 via Manifest/GoodTalk/Good Money Global — debuted at No. 97 and reached a new high at No. 65 on the Hot 100 dated Sep. 1. It currently boasts 20 million YouTube views, and over 36 million Spotify streams.

He is effortlessly putting Tejano (a Mexican person from Texas) rap on the map by creating a style that’s captivating and truly authentic. Billboard caught up with the artist to talk about making the Hot 100, how lucha libre culture inspired his latest album Lonestar Luchador and why he’s a proud “country boy before anything.”

What went through your head when you found out that you made the Hot 100. 

Nothing. I don’t really focus on that. I feel that when I focus on my accomplishments, I get big-headed, and I don’t ever want to have to humble myself, nor do I want to ever get comfortable. I stay in total vision to my music. When they hit Billboard, it’s like, all right, cool. But No. [65] is not good enough. I want to be at No. 1.

How did “Johnny Dang” come together? Talk to me about the inspiration.

We were at my apartment, and I was knocking a beat. I didn’t know that they was recording me. [Producer TobiAli] played the “Johnny Dang” beat [and] I was like, “Bet, I need that one. I don’t even need you to show me no more. I only want that one.” He sent it [and] I thought of a word. You know Slick Rick? You know that tun nun nun nun nu nu nu nu nu nu... It’s also from Inspector Gadget, and the “Children’s Story” [song]: “Once upon a time not long ago…” That flow right there, that’s all Slick Rick’s flow. That was the whole inspiration for that [lyric], “Louis Vuitton umbrella when I walk through the rain…” I got the inspiration from Slick Rick.

You have Paul Wall and DRODi on the tracks. How was it working with a Houston rap legend like Paul Wall?

It’s cool to show off in front of my people about it. It really was an accomplishment for me. I’m very grateful for it, and I’m excited about it. I see bigger things for me; I want to do better. That’s all it is. DRODi is one of my best friends, so it’s always beautiful having him in my music.

You got Johnny Dang in the video. What was it like having him there? Did he design your grills? 

No, he actually didn’t design my grill. I already had my grill. I had diamonds when I was just plain old Virgil. It was cool watching him be in the video. You could tell he’ll do a good job of making you feel loved and wanted, but you could tell it was strictly about business.

You fuse your Mexican heritage with Texas rap culture. The tattoos, the grill, but also the cowboy hat and boots. Tell me about your style. 

I’m a country boy before anything. English was my first [language]. I’m a Texan before anything. I definitely have my Mexican culture — I love my Mexican culture — but I’m a country boy. I’m a Texas Mexican. There’s no Mexican like a Tejano.

What would you like an outsider that is not from Texas to know about Texas? What is one of the things that you have the most pride in showcasing about Texas?

Just our whole culture, our steelo, our swagger, the cars we drive, how we talk, the things that we choose to do. You know what I’m saying? Everything about Texas is beautiful.

You draw a lot of inspiration from the luchador culture in your album, Lonestar Luchador. How did the luchador become the star in your album?

It just made sense. I don’t put much thinking into it. God put it in my head without me even knowing, and it just came out naturally.

Did you grow up watching a lot of lucha libre?

Yeah, of course. I watched a lot of WWE. I watched lucha libre for sure. [When I went with] my nanny and my tío in the [Mexican] border towns of Matamoros and Nuevo Laredo, where people pass and all that, every time, I had to go get new masks [from the store stands of the border crossing point] and bring them back over here [to the U.S.]. I was surrounded by it, fasho.

Tell me what else you have underway.  

I’m continuing to work on this project. Now that I dropped [Lonestar Luchador], every single song on it has a video to it, so I’m going to be continuing to drop videos for the project. And while I’m doing that, I got a tour coming up. My first show on tour is going to be on September 5th and I’m opening up in Denver — Denver always goes crazy for me. I’m touring my music, really, that’s all I can say. I can’t tell you too much. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprises.

OT, thanks for taking the time to have this chat.

People like you are making my dreams come true. I love this. I don’t know what else I’d be doing. I got zero patience. I got a horrible temper. I already don’t like dealing with people, so this music had to wait for me. I had no choice [and] I thank God. That’s why I go so hard.

A version of this story originally appeared in the Aug. 26, 2023, issue of Billboard.

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