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Best Beats from the Bayou

H-town's top ten rap jams

As we approach the end of the fattest, dopest, flyest, funky-freshest year in H-town hip-hop history, it would behoove us to take a brief look back at the city's rap history. And so we've come up with this: the top ten Houston hip-hop jams of all time.

10. "Still Tippin," Mike Jones/Slim Thug/ Paul Wall, The Day Hell Broke Loose Volume 2, later released on Who Is Mike Jones?. For years Houston was like the Luv Ya Blue Oilers -- you remember, the team that knocked at the door several years and never quite kicked the sumbitch in. That was H-town rap -- various "Lil'" guys like Flip, Keke and Troy got to the equivalent of the conference championships, but this was the song that won us the hip-hop Super Bowl. The weird little violin sample furnished by producer Salih Williams stands out, as does Paul Wall's "I got the Internet goin' nuts" line, despite the fact he follows it with another line that ends with "nuts."

9. "Purple Stuff," Big Moe, Purple World. The funkiest track from the immense Screwed Up Click rapper's repertoire and the most accessible and melodic of all of H-Town's odes to codeine. Moe is often called the Nate Dogg of the South, and you can hear why with his singsong style, fat bass lines and chunky keyboards. As befits a Southerner, though, Moe is bluesier than Dogg ever has been; he's from deep in the Third Ward, and you can hear it in his music. (Moe's hypnotic "Just a Dog" could just as easily go here, but it only mentions lean in passing. This list has to have a straight-up drank anthem, and this is the best one.)

8. "On My Block," Scarface, The Fix.The warm old-school piano brings a '70s vibe to Scarface's bittersweet reminiscences on growing up in South Park, "where everything is everything fo' sheezy." You could pick any number of Scarface tunes -- "Mr. Scarface," "Money and the Power," "A Minute to Pray," "Guess Who's Back," maybe even the hyper-raunchy "Fuck Faces" -- but this is his most H-town-centric, so on it goes. (And it even furnished the name for an MTV series.)

7. "Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangsta," Geto Boys, Uncut Dope: Geto Boys' Best. Currently enjoying a renaissance thanks to its star turn in endless cable replays of Office Space, this one's an oddity for a couple of reasons. First, it's one of the quietest rap tunes ever -- it feels like it's from a different planet from the typical club banger of today; it's "easy listening gangsta rap." Second, there's no Willie D, and here Bushwick Bill and Scarface are joined by none other than Rap-A-Lot boss man James Prince, whose chillingly soft-spoken verse is probably the most gangsta of them all.

6. "Pocket Full of Stones, Part 2" Underground Kingz, Super Tight. Meters guitarist Leo Nocentelli and veteran New Orleans keyboardist David Torkanowsky add some Big Easy cayenne to UGK's Port Arthur gumbo funk, and the Cypress Hill-like deep voice/nasal voice interplay between Bun B and Pimp C was never better than on this monstrous sequel. No Texas rap collection is complete without a copy of Super Tight, and this is just one example why.

5. "High So High," South Park Mexican, The 3rd Wish: To Rock the World. Before it all came crashing down with his 2002 conviction for molesting a nine-year-old girl, SPM pretty much single-handedly cemented hip-hop as the music of choice for second- and third-generation Latinos across Texas and beyond. Before SPM, Texans of Mexican descent thought rap belonged to African-Americans, or that only East L.A. rappers like Frost could make it. SPM made them all believe that the rap game was one they could play and win.

4. "City Under Siege," Geto Boys, The Geto Boys. "Red pass me my pump, Bill pass me my nine…Now tell 'em what's on your mind." The psychotic rape-murder fantasy "Mind of a Lunatic" stole the spotlight from this killer track off the same album. "City Under Siege" really encapsulates the scary vibe of Houston's oil bust, when the murder rate was sky-high and the cityscape was dotted with boarded-up strip malls, apartment complexes and derelict office buildings.

Scarface's addled dopeman remake of the jingle "I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke" kicks off the track, which segues through verses on the nuts and bolts of crack sales and the corruption of the Bush family and Ronald Reagan -- "They don't care about niggas on welfare, as long as their kind ain't there," opined Bushwick Bill, 15 years before Kanye West. K-Otix/The Legendary K.O., Willie D and Bushwick then riff on then-endemic police brutality -- Bushwick name-checks Ida Delaney, one high-profile victim of a particularly egregious case -- and theorize that cops are just on the force so they can avenge themselves on the people who kicked their ass in high school. "You couldn't hang if we were cappin' or punchin'," Willie D snarls. "So go suck a dick and write a ticket or somethin'," Bushwick chips in. Next they move on to snitches -- that rap staple. "Pimp on me and I'll make bail," Willie D warns. "Hunt you down and kick you through the GOAL! POSTS! of HELL!" And then Bushwick closes with a sort of all-purpose screed aimed at parents, teachers, curfew, homework and the police. The bass, drum track and keyboards then all peter out, and all you can hear is what sounds like a vacuum cleaner whining away, and somewhat shouts "Shit!" and then it's over. Pretty damn rock and roll.

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