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Fat Beats

The real reason Houston stays near the top of the chunkiest-city charts

Friends, Houstonians, fellow fatsoes –- lend me your ears. A travesty has been visited upon us. After the annual Men's Fitness poll rightly deemed Houston as America's fattest city every year from to 2001 to 2003 and then again in 2005, this year we've slipped all the way to No. 5. WE'RE BEHIND DALLAS, people.

We're here to tell you that this is a sham. There is no way the Big D is fatter than we are; neither is Los Angeles, Las Vegas or Chicago, as Men's Fitness alleges. Here's why.

As is always the case with these quasi-scientific, Places Rated-type surveys, the Men's Fitness methodology is flawed. The magazine uses the following criteria: Healthy habits (exercise, nutrition, etc.), risk factors (booze, junk food, sedentary lifestyle, etc.), environment (it's bad here, they say), urban attributes (we're sprawling and we have average to below-average parks), and municipal motivation and leadership. We scored big there because after we claimed the title in 2005 Mayor White expressed "grave concerns" and launched several "bold initiatives," and those gravitas-soaked announcements alone were enough for Men's Fitness to remove us from our plus-size throne.

Whatever. Don't believe the hype. We're still No. 1. All you have to do is listen to our music -– especially our rap -– to know that we are now and will always be the ranking Lords and Ladies of the Gravy Ladle.

First, take the music. Isn't rap supposed to be dance music? Not here. Houston hip-hop is much less about working up a sweat on the dance floor than it is about sitting on your rapidly expanding ass in your air-conditioned ride. Is there now or could there ever be a less danceable form of hip-hop than screwed and chopped? Sure, it's great to nod (off) to, but even Clay Aiken is more likely to appear on Soul Train than a Michael Watts remix of a Mike Jones joint.

Then there's the lyrics, which offer tributes to just about every artery-clogging, cellulite-manufacturing comestible on earth, not to mention every drug that causes you to pack on the pounds, either directly or indirectly.

Scarface helped get the (butter)ball rolling on last year's Geto Boys track "1, 2, the 3": "I got Ferarris, drive Porsches and shit / Ranch got horses, golf courses and shit / Eat shrimp steak crab raw oysters and shit / And still fuck around with all my boys in the bricks." Slim Thug likes the old surf-n-turf, as he attests on "Juicy Flow": "Born sinner, the definition of a winner / Every night I'm eatin' steak and shrimp fa dinner. Hanh!"

And here are Mike Jones's so- terrible-they're-genius rhymes from "I'm a Pimp": "I'm a PIMP! I walk with a LIMP! I step inside Pappadeaux's eatin on SHRIMP!" Lil' Flip famously seconded Jones's Pappadeaux pimpin' (not a bad song title, that) in his hit duet with David Banner "Like a Pimp": "I suppose they like the way me and Banner pimp / You can catch us at Pappadeaux eating steak and shrimp." And in his lover-man rap "Sunshine," Flip revisited the shrimp theme thusly: "I need a lady in the streets but a freak in the sheets / That know how to cook cause a nigga like to eat / Spaghetti, shrimp and steak and I'll adore you / I'll treat you like milk, I'll do nothing but spoil you." And as Pimp C immortally put it in his guest rap on Three Six Mafia's "Sippin' on Some Syrup": "We eat so many shrimp / I got iodine poisoning."

Something tells us these pimps like their shrimp not grilled or in some heart-wise sissy-boy low-fat soup, but fried and swimming in ponds full of butter-based sauces and maybe even bacon-wrapped, too. Why do we think that? Because all the other Houston rappers tout fried foods almost exclusively.

Here's Paul Wall pushing a couple of his favorite yardbird joints in "They Don't Know": "Down here we got ghetto grub / Like Williams Chicken or Timmy Chan's." (Sure, Timmy Chan's is Chinese, but what is General Tso's but plain ol' fried chicken drowned in sugary glop?) When Willie D was paranoid in "Mind Playing Tricks on Me," he pulled his car off into a Popeyes, and just about every tribute to the late DJ Screw noted his fondness for chicken -– especially Hartz's variety.

And last, there's Chingo Bling, whose whole mythos revolves around the idea that he is one of the world's top tamale smugglers, a purveyor par excellence of clandestine lard-laden cholesterol bombs.

And we haven't even gotten to all the booze, codeine and weed references, all of which are far too numerous to cite individually here. Alcohol makes you fat, and weed gives you the munchies –- everybody knows that. What's more, it's not too much of a stretch to say that codeine will expand your waistline as well. Codeine is an opiate and a depressant that makes you want to just sit there and bliss out in mellow waves of goodness -– about the only exercise you get is from the itching it causes. And then there's the mixers used to make the stuff taste better: sugar-loaded crap like Sprite and Jolly Ranchers. An old bluesman who struggled periodically with crack addiction once told me, "That crack'll knock the meat off ya." Drank does exactly the opposite.

All of it shows in our rappers' physiques, not to mention those of local rap fans. For every buff Z-Ro or Willie D we have here, there are five rotund Big Moes and Big Pokeys. And these guys aren't ashamed of their size. The late Fat Pat reveled in his handle, and Lil'O boasts that he is "Da Fat Rat Wit Da Cheeze." And here's Bun B on his last album: "I stand 5 foot 10, 200 and a half / 100 percent gangsta don't smile and don't laugh / in a three-inch shirt nigga 38 waist / I ain't small mothafucka I'm takin' up some space." And here's Big Moe off his 2004 hit "Just a Dog": "Got back to the crib and had to hop up in the shower / I'm a big dude so ya already know it took about an hour."

That's the spirit! With that kind of fat Houston pride, no initiative from Bill White's office can cheat us of our rightful place at the head of the fat folks' table.

Get Mod at FotoFest

FotoFest is kicking off this week and they've brought in an amazing young band from England to celebrate. Nottingham's Nic Armstrong and the Thieves are classic-rock revivalists similar to Houston's own the John Sparrow/Inner Lights or cover band the Dreambreakers –- Armstrong's flypaper-catchy, fuzz-toned guitar originals call to mind such all-but-forgotten (over here, anyway) British Invasion bands as the Yardbirds, the Move and the Pretty Things, not to mention the early, more blues-based phases of more famous bands like the Kinks, Fleetwood Mac and the Rolling Stones. And unlike his twentysomething contemporaries in comparable but inferior bands like Jet and the Redwalls, Armstrong's voice is versatile enough to allow him to downshift into a folkie gear that finds him sounding like Dylan and Donovan. Armstrong is too talented to allow all this to sound like mere revivalism or spot-the-influence pastiche, and though it's a rock-writing cliché to say so, the fact remains that his 2005 album, Greatest White Liar, sounds like some lost classic from 1965.

Scuttlebutt Caboose

It's been a long time a-comin', but John Egan is finally releasing his blues-rock duo album Secret Religion at a March 11 in-store at Cactus at 3 p.m. Egan told me he wanted to "bring back the boogie" with this CD, and he does just that, with a choogling assortment of guitar-and-drums tunes that recall ZZ Top's "La Grange" heyday. Or should that be their "a-haw-haw-haw-haw-day"?...And yet another in-store rounds out one of the last weekends in Cactus's existence. On Sunday, March 12, longtime Cactus employee/Static House record producer/man-about-town Jamie Sralla will release the compilation CD Astro-Worldbeat, which features new cuts by Zipperneck, Dune*TX, Arthur Yoria, Enron Field, Chickenhawk and the Dead Roses, remixes of Japanic and Horseshoe cuts, and archival stuff from Biscuit's Texas Bombs, Junior Varsity and Japan's the Mighty Moguls. Yoria and Cactus employee Tody Castillo are both scheduled to play, Sralla will be signing autographs, and the free refreshment situation is rumored to be on a more grandiose scale than has been the norm at Cactus for lo these many years. You really have no excuses to miss it.

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