Sayonara , Matt Sonzala

Talking SXSW and rap's current malaise with a soon-to-be ex-Houstonian

"I think the music industry is falling off as a whole, and Houston is now part of the big picture in the music industry," Sonzala says. "I'm a big supporter of this music, but you can't deny that a lot of these dudes have just done their style into the dirt to a certain extent. I don't want to diss them, but so many dudes make the same song over and over, so it's not as exciting as it was when the masses started hearing Houston three, four, five years ago."

However, Sonzala maintains it's unfair for anyone to single out Houston rappers for continuing to rhyme about being draped up and dripped out or sippin' on lean when a similar creative chill has descended across the entire hip-hop countryside. "What hasn't fallen off that isn't repetitive ringtone-type singles?" he asks. In his mind, rappers are afraid to branch out from the same well-worn subjects — patronizing strip clubs, selling cocaine, beefing with other rappers — out of fear of losing the media exposure they do get.

"They're all fighting for the same radio play, and nobody wants to be blackballed," Sonzala says. "We've been at war in Iraq for six years, and everybody in the country at this point, at least 80 percent of the people you speak to, are against this war. But ain't nobody saying nothing about that. Rap music they used to say is black people's CNN or whatever. It sure as hell is not that now. It's E! entertainment television, fucking Talk Soup or Jerry Springer."


Matt Sonzala's going-away party is Saturday, December 8, at Proletariat, 903 Richmond, 713-523-1199. Sonzala and DJ Witnes will DJ, and Grimy Styles will perform with guests including KB da Kidnappa, Kam and Kenika.

Sonzala does find some hope in a pair of Houstonians whose albums depart from the current state of affairs. "When I listen to Ultimate Victory, I feel like Chamillionaire made a real rap record, man," he says. "He's topical, he talked about issues, he talked about life and it wasn't just gangsta stuff. He stuck his neck out in a major way. He could have made the same thing everyone else is doing, but no, man, he came out and really said some things. And if you notice, he didn't get any media attention for that."

Similarly, Bun B's 2 Trill may be the first major rap album to take on global warming. "He talks about the environment. What rapper on his level is talking about the environment? Nobody," Sonzala says. "I think it's brilliant for somebody like Bun B to tell these kids something about global ­warming."

Sonzala says he plans to come back to Houston at least three times a month because "most of the events I do, we do in Houston." So while his moving to Austin may be a personal milestone — for one thing, he's looking forward to finally having a regular babysitter, since he and his wife both have family in the area — he doesn't expect a whole lot to change in the scene he's leaving behind.

"I think I get too much credit, to be honest with you," he says. "It's not like I brought a bunch of dudes out of the closet. These dudes have been working for many years, and there's been people here working for a lot longer than I have to make Houston what it is."

Scuttlebutt Caboose

'Tis the season — for equipment thefts. After their November 24 show at Last Concert Café, thieves vandalized Moses Guest's trailer and made off with what the earthy rockers' manager estimates to be as much as $10,000 worth of gear. A white pickup truck was spied leaving the scene, and the band will try to recoup some of their losses January 5 at the Continental Club. Byzantine indie-rockers Sharks and Sailors were likewise victimized when someone slipped into their rehearsal space at Francisco Studios and made off with Melissa Lonchambon's $1,100 Fender jazz bass and an external sound card. Lonchambon suspects the theft may have happened when S&S's roommates were loading out before a show, and the bass may even still be on the Francisco premises...In-stores return to Cactus Music with a flourish this weekend with Aussie indie-pop heartthrob Ben Lee 6 p.m. Thursday, Austin's Derailers 5:30 p.m. Friday and roots-rock arrivistes the Gougers 1 p.m. Saturday. "We want to remind Houston's music fans that we are the best place to see an intimate performance, meet the artist and grab a cold one," says owner Quinn Bishop.

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