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What Makes Cornbreadd Run

How the Houston rapper turned a near miss on MTV into a victory for himself — and his city

"Check me out at www.cornbreadd.tv and myspace.com/cornbreaddmixtape," he implores his new friend, who assures him he will as soon as he gets home.

If there's such a thing as a selfless self-promoter, though, Cornbreadd would be it. Whether he's in the studio working on his latest mixtape joint or working the crowd as front man of his chopped-and-screwed hard-rock band Tha Fucking Transmissions, the underlying theme is Cornbreadd's love for the city he was born and raised in, and probably wouldn't leave if 50 Cent handed him the keys to his Connecticut estate. Echoing 50's gangsta rhetoric, Cornbreadd calls himself a "soldier in the art army," and his mission is to elevate the local music scene to a level commensurate with the city's size.

"Everyone in the Loop knows we're here, but it has to grow exponentially," he says. "The Houston music scene hasn't been birthed yet. I look forward to doing everything I can, and I know there are other people out there, and we need to reach out. Something needs to happen. It's coming — I can smell it."

Cornbreadd (second from right) works hard as the front man of his chopped-and-screwed hard-rock band Tha Fucking Transmissions.
Courtesy of Tha Fucking Transmissions
Cornbreadd (second from right) works hard as the front man of his chopped-and-screwed hard-rock band Tha Fucking Transmissions.
Team Cornbreadd gets ready to get its picture made — in borrowed T-shirts.
Mark C. Austin
Team Cornbreadd gets ready to get its picture made — in borrowed T-shirts.

Details

Tha Fucking Transmissions perform at Free Press Houston's 100th-issue party 8 p.m. Saturday, February 7, at Numbers, 300 Westheimer, 713-526-6551. Also on the bill are Monotonix, State Radio, Tontons, American Fangs and ­Rebelution.

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"He has a lot of pride in his city," says Fucking Transmissions visual projectionist and "Nigga With a Megaphone" (i.e., hypeman) Phillip "Pipquixote" Pyle. "He loves Houston and wants everybody to recognize Houston for what it is. He wants everybody to love Houston as much as he loves Houston. Honestly, I don't know why he loves Houston so much. He's kind of like a homebody. He loves everything about Houston, especially the food."

Cornbreadd, in his own words "the quintessential Southside dude," grew up in South Park and then the Hiram Clarke housing project near Texas 288 South and Almeda. He spent a lot of time in Third Ward clubs soaking up the music of late local legends DJ Screw, Fat Pat, Big Moe and Big Hawk, even though, he says, "I was too young to get into the clubs half the time." Other than that, friends say he picked up his gift for hustling literally at his mother's knee.

"That's definitely from his moms," says Pyle, who's known Cornbreadd since they became video-game buddies during middle school. "His moms is a realtor, and she's been doing it all herself since he was little."

Cornbreadd came to rapping through another form of oral expression: poetry. He started writing in sixth or seventh grade, for what he calls the wrong reasons, though they're reasons he shares with people like Byron and Keats — "I just started writing it to get attention from girls." That evolved into playing the dozens and freestyling in informal circles called "ciphers" at school, where his classmates soon realized they were overmatched.

"It was always like, 'Yo! The little fat yellow one, he got some shit!'" recounts Cornbreadd, who swears he can't remember how he got his nickname but will tell you all day long that the double D at the end stands for "a double dose of that pimpin'."

After two years at the High School for the Health Professions, Cornbreadd "left the smart school for the art school," says Pipquixote — he got accepted at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts on a technical drawing scholarship.

"I was hustlin' the magnet system," he says. "I was hustlin' HISD. I passed the test. It's a long story how I got in there, but I guess I could draw or whatever."

"He was a lot like now, only not as aggressive," says Pyle. "He was definitely a performer. One of Cornbreadd's HSPVA classmates was Beyoncé Knowles (whom, according to close friend and Fucking Transmissions bassist Benjamin Wesley, he once proposed to on the school bus). One day Beyoncé told Cornbreadd she and the rest of Destiny's Child were about to go to Atlanta to work on some music with Wyclef Jean, who produced the R&B group's self-titled debut album and guested on its breakout single, "No No No."

"If she can do it, riding on the same little yellow bus I was riding, I can do it," says Cornbreadd. "As long as I do everything I need to do in order to make it."

Along with Pyle and his fellow MC/HSPVA buddy Robert Hodge, Corn­breadd formed Tha Fucking Transmissions after Pyle got a job as a projectionist at the River Oaks Theatre and struck up a friendship with co-worker Wesley, whose résumé includes bottom-heavy indie-­rockers Basses Loaded and old-school punks American Sharks.

"I would hang out with Ben separately, and Ben would have all his music, then I'd go back home and Maurice and Robert would be there," Pyle says. "I was like, 'Well, I have these two friends that have the ability to freestyle so amazingly, maybe I should see what happens when I put the [three] of them together.'"

What happened was Wesley's love of the Beatles and Led Zeppelin made an ideal musical backdrop for Cornbreadd and Hodge's verses, with Pyle using his projectionist skills to provide visual backdrops that matched the theatricality of the lyrics. The Transmissions were a local hit almost straightaway. Last year's debut Begin Transmission EP met with positive reviews that noted how the Transmissions deftly avoided all the Limp Bizkit-type rap-rock clichés; the group is now preparing a full-length.

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