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It Was What It Was

Amid a wash of national phooey, plucking Houston rap's pivotal 2009 moment is easy.

Killa Kyleon's Purple Punch 3 was full of goodness. Yung Redd allegedly had labels in a bidding war over his Eviction Notice 3, a tape that displayed the full strength of his girthy flow. K-Rino satiated his fans with the ethereal Solitary Confinement.

The legendary E.S.G. released the auto­biographical Everyday Street Gangsta. Coast's Thinking Out Loud Vol. 2, highlighted by one of the year's best songs in "I Can't Complain," represented the most enjoyable work from a Latino artist this year — even though the squeaky Lucky Luciano walked away with something called the Texas Latin Rapper of the Year award.

Hollywood F.L.O.S.S. and Dustin Prestige, mere infants last year, grew by leaps and bounds in just a few months' time. The G.R.I.T. Boys leaked G.R.I.T. Boy Gang and reminded everyone that they are not to be slept on. Swishahouse began riding its young horses towards independent prominence again. And Lil' Keke meandered around, not providing anybody with near enough music.

Oddly, a few of Houston's star alt-underclassmen followed suit.

Houston's reigning underground prince, Fat Tony, let the entire year pass without releasing so much as a mix tape's worth of new material. Nosaprise, who has an unspoken battle going on with Tony that only we seem to acknowledge, and experimentalist B L A C K I E did the same. (Expect new music from all three soon.)

There are tons more names that should be dropped, way more events and trends that should be mentioned. But most of them are already moot, because even with all that happened this year, pinpointing 2009's most important moment for Houston hip-hop is easy. Easy because it came from a familiar name: Underground Kingz.

UGK's mesmerizing UGK 4 Life was, unquestionably, one of the top albums of the year. (Metacritic score of 84, bitches.) It's the first and only posthumous UGK album, carrying with it a mountain of validation and closure. The duo's eighth full-length came 22 years after the group's ascent, 15 months after Pimp C passed and is the third-best album they ever made.

There's no significant numerical roundness to cleverly attach it to. It just exists. One day UGK for Life wasn't here, then the next day it was. And that's the way it had to be.

Once again — possibly for the last time — Bun B sits atop the list of Houston's important rappers, Pimp C posthumously eyeing the scuffle for top-notch status among an iPod's worth of others.

Even when nothing important is going on, something important is going on.

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