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Inglorious Basterds

12 things we learned about Houston rap in 2012.

2. Le$ Will Win, Either Because He's Talented or Because He Will Clog the Internet with Music: He released five mixtapes this year. FIVE. If you only have room in your rotation for one, make it his most recent, the gorgeous The Struggle Continues.

1. The Niceguys Released One of the Very Best Rap Albums of the Year, Anywhere: James Kelley is on par with any of America's top tapes that came out this year: powerful, lethal, unencumbered, perfectly done. With zero accommodations or attempts at placation, the Niceguys did only what they wanted to do creatively, and what they wanted to do creatively was right every single time. The production was as smart and high-end as the rapping, with moments that butted up against the gods ("265 (Inglorious Basterds)," "Overtoast") and moments that touched rings with the demons ("Live a Little," "War Eagle"). If they never make an album better than this, that will be completely okay.
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Only in Houston

Fans enjoyed the October sunshine and some of EDM's top acts at the first-ever Something Wicked Festival.
Marco Torres
Fans enjoyed the October sunshine and some of EDM's top acts at the first-ever Something Wicked Festival.

Back toLa Futura
The Top 10 Houston music stories of 2012.

Chris Gray

Looking back over the major music-related stories around Houston last year, 2012 was a little light on the kind of headlines you'll usually see in a year-end "music scene" recap: obituaries, arrests, venues closing down, general bad behavior, that sort of thing. There was some of that, but not as much as in most years.

Instead, it seemed like there were an unusual number of happy endings and other positive developments, something that makes Rocks Off a little nervous for 2013. Let's just all try to enjoy the good vibes while they last.

10. Back to La Futura: After shuffling record labels and generally taking their sweet time, in September ZZ Top released their first studio album in nine years, the Rick Rubin-boosted La Futura. It made a more than respectable debut at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 (their highest ever), and most critics applauded the lil' ol' band's good sense to stick to their strong suit: gutbucket Texas boogie.

9. Old White Guys Still Pack 'em In: Two packed Houston arenas saw beyond-their-years, but not past-their-prime, performances by a couple of '60s icons, Sir Paul McCartney and the Brian-Wilson-inclusive Beach Boys. Next year we already know we're getting Eric Clapton, but the rock geezers everyone is really hoping for are named Bruce and Sir Mick. (And Keef, Ronnie and Charlie, of course.)

8. Walters, Alive and Kicking: After effectively being run off Washington Avenue, then enduring months of permit purgatory, Walters reopened behind UH-Downtown in late 2011, bigger and with fewer D-bags stumbling in for Jaeger shots at last call. Now that it has a real parking lot, which was added in the fall, Walters has been fully restored to its place as a linchpin of Houston's underground-rock scene. Long may it run.

7. Houston Rap Gets Institutionalized: Save the "higher learning" jokes, because last year two prominent Houston universities officially made local rap part of their curriculum. Through the efforts of librarian Julie Grob, the University of Houston completed cataloging its wealth of items related to the late DJ Screw and in March hosted the Awready! hip-hop conference that included performances and panels such as "Slabs and Syrup" and "The Legacy of DJ Screw." Meanwhile, Swisha House Records donated memorabilia including cassettes, flyers and the label's 2009 Houston Press Music Award to the Special Collections department of Rice University's Fondren ­Library.

6. Nightculture Rising: Perfectly positioned to capitalize on electronic dance music's seemingly overnight surge in popularity, Houston-based Nightculture Inc. opened on Wall Street early last year — supposedly the first-ever EDM company to go public (NGHT) — and bought outright the city's top techno temple, Stereo Live, in May. It saw an immediate return on its investment by keeping the dance floor filled with top names across the EDM spectrum, from filthy dubstep to sublime progressive house, and in the fall partnered with national promoter Disco Donnie Presents to bring the Houston area its first-ever electronic-music festival.

5. Something Wicked: Although Tiësto had to drop out when the Dutch DJ hurt his back, fill-in Kaskade and several other A-list EDM artists such as Zedd, Le Castle Vania, Flux Pavilion, Modestep and W&W helped send Something Wicked to a successful maiden voyage in a field adjacent to Sam Houston Race Park. Nightculture later announced an impressive official attendance of some 12,000 people, and certainly a large part of the fun came from perfect late-October weather, the wooded setting and all the costumes. Enough with the Indian headdresses, though.

4. The Trae Shooting: Leader of the Assholes by Nature rap family, popular Houston MC Trae tha Truth — as soft-spoken offstage as he is aggressive on it — was wounded in the shoulder while leaving a strip clup in the early morning of June 20. The gunfire wounded two others and killed two members of the ABN inner circle, Dinky D and Poppa C, as well as a 30-year-old Houston woman.

Police arrested a suspect with a long criminal history about two weeks later and said they believed Poppa C, real name Coy Thompson, was the intended target. If there's a silver lining in this sad story, it's that Trae was back on his feet in time for July's annual Trae Day, which he turned into a community fair at Emancipation Park rather than a concert. He later returned from touring (including Europe) to finally perform in Houston again, with cousin Z-Ro at November's ABN reunion at House of Blues.

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