A Post-HPMA, Back-to-School Backpack of #NewHoustonRap

Onehunnidt at last week's HPMAs
Onehunnidt at last week's HPMAs
Photo by Marco Torres

With the Houston Press Music Awards coming to a close last week, the official start of the Houston Rap New Year has commenced. Not to be confused with the normal calendar we use on a daily basis, the Houston Rap calendar exists on an August-to-August basis. Know how the NFL operates from March to March and starts the “new league year” when free agency starts? That’s sort of how Houston rap operates, where every furious release from August 2014 to August 2015 (with a few June/July catchalls) gets placed and grouped together to play audio King of the Hill.

Thing is, we need to predict what may occur within these next 12 months. BeatKing, Kirko Bangz, Chedda Da Connect and T-Wayne all have deals and partnerships with burgeoning independent labels. Kirko shifted to 300 to be with T-Wayne and Chedda Da Connect, home of Fetty Wap, Young Thug & MIgos. BeatKing signed a partnership with Penalty/Sony Red that still allows him plenty of creative freedom to release Club God 5 and whatever material he may want. The good thing about Kirko getting a new deal is that we may finally, finally get his Bigger Than Me album in stores and digital retailers. The jury may sort of still be out on whether or not Chedda Da Connect can re-create or even top the magic of “Flicka Da Wrist,” and T-Wayne’s been crafting party rap tunes for a while now so he should be fine. DeLorean, winner of the Best Rap Act award, will continue making Southern-fried country rap tunes until he runs out of breath. Propain is set to release a new tape. Le$ and Happy Perez are newfound bedfellows and are releasing music every week to prove a damn point. It’s rap festivus around these parts!

So many questions remain about the scene, like whether the Sauce Factory will continue its dominance by releasing tapes every other week, it seems. Or whether or not Preemo can bury the demons of that terrible incident two years ago and return to rapping, or Doeman, GT Garza, Dat Boi T or Young G can fly their own flags higher than before. Or if the outer side of the scene — names like Lita Styles, Jack Freeman, Love Dominique, Lee-Lonn or others — can continue creating the kind of music that immediately calls for a bottle of Hennessy and some restraint from calling your ex. So, so many questions.

But there are songs to dig into. We’ll discuss Rizzoo Rizzoo’s Itz Hot Sauce tape next week as a larger thing. Till then, let’s enjoy some of the best Houston rap from the past couple of weeks or so.

Le$ feat. Blackbear, “Rage”
Other Le$ releases: “Elegant,” “Clean Den A Bitch,” “Gahdamn”
When Le$ is on, he is absolutely on. And when he’s working with Happy Perez? He’s a goddamn rapping freight train. Think Dallas Keuchel at home. Think J.J. Watt trying to serve up F-bombs before Hard Knocks. That’s Le$ when he gets in a groove. Of the four tracks he’s released this month, “Rage” with Blackbear stands out. “Clean Den a Bitch” offers up some blaxpoitation superhero music so deeply rooted in Southern car culture it should be an accessory in any car you buy. But “Rage,” elevated and sort of haunting, is Le$'s take on societal matters, such as why people who are working minimum wage should never be concerned with haters. To think he had remained mostly silent this year after releasing Steak X Shrimp Vol. 1

Lyric Michelle feat. Fat Tony, “Directions”
Yahoo Music got the greenlight to premiere this cut from the Chicago-born, Houston-bred and Nigerian down to the flag Lyric Michelle and Fat Tony. They’re bosom buddies in some respects, two kids who decided that creating music would be far more fruitful to their lives than a traditional job. “Directions” questions just that. Both of their parents probably argued them to death about choosing music. A stripped-down Chris Rockaway-produced cut, “Directions” offers a little faith to forging the right path and fulfilling an identity as opposed to running with tradition.

OneHunnidt, “Where Dey At”
T.H.E.M., “Summer Finale”
Of all the artists who were nominated for Houston Press Music Awards, only OneHunnidt and T.H.E.M. have released tracks following the actual award ceremony. Both entities, one solo and one a cavalcade of rappers, producers and individuals with enough clout to opine on whatever goes on in the city, have never thought rest was good. “Where Dey At” from OneHunnidt questions where the bars are in local radio, not disrespecting the rappers who have created party-rap tracks and made their way. Oh no, he’s challenging the status quo at large.

T.H.E.M., on the other hand, merely want to crack a brew and hope that the sun doesn’t burn them to a crisp before September comes. “Summer Finale” stretches Kidd The Great’s singing ability to something far bigger than a lounge act and makes certain KeepItDef and hasHBrown jump on the beat whenever they want. hash has always worked with that awkward flow for a while, coming off far more urgent than needing to be precise. The sound and groove of the city still run in the man’s blood. In the words of Phife Dawg for all of them, “[they’ll] never let a statue tell [them] how nice [they are].” 

NeKo feat. Scarface & J-Dawg, “100 Degrees”
Congratulations, street-rap fans, you now have the holy duo of Scarface & J-Dawg on a track. All it took was NeKo, TrakkSounds and Albie Dickson to bring it all together. More often than not, the murder rate climbs in the summer. That should give you a guess to what “100 Degrees” from the three men happens to be about. Face offers more murder mysteries, J-Dawg lifts 50 Cent’s classic line from “Heat” and Neko stands in the middle, taking advice from two individuals who are certified lunatics with plenty of earned stripes. It’s more than perfectly acceptable street music.

Scarface feat. Rush Davis, “Steer”
Other Scarface tracks: “God” feat. John Legend

Next week, we’re getting a brand-new Scarface album. It’s filled with paranoia and all of the things that have made other Face projects feel like movies. “Steer” and “God” back to back offer a glimpse of how often Face’s mind shifts around. One minute, he’s battling the paranoia of a bad drug deal and being caught in front of a police gun, and next, he’s dealing with the idea of being an omnipresent being overlooking the world. Both records are absolute nails.

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