America is slowly getting out of the malaise that set in after November 8. We’ve gotten few healing points here and there since. There was Dave Chappelle’s magnificent job hosting Saturday Night Live, which, for all intents and purposes, was the true series finale of Chappelle’s Show. That was a happy moment. Know what wasn’t a happy moment? Finding out Mr. 3-2 got shot and killed in Southwest Houston. That sucked, especially if you consider yourself a Houston rap nostalgia head, a novice historian or just a fan of what came before you. Yeah, 2016 has no doubt sucked on the death front but when it comes to rappers doing what they do best? Especially Houston acts? Oh, 2016 has been spectacular.
We’re about a month off from wrapping up the year and crowning the rapper with the best overall project. Scarface won the title with a release that came in September. Le$, per his usual November appeal, is dropping an actual, for-real debut album in Olde English later this week. Z-Ro has already given us something strong with Drankin’ & Drivin’ and decided to say, “Hey, I got more hooks built around these raps, what’s another album?”
Then there’s BeatKing.
You see, BeatKing may not be a prescient being. But he is propitious. We’ve given praise to Kanye West for maximalism (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) and minimalism (Yeezus). While his current rants and grasps for attention via Trump, spilling his inner feelings about his “friends” and canceled shows have made him a Twitter topic du jour, BeatKing feeds his fans exactly what they want from him. Topical freestyles about Trump or the #UNameItChallenge are his typical teasers, appetizers to a rather filling plate. Gangsta Stripper Music 3 is the third in BeatKing’s homage to a demographic that mutually benefits from his music. Time will tell whether or not it sounds better than the first two editions. However, it shows us that BeatKing is like any big operation. He’ll feed the masses exactly what they want and not second-guess any of his decisions.
The best of BeatKing is in these short bursts; rapid-fire thoughts revolving around the little things he’s loved and enjoyed — women, sex or anything else that forces his comedy to be not only blunt and politically incorrect but perfectly acceptable for the strip club. Last year with 3 Weeks, BeatKing allowed himself to be vulnerable about his mother’s death, losing friends and more. That’s album BeatKing. Regular BeatKing is the guy who will twist a legacy track like “Swishahouse ’99” and take it on to glory. He’s also the guy who will go to Hermann Park and shoot a video for “Buzz Bunny,” playing upon possibly 19 different rap stereotypes because he finds it funny.
You could argue that Gangsta Stripper Music 3 is BeatKing’s biggest hat-tip to his childhood yet. Anime samples from Dragon Ball Z lead the tape off, video game sound effects from Streets of Rage, Sonic the Hedgehog and Street Fighter play intricate parts in “Eddie Murphy,” “They Don’t Wanna Hear Dat” and “Bankroll Fresh Flow.” The keyboard fun of “Trap,” his single for the rest of 2016, is standard BeatKing. In a world where rappers are struggling to figure out their audience, BeatKing has essentially mastered his and won’t let up off of them.
All one need point to is GSM 3's outro “I’m Lame,” where the Club God mockingly cries about rappers trying to fit in certain boxes. After ridiculing everyone, he immediately switches up and lists off accomplishments. “I be coming up with this shit when I’m on the toilet,” he confesses. Along with his strip-club regime of eating food in the strip club and pushing records; one wouldn’t necessarily recommend living your life like BeatKing, but you probably should at least hear him out every now and then.
Z-Ro, our Fondren & Main orator who has cultivated arguably the most prolific Houston rap career save K-Rino, didn’t have to give us a second album in 2016. He didn’t. And yet, because his brain is constantly working and his thirst for being a full-fledged and appreciated rap star is unquenchable, we have Legendary to eat up and consume. Thing is, there are interesting things with Legendary that we didn’t necessarily get to broach with Drankin’ & Drivin’. Z-Ro was laser-focused on his July release. He’s just as focused here, only that names are actually being brought out and are attached to some of his barbs.
Believe nothing you hear if you think Z-Ro dissed Drake on “Out His Mind." Rotha Vandross’ idea of a rap beef is pretty simple and plain. If he feels you’ve come at him sideways, he’s going to press on your neck. And he’s going to continue pressing until he finds a little fatigue. Then he’ll press again. Detailing why he hasn’t collaboration with Drake isn’t a diss. Hell, a good 98 percent of the city hasn’t done this. So “Out His Mind” serves as Z-Ro taking stock of his career the same way fans do: Why hasn’t Ro done this, why hasn’t Ro done that? The situation continues later on Legendary with “I Know." Even he can’t believe that he and Trae Tha Truth would hate one another (his words). Or that he and Slim Thug would be so tight after the Mo City Don threatened to braid Slim’s hair in the most disrespectful way. Z-Ro has made a career out of pontification; his life turns into therapy whenever he gets in the booth.
Legendary looks back at all of it. All of the drama, the fights, the jail sentences and the triumphs. There’s commentary about the world through the lens of police brutality (“Skrewed Up”), hooks twisted for syrupy, lucid nights (“Dome, Kush, and Codeine”) and enough sonics that adhere to what Z-Ro told me a couple years ago: he could release a new album tomorrow if he wanted to; he has that much music stored up. The end for Z-Ro only comes when he dictates it to be. Him or the man upstairs. Constant resets on what should occur within the live of Joseph Wayne McVey only lead to more interesting Choose Your Own Adventure-type paths.
This one? Led him to make January 19 (his birthday) as Joseph Wayne McVey Day in the city. Not bad for someone who used to sleep in the park near Ridgemont or constantly found himself on the opposite end of good luck.
SONGS YOU SHOULD HEAR
AMBER LONDON, “Big Tyme”
I have no idea why Amber London keeps coming in and out of our lives but few rap harder or better over gothic-ass ‘90s sendoffs than her.
NIQUE, “Homicide In The Mourning”
A few weeks ago, Nique found himself in a local psych ward without much explanation. His voice has that helium-like pop to it and before he delivers his new tape, he’s still sending a middle finger to the President-elect, paranoia, fake news and supporters who aren’t down for the downs as much as they are the ups.
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TEDY ANDREAS, “Co-Op”
Yes, Tedy Andreas is still with us. Sleepy production and minor storytelling on “Co-Op” create another moment where the Houston-to-L.A. (and back) product should be heard even more.
WOLFE de MÇHLS feat. BIG K.R.I.T., “Sunset Park"
Snatching up a drum coda from SBTRKT’s “Wildfire” is one thing to notice about “Sunset Park," the new WOLFE de MÇHLS record. The other? That he managed to maintain ownership of his melodic record and not get outshined by good friend Big K.R.I.T.