[Ed. Note: We temporarily interrupt our real-time SXSW coverage to give you something else to read about for one of the last times this week.]
Richmond and Rosenberg are tough places to describe, partly because there are many faces to the two towns, which are referred to on the streets as just one name: "Twin City." Only a dip in the road separates the two cities, which sit about 20 miles southwest of the Houston city limits. There are some pockets that look like good ole' white-picket fence Americana, and there are parts that look like Acres Homes. You have your old-style country homes on one block, but cross the wrong railroad tracks and you're in Fifth Ward. The towns' bipolar landscape is nothing to underestimate. You remember "City Under Siege" don't you?" It was Fox News' spotlight on high-crime areas in the Houston area back in the early '90s. Well, let's just say "City Under Siege" used to live in Twin City, covering gangs from Rosenberg's 4th Street Crips to Richmond's La Familia Bloods. The gang culture isn't as prevalent today, but you can still get your block knocked off if you run your mouth. The rough edges of the two cities are still prevalent, and they'll cut. If you're from Houston, Twin City, for the most part, is just a blip you see when you're looking at the weather forecast, but it's where one of Houston's rising Latino hip-hop artists is from and calls home. Alex Perez, 26, is known as Bunz to the streets and the machine-gun flow he's brought to Houston's underground rap scene is turning heads, and not just those of Latino artists and their fans, but all who are invested and follow Houston rap. In fact, you'll find him soon on the Houston Press Mic Pass.
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Bunz started off like lots of rappers, dropping freestyles on CDs, writing his name on them, scouring local sports bars, and selling his home-made mixtapes for as much as he could get out of people willing to buy his music - in Bunz's case $7. "Mexican" Mike Gallegos and Troy "T-Man" Reese, CEOs of Lifeline Records, took notice and decided to invest financially in Bunz, get him some credible features and put him in a real studio. Bunz's two projects that have hit the streets are Speakin' to the Streets and Conspiracy. His first real project, Streets, featured C-Note, ESG, Lil Keke and Big Hawk, courtesy of Mexican Mike and T-Man, but both caught criminal cases and went into the pen and are awaiting release to reunite with Bunz and jumpstart the Lifeline movement. Meanwhile, Bunz has made some solid connections of his own, linking up with GT Garza, Lucky Luciano and Dat Boi T. He met them all at Cy-Fyre's Fire Factory studio and his skills have impressed and continue to as he blesses tracks on the countless mixtapes dropping throughout the city, gaining much deserved respect. Trust us, everyone we talk to gives this man love. Bunz's style is aggressive, rapid and punchy. Listening to him is equivalent, at times, to hearing a boxing speed bag. He doesn't allow a beat to out-do him. His rhyme is underground and he admits his counterparts are trying to tone his style down a bit, but we wouldn't change a thing. We like what he brings to the table.
Bunz grew up with what he calls "fast" rappers like Bone-Thugs-and-Harmony and that seems to be missing a bit from the game. Bunz is able to carry the style and still be understandable, which is always the challenge with spitting fire in rapid succession. Bunz cut his teeth at missed-underground hip-hop gatherings like The Perfect Rack in Houston and The Sports Resort in Stafford. It's where he made a name for himself and was able to penetrate the Houston scene. He admits that in those days, he lived the drug game, but with Lifeline's investment in him, he was able to step away and get on the music track and stay there. We're glad, because in all honesty, the Twin City needs him. His success has inspired depressed areas and people, who at the very least, know their city's representation from a hip-hop standpoint, is truly respected in the game. You'd be surprised how far that goes in the hood. Take note: Bunz and GT Garza are scheduled to drop an album this year called The Machine. We'd have to say that's got to be one of the most anticipated albums in Houston's underground. Follow Bunz on MySpace and Twitter, and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org for features, mixtapes, shows or to show some damn love. Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of RedBrownandBlue.com. Follow him on MySpace and Twitter.