There are lots of "what ifs" in Houston hip-hop, too many if you ask Rocks Off. What if Pimp C lived? What if South Park Mexican and Bing didn't get incarcerated? You could play "fill in the blank" all day after "what if?" And we've wondered if the up-and-coming generation of hip-hop artists will learn from other men's mistakes. Will they see what happened to the generation before them and make different decisions? We're not talking about just major mistakes like going to jail for murder or overdosing on drugs and dying, but allowing elements of street life to overwhelm and dilute the talent so many of these cats have when they step behind the mike.
We don't like reading too much into lyrics, because after all, they're just lyrics, but on a track called "Game I'm In" on Northwest Houston rapper Trails' new album Young Brown N Wreckin, the hook gives us some hope that maybe the new generation of hip-hop artists in Houston are seeing the light. Maybe not living perfectly, because no one does, but understanding that the music has to dominate the life they live versus the experiences they rap about. The chorus, sung by Southeast's Lil Villain (more on this guy later this month) goes:
"To all my patnas promise we gonna meet again/ Been through the struggle comin' up from boys to men/ My eyes seen sin, breaking the trend from hittin' the pen/ I'm tired of losing all my patnas from the game I'm in."
After being rushed to the emergency room to get his stomach pumped at 15 due to an overdose, Jose Ramon Torres, also referred to as Mr. Trails, knew his life had to take a different course. It was time to break the trend. "I used to get real fucked up when I was younger," Trails tells Rocks Off. "A trip to the emergency room woke me up. I learned that being fucked up all the time don't get you nowhere in [music]." And what better mentor to have than Lucky Luciano, a man who has taken a 180-degree turn in his personal life, going from a hurricane of drug addiction and all the uncertainty that comes with that life to the serenity of being married, drug and alcohol free living, radio play and walking with his best music foot forward? Trails' first major project was released under Lucky's Steak N Shrimp Records, and he's being taught the ropes by the man who knows how to put out music independently and make money doing it.
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Outside of that, Trails is his own man whose street style of rap stays true to the hood music Dope House Records artists put out in the mid to late '90s and early 2000s. It was at a lowrider car show Trails got inspired to rap by seeing SPM on a stage, and he tells us that Tuesday night that he was on his way to a studio session with Southeast's Sen (more on this guy later this month, too) and Low-G to remake SPM's "Block of Rock," - a ballsy undertaking if you ask us considering it's a classic, but we like that.
Trails knows how to rhyme, he has strong delivery and is still maturing as a rapper (he's only 24 years old), so that's exciting because if this first project is respectable, which it is, then there's a bright future for Trails, especially if he adopts the business acumen of his mentor. The year 2010 is a busy one for Trails, as he's trying to drop a CD every month. Look out for him on Affiliated By Association, a project he's doing with Sen; No Love; Fuck the Stop Sign and Screwstone 2. And of course, it's critical you buy - not pirate - Young Brown N Wreckin, and tell everyone you bought it. We have to break a trend ourselves and stop raping these boys' hard work. Did you know it took Trails a whole year put this bitch together? We've heard it time and time again in our interviews that if the music doesn't work out, they'll have to turn to the streets. We're not speaking for Trails when we write that, but it's a true statement for those who still live in the hood and music's their only hope. As for Trails, he's not thirsty for fame and he's not going to give you music about Bentleys and incorporate flash and bling into his lyrics. "I ain't trying to be famous," he says. "Really, to be honest, I just want to put Houston where it's supposed to be. People drift off. They [try to] be flashy when they rap. I'm trying to keep it more SPM and what people rapped about back then. I've been inspired by these people, and I'm blessed I got the opportunity to work with original Dope House. I just want to leave an impact and make good music for everybody." "What if" he does? Then, maybe, Houston hip-hop can see its true potential. Follow Trails on MySpace and Twitter, and download Young Brown and Wreckin, featuring Dallas' Tum Tum, PJ the Rap Hustler, Short Dawg, Bing, Felony and more. Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Follow him on MySpace and Twitter.