We can't remember where we read this recently, but it was a truism. It read something like, "Old music doesn't exist. There's music you've heard and there's music you haven't."
We wonder if the same applies with life. "Old stories don't exist. There are those you've read about and those you haven't."
Rocks Off has music and a story that you probably haven't heard or read about.
Recently, we returned to the Houston area after a three year stint in San Antonio and found a four-year-old article that's really the inspiration for this blog.
Before we left Houston in 2007, we got to know a Punjabi MC out of northwest Houston by the name of Deep Cold. We took to his unique style of music that involved blending bhangra and Southern hip-hop - mixing crunk beats, Indian flutes and thug life lyrics with the angelic pitches of Boliyan singer Kamla Punjabi.
It was assaulting on the musical senses, but in a good way. To some, the fusion might feel like an odd pairing, but nothing probably felt more right to Deep.
Deep is a product of growing up Indian in the Land of Screw. It was a bi-cultural line he walked. On one side there was his Indian culture, and the other was the influential Houston hip-hop culture that went beyond music. It impacted people's speak, dress and swag. It shaped Deep into what he is today.
Before we had the honor to help cover Houston's underground hip-hop scene for Rocks Off we were hoping to help Deep market himself in 2006. But a job in San Antonio took us away from Houston and from Deep. But before we left, he gave us the 41st issue of Fader magazine, which we found in a box at the end of 2010 and revisited recently.
In that issue is perhaps one of most important Houston hip-hop stories ever told to a national audience - if not for its cultural significance - and it was about Deep. The article, "New South," was written by Edwin "Stats" Houghton.
What that story delivered was what we as a writer were hell bent on showing when we first started writing for Rocks Off: That Houston's hip-hop culture has morphed ethnic culture.
We're not sure if a better story could be written on Deep unless, of course, he opens up about his brother's imprisonment for the murder of his parents in 2000 - which he has yet to do, for reasons that are beyond understandable. And him opening up is contingent on our ability to chronicle his story better than anyone, because it was pursuant to that tragedy, that Deep went neck-deep in rap.
From what we gathered from our time with Deep's label manager, Navi, who goes by Head, is that Deep's unfathomable trial was the turning point that drove and inspired Deep to go from another hopeful MC to thrusting himself to the the center of the then, much-talked about collision of hip-hop and bhangra and blasting through UK music charts, all from Houston, the least expected place to produce this special genre's next "great brown hope."
As the "New South" article points out, there is an unwritten rap law that the one "who's got next" will probably be from somewhere where you're not watching.
"Check for New York, Atlanta blows," wrote Houghton. "Search for the next invasion from overseas, it detonates on your doorstep. So by that logic, it's probably a good thing for the outsider South Asian art form that is bhangra if people are looking for its next great brown hope in London, Mumbai ... anyplace but the dirty rap capital that is Houston, Texas."
Today, Deep's still a much talked-about artist within the desi diaspora and has had forward motion. His best track "Dehklo Punjabi Munde" was featured on the 2010 Punjabi film Mel Karade Rabba and he and Kamla released two songs under Universal off their project Desi Hustle.
But he hasn't inched closer to achieving widespread local prominence or U.S.-based notoriety he probably hoped for when he secured features like Slim Thug, Too Short, Big Moe and David Banner on his debut album In Trunks Now six years ago.
off In Trunks Now.
But the arrival of Drip, an album that screams color and culture, can perhaps spark an important and much needed momentum that gets him in the talking once more, or at the least, it gives a good excuse to tell his inspiring story all over again.
With Drip, there's a bipolarity that might work, or not. It's experimental and it pushes the boundaries of musical chemistry. It's gritty and angelic. It's inspiring immigrant and America's most feared turban, totting a gun and beard. It's bhangra. It's Houston hip-hop. It can be lots to swallow.
At times it might be too bhangra for the majority of non-Indian listeners to truly appreciate what's happening, but Deep does this part of the album unapologetically and that's what gives this project its appeal.
Also, maybe at times it's too traditional Houston for anyone who doesn't appreciate the syrupy feel of Dirty South rap. Both sounds blended together may not taste all that good for the Top 40 listener. But for the more enlightened music junkie who craves creativity, boldness and culture, it can be a refreshing break from the norm and new feel to the monotony hip-hop is offering now, for the very reason that it's all over the place.
That's Drip's charm. It's an adventure that keeps you guessing at what you're going to get next. In Drip and throughout the last six years there are several times when Deep has struck an important balance and realizes the potential of the bhangra and hip-hop fusion. In Drip, he showcases it.
So now that you've read a story you haven't heard, here's the music. Rocks Off's favorite cuts off Drip:
feat. David Banner, MC Qua & Lenny Lenn
feat. Too Short, C-Note & Jhaime
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
feat. Kamla Punjabi & DJ Sanj