Nearly eight months ago Rocks Off began covering the hip-hop movement in Houston's Latino community. Latino hip-hop artists in Houston have been putting out music since the early '90s and have largely Latino followings. Some have a bit of crossover appeal, but for the most part, it lives within its own universe -- a big universe. And they're just fine with that. The entrepreneurial spirit that Latinos are known for also lives in these artists' DNA as they move thousands of units online and out the trunk at $7 to $10 bucks a pop. Recognized by the mainstream or not, they're doing what they love and making money doing it.
Some are true to the four elements of stereotypical Houston rap -- syrup, candy paint, women and cars - and others take a more artistic approach and rap about life and speak to the heart and soul. Both are without a doubt appreciated by their segmented hip-hop community. They're a hip-hop force as a collective.
So much so that the HPMA created this year a Best Latin Hip-Hop category, a development Rocks Off is extremely appreciative of and exciting about.
The nominees -- Coast, Lucky Luciano, Chingo Bling, Preemo and Dat Boi T -- make up an intriguing group, from newcomers, to old veterans of the game, to what could be argued as unknown. We break down the reasons why they will and will not win the HPMA's first "Best Latin Rap" awards.
Why he'll win: Those who inspire passion move the masses. Remember Obama? No, Coast isn't Obama but he inspires passion and moves people with his music. He obviously inspired the masses, as he's up for three different awards, "Best Latin Rap," "Local Musician of the Year" and "Best Twitter Personality." Those who love to hear wicked flow and those who love to be identified with through lyrics all love Coast. Can the other hip-hop artists say the same? It's a good question. He has the momentum. He should win.
Why he won't: Can't think of many reasons, but if we had to come up with one, it's probably Lucky Luciano's and Chingo Bling's deep following outside the city and state of Texas that could be deciding factors. That could be a huge factor all the way around.
Why he'll win: Arguably one of the best underground hip-hop businessmen in Houston, it's like we said earlier, he has a tremendous following here and outside the city limits. His brand recognition is aged and deep. He's closely affiliated with the beloved South Park Mexican, probably more than the other artists listed, his look personifies the hood, and he moves lots of units, which means he can move votes. His discography is like an encyclopedia which means lots of people have heard his music. They've become loyal followers too. Lucky's fan base is going to make things very interesting.
Why he won't: Two of Lucky's good friends, Chingo Bling and Dat Boi T, share the ballot space and share fan bases. Ever heard of the term "split the vote"? This could very well happen. Wikipedia states "vote splitting occurs when the existence of two or more similar candidates reduces the votes received by each of them, reducing the chances of any one of them winning against another. This can lead to a victory for a minority candidate."
Why he'll win: Because he's Chingo Bling. The man's been on the cover of the USA Today for crying out loud. Fox News hates him for his "They Can't Deport Us All" campaign, he garnered a national following with his deal with Asylum Records, he's comedic, he pals around with major label artists and he's from Houston. We were having dinner with a non-hip-hop artist and she said to us, "I wasn't aware of a Latino rap movement in Houston. I only know Chingo Bling." That's why he'll win, but we couldn't help but take it personal. Don't you read Rocks Off woman?
Why he won't: As embraced as he is, not everyone loves to see cowboy hats and boots in hip-hop. There's definitely a fair share of hip-hop heads that don't feel Chingo should be the face of Houston's Latino hip-hop, but he is, like it or not. Are they enough to derail the voting? We don't think so but we'll see really soon.
To the Dark Horses...
Why he'll win: For the most part, no one's heard of Preemo. He has no digital game (his MySpace and Twitter are like still water). So how did he get on the ballot? Ah! That's the million-dollar question. People have heard of Preemo. They hear Preemo. They listen to him. They just may not be the average Latino hip-hop follower. They are from different walks of life, different ethnicities, they dig his artsy style of music, and if he appeals to more than just Latinos (because anyone can vote), he could very well pull an upset. Don't discount Preemo, everybody's cousin.
Why he won't: We're totally going to contradict ourselves. He just may not have the fan base to win it. Maybe he has enough to get on the ballot, but to win? We wouldn't put money on it. We like Preemo, but of what we've seen in terms of his competitors' fan followings they are more vocal and active than his. It might be a long shot.
Dat Boi T
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Why he'll win: Dat Boi T, the one who naysayers love to hate and hate to love. The man who inspired a what-could-be-perceived-as violent more than 100-comment debate on his Rocks Off feature late last year. People actually threatened to kill him. Say what you want about T, the youth, those online, those who were MySpaceing, Facebooking and Tweeting before it was cool to do so, support him to the fullest. They make up a respectable voting block, no? He hasn't been visible in the game as much as the others -- he's also much younger -- but does that play to his advantage? He could sneak up on everyone on the ballot.
Why he won't: Many voters may not want to see him win. He may not have "paid his dues" like the others and that could play into the voting.
The suspense builds.