Chillin' with tha Eskimoz
I'm in the Racketmobile Mark IV, and I'm headed out to check out one of H-town's hottest new rap sensations. Off into the wilds of southwest Houston I go -- the sun is setting in clouds of smog as I cruise through the blood-soaked streets of the Gulfton Ghetto. I take a right on Hillcroft and cruise past the raucous Central American hullabaloo that is the Fiesta megamart on Bellaire, and then pass through Little Bombay, Little Tehran, Lee High School, the gunpowder-reeking Richmond Strip. Still I head north, and eventually Hillcroft changes its name to Voss. Now I'm in the seamy underbelly of Briargrove, not far from the gang-graffiti-lined hallways of Kinkaid High School, George and Barbara Bush's crib, the hulking menace of Second Baptist Church (also known around these parts as "Six Flags over Jesus") and the killing fields of Houston Country Club. I hang a right at San Felipe and pull into a mostly empty Whataburger, which is where I am to meet my interview subjects. I slap a clip in my TEC-9, make sure my vest is on tight and head in.
Ah, who am I kidding with this fake menace bullshit? I'm here to meet the Iced Out Eskimoz, two well-off recent graduates of Memorial High School who put out a hilarious video on YouTube. A few weeks ago, we spotted these westside white boys spitting a tribute to the very same Whataburger we're at now (check it out here).
Back then, it was hard to tell if these guys were serious or not. Were they really trying to be the next Paul Wall, or were they parodists? Were they closer to the Icy Hot Stuntaz or the Beastie Boys? Big Yeast and Lil' Skittle, the group's two rappers, were better-than-decent rappers, and the "Whataburger" song had a bunch of us down here at the Press office in stitches, but we weren't sure if we were laughing at these Eskimoz or with them.
Thankfully, it's the latter. "We're a parody of what rap is today," says Big Yeast, who was born Daniel Hilton and is now a freshman at UT-Austin. The talkative Hilton, who has eschewed the L.A. Clippers throwback of the "Whataburger" video in favor of a pink Polo and shorts, is picking over a box of chicken strips and fries, while the mostly quiet Skittle (born Scott Sims) chows down on a dry burger. (Neither will say who "out-Whataburgered" the other.) "Growing up, we loved Tupac, the old Snoop, Biggie...Rap today is so stupid. It's all about ice and crap like that. Houston's the only city where real rap is being made now."
In retrospect, the fact that they were mainly a comedy act should have been obvious. In their official bio, Hilton claims to have been "destined for success" because he spent the first two years of his life in the 'hood. As the bio claims: "Daniel credits his incredible rhyming talent to the struggle he experienced during the first couple of years in Sharpstown. 'I was throwing dubs on my power wheels when I was only six months. I've got plenty of street credit.' "
Skittle, who reluctantly attends Texas A&M but dreams of going to Florida State, claims that an older brother's purchase of a Snoop album ten years ago got him started in the rap game. The bio again: "Ever since I got that, it's been Snoop this and Snoop that, so rat-a-tat-tat. He's puttin' the 'impin' in pimpin' on a daily basis." Skittle's impeccable street cred comes from an unlikely source: a run-in with the cops en route to an Alan Jackson concert at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. "On the way there," the bio notes, "Skittle and his posse were pulled over by a 5-0. Due to the heavy amount of alcohol he had consumed earlier in the night, he received an M-I-C -- minor in consumption of alcohol." He later freestyled Mike Jones-style about this misadventure: "Back then I got an M-I-C, now I'm hot and I'm on the M-I-C."
And it's not just street cred these guys have. They also have star power. Make that superstar power. Athletes and rappers have always marched side-by-side -- think of Master P's hoop dreams, Snoop Dogg's love of the gridiron, Nelly's St. Louis Cardinals fixation. The IOE posse also has a famous athlete in its ranks: Roger Clemens.
Yep, you read that right. The Rocket kicks it with the IOE. He even introduces and cameos in "If I Was a G," another Eskimoz video you can see on the Net. (Check it out here.)
"There's a biography of Clemens on the Net somewhere that ends with a line that says something like 'He's the kind of guy you'll never see in a rap video,' " Yeast says. (Clemens is a homie: Yeast and Skittle graduated from Memorial with Roger's son Koby.) And that seems like a pretty accurate assessment -- after all, perhaps only Nolan Ryan would seem less likely to show up in a rap video than Roger. But there it is: the Rocket at Minute Maid chunking the deuce with Yeast over a Ruff Ryders beat. Needless to say, he's hardly Flavor Flav -- his intro is stiff, and he doesn't look altogether convincing when he gets jiggy with Yeast, but still -- Roger Clemens is in a rap video, man!
And Yeast and Skittle say he might appear in another video, hopefully this summer, if he's not too busy. Meanwhile, the duo is working on a third album -- a mixtape, since neither Skittle nor Yeast can make beats yet. They're not resting on their laurels: the two million hits on their Web site, the phone calls from all over the country (like Mike Jones, the Eskimoz make no secret of their phone number -- call 'em up anytime at 832-606-9277), their legendary status in the Memorial/Tanglewood 'hood. ("I hear they're still talking about us back at Memorial High," Yeast says. "And sometimes when we're out in the store, we hear kids whispering, 'There go the Iced Out Eskimoz.' ")
Yeast and Skittle are mostly amused by it all. It started as a joke when they were freshmen at Memorial and continues to be mostly a joke. But they really do love hip-hop, and they aren't that bad at it. In a genre that all too often takes itself way too seriously, guys like these are most welcome additions. As Yeast puts it: "I always say if you can't take a joke and have fun with something that is as lighthearted as the Iced Out Eskimoz, you shouldn't be listening to them -- or living, for that matter."
Rockin' 21st-century honky-tonker Opie Hendrix is back with his third album. The red-haired guitarist will release Chupacabra June 29 at a bash at the Continental Club, and it's his best record yet. It's more cohesive than either Smashed Hits or San Jacinto, yet still finds room to range from the minor-key gypsy-tonk of "Wedged" (somewhat similar to Willie Nelson's "I Never Cared for You") to rollicking foot-stompers like the John Evans duet "$50 Bill" and "Light It Up," to more tender numbers like "Talking to Myself." The hard-edged country rocker "Daddy's Demons" would chart high on the perfect world's country charts -- after all, choruses like "Gonna get drunk and belligerent / one beer away from impotent" don't grow on trees.
In addition to the core band of Warren Martens, Sugar Don Chachere and Matthew "Bulldog" Meeks, guitar wizards Scott Daniels and Ian Tomsic also drop in, as does fiddler-cellist Marty Starns. There's even an organ spot or two from Rudyard's sound man Joe Omelchuck, who also co-produced and mastered the disc.
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