Only in Houston
Think about your favorite musician for a minute. Do you remember the first time you heard his or her voice? Can you relate each album or song to a different stage or major occurrence in your life?
How many times have you seen him or her (or them) in concert, let alone met and engaged any of them in conversation? Can you recite their lyrics off the top of your head and explain their meaning as if your life depended on it? Are you a true fan?
Luisa Diaz is a die-hard admirer of a certain Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones, the New York City rapper known simply as Nas. She can not only answer "yes" to all of those questions, but also permanently carries that admiration on her skin. We spoke to this young lady and asked her about the origin of her fanaticism, her tattoos, and her favorite Nas songs.
Rocks Off: When did you fall in love with rap and music in general?
Luisa Diaz: Well, my parents and I are from Mexico, so I grew up listening to mostly music in Spanish. Lots of Vicente Fernandez, Los Bukis, Selena, and La Mafia were played at home. But one day, when I was at my cousin's house, I heard my first rap song: "Cramping My Style" by UGK off the Too Hard To Swallow album.
I can truly say that song changed my life. The combination of the smooth beat, the female lyricist, and Bun B... it was just so fascinating to me.
RO: What was the first Nas song that you remember hearing?
LD: "The World Is Yours" from his first album. It was at a house party and I was immediately hooked. I think I said "Who. Is. This?!" out loud. To which my cousin replied "that's Nas. He's really good."
So because I'm a big nerd, I went to the library to find out more about him and became obsessed. There was a notebook that I carried which had handwritten lyrics of all of his songs. I would spend hours writing and rewriting his rhymes.
RO: Explain how you relate to Nas and his rhymes to the extent that you do.
LD: I'm a product of a broken home. My parents divorced and I had a rough life [in] childhood, getting into trouble and not fitting in. I was the weird one, the black sheep of my family because I loved comic books and rap music. Nas helped me through all of that.
Every one of his albums represents a different chapter of my life. Houston was a tough place to grow up in the '90s. But lyrics like "I walk the blocks like, whatever God..." from his song "A Message to the Feds, Sincerely, We The People" on Street's Disciple, gave me courage. His music was my escape from my disruptive home and environment.
RO: That verse happens to be your first tattoo, right?
LD: Yes, I got it in 2007 while I was in school at the University of Arizona. The rest of them are more recent within the last three years. I'm not finished yet. I still need to get the albums Untitled and Life Is Good on there, then I have plans for his "The Don" pinky ring that he wears, a Lost Tapes tattoo, and something in honor of Distant Relatives, his collaboration with Damien Marley.
Oh, and he promised to write down his favorite quote in my notebook so I can get that as a tattoo one day. And maybe get the Egyptian pharaoh/sphinx cover from the I Am album.
RO: How many times have you seen him in concert, and of those times, actually spoken with him?
LD: I've seen him perform 13 times. By far, my favorite show ever was a Distant Relatives show I attended in 2011 at the Boulevard Pool at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas. I've met and had a conversation with him five times, including during All-Star Weekend 2013 here in Houston earlier this year.
The first time I showed him my tattoos, he went crazy. He said "Yo! Is that real?! That is dope!" And he tried to smudge it with his thumb to verify if it was a tattoo or just temporary ink or something. He's very smart and very soft-spoken offstage. Very cool with me and all of his fans.
The five best Houston rap songs so far this year.
Feel that sweeping change? That's May upon us. Digging in, there have been at least 3,120 rap songs released within the city in the past four months, and these five stand out as the best of the best. You know, like Chandler Parsons is the most consistent player on the Rockets during these playoffs.
Will they factor into the year-end listomania stuff? Probably, but you knew that already.
5. Damilare feat. DJ Chose, Young Von, ESG, Maxo Kream & Doughbeezy, "Texas Boys" Every year a posse cut absolutely blows a few things off the hinges. So far this year, that belongs to Alief upstart Damilare, who grabs a legend in ESG and a few other friends for "Texas Boys." Anything with a well-worked Pimp C sample gets a chance to survive beyond two minutes, but this just stretches and slithers along with verses from DJ Chose, Boss Hogg neophyte Young Von and Maxo Kream. It's epic.
4. DeLorean, "Breathe" Have you been paying attention to DeLorean? No seriously, have you been paying attention? His new project Grace isn't debut Hood Politics, but it might be even more vicious since he's calling in the big guns.
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There's a track with Bun B on here; a track with Trae Tha Truth as well. Hell, the current king of Southern smoke-and-ride, Big K.R.I.T., produces something here too. But Grace's coup de grâce to the competition is this tightly wound hummer of a track from DJ Mr. Rogers that bottles DeLorean's essence into about three minutes: calm, effortless.
3. Roosh Williams feat. Scarface & CG, "Bets OnMe" In March, Roosh Williams released deja roo: Times Have Changed, a free album featuring heavyweights such as Action Bronson and Bubba Sparxxx. We've been here before with the Sparxxx track, but not with "Bets On Me," a crawling slab of piano-infused, Scarface-assisted sorrow and state-your-case ferocity. This true gem closes out the album with Facemob's best verse since his kick-in-the-door return a year ago on DJ Khaled's "Hip-Hop" track. Boom.
2. Easy Yves Saint, "Smart" Why did this take forever? Get one of the city's defter lyricists, toss him on some classic NYC production and let him just be him? Technical isn't the word with Yves. Well, it might be, but who else do you know will use a legit palindrome in a rap, call it out and then keep going? Only him.
1. Trae Tha Truth feat. Future, "Screwed Up" Future Vandross on a hook. Trae Tha Truth returning to that gravel-low double-time flow and being thoroughly enjoyable as always. I wish trillion-dollar swaggers existed, though. They sound like the greatest car accessory ever.