Everything You Needed to Know About Houston Rap In 2013
Bun B, aka "Maestro," with the Houston Symphony last November
Photo by Marco Torres
Our year-end Houston rap recap (this right here -- oh hi!) is always an exercise in economical efficiency. The amount of words that can fit in this space is about 1/15th of the total amount of local rap artists, so capturing all of the neat things they did in 2013 is basically like winning the lottery or walking through Cuney Homes and not getting stabbed to death.
But here's the mega-rundown, featuring a fair share of the city's talents:
Bun B, the archbishop of Houston rap, continued his supreme flex. He started a food Web site; co-authored a rap coloring book with a small, very attractive Mexican man (aka yours truly); released an album, Trill OG: The Epilogue; served as a university professor; became the first-ever rapper to perform with the Houston Symphony; karate-punched the Loch Ness monster; and made 85 percent of his free throws.
In the most surprisingly endearing hustle of the year, Slim Thug, who is almost certainly a millionaire, took to selling shirts and his new CD, Boss Life, out of the trunk of a Bentley. Nobody understands anything more profoundly than Slim Thug understands how to make himself likeable.
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Trae Tha Truth released I Am King, his first proper tape in almost two years, and it sounded every bit as if he'd spent all of that time working on it. Highlights included "Stay Trill (Bill Collector)," a charming redub of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's 1995 track "Mr. Bill Collector" featuring Krayzie Bone himself; "Hold Up," a song featuring Diddy, Young Jeezy and T.I. that feels like all of your bones are being swapped out for lightning bolts; and "Old School," a swirling near-nursery rhyme that floats along a few inches off the ground.
Mike Jones(!) began floating his name out there again (albeit from a different city, but still). Paul Wall released #checkseason, a drippy grip of songs including the chunky "Getting Tho'd." And even Chamillionaire lobbed a few songs out into the open from his bunker, of which the best was "H-Town Legend."
Almost secretly, Devin the Dude released the very enjoyable One For the Road, and was his affable, gooey self on it. Not too many humans are more tuned into the cosmos than the ageless Devin.
Kirko Bangz auto-crooned his way onto XXL's hallowed Freshman Class cover and into the uteri of an infinite number of women. Willie D, Scarface and Bushwick Bill managed to complete a Geto Boys reunion show or two (truly remarkable, really). And Z-Ro cruised around the fringes of fame, z-roing better than all those who tried to z-ro.
Roosh Williams began asserting his would-be dominance over the underground, releasing the tapes déjà Roo: Times Have Changed, and Drobots: The Reboot. His best moments: déjà Roo's "Introduction," basically a blunderbuss shot to the sternum, and a surprisingly enchanting video in which he walks around a mall rapping an OutKast verse to himself.
Propain crystallized his spot among the city's elite unsigned rappers with Ridin' Slab, an ultra-intense tape that, in its most motivated bits, felt less like a tape and more like a therapy session. His greatest skill is that he seems to emote exponentially, so it seems silly to think that he'll do anything other than continue to hone it, which means it seems silly to think that he's anything less than a few paces away from stardom.
Story continues on the next page.
Delo maybe built up the most momentum of this entire cohort, earning TV coverage from MTV and BET behind videos from his own impressive tape, Grace. Amber London decided she wanted people to start saying that she was one of the best rappers in the city, so she began releasing music that made people say she was one of the best rappers in the city. Her video for "Servin' Fiendz" was quietly the second-best local video of the year.
Doughbeezy spent nearly all of the year teasing his forthcoming tape, Footprints on the Moon, waiting all the way until December to release its first track, "Ridin' Round." Naturally, it's very, very good.
Yves began pulling away from The Niceguys and proved as capable as ever, while One Hunnidt continued to do the impossible by making spoken-word poetry not seem like the worst thing in the world (and won a few awards while at it, FYI).
Maxo Kream mono-droned his way through QuiccStrikes, one of the most startling, most creative tapes of 2013. His "Lewinsky" was probably the best local rap song of the year and the video for it was not only the best local rap video, but among the best if you include all the other cities in America.
Beatking, the human version of a fistfight, threw song after song out onto the Internet, and his brash, entertaining brand of club-rap music earned him a very distinct, very devoted following. Few have implemented a track template as often and effectively as he did. Le$ put out about 97 mixtapes this year, the best of which was the musical equivalent of an autumn sunset, E36. Few have so firmly and confidently fit into a very specific airspace as he has.
Dustin-Prestige put out Dharma, a beautiful, smart, seamless, economical album. If he had charged $200 for it, it would still be a justifiable purchase. I hate everyone who didn't download it.
OG Ron C and DJ Candlestick fully legitimized the new era of chopped-and-screwed music with their Chopped Not Slopped brand. Their revamping of DJ Screw's sound for a younger listenership has been one of my favorite storylines of the past couple of years, and I can't think of one day that's gone by that I didn't at least attempt to listen to a Chopped Not Slopped tape. They are wonderful.
The mesmerizing B L A C K I E did what the mesmerizing B L A C K I E does -- mesmerize, basically -- with his 0 Time For Fear cassette tape (only $5, bitches) and his Only 4 the Real digital download (only $10, bitches). Tawn-P and Preemo formed a rap group called All Day and released three EPs over three months, but not nearly enough people paid attention.
The Aspiring Me's self-titled effort fully lived up to the (unfair) expectations that come with being the son of a local legend (Big Mello). The Freshest MCs (Undergravity + Dante Higgins) snuck a very good tape in right at the back end of December. And more and more and more.
So many guys and girls did very cool things these past 12 months that his article could be 100,000 words long and that probably still wouldn't be enough. Hoodstar Chantz (a personal favorite), Sho Stoppa (whose next tape I am especially excited about), UZOY, hasHBrown, Rob Gullatte, Show, RDRKVN, Sherro, Short Dawg, Mug, J-Dawg and more and more and more are all doing good things.
Not enough space here is a good problem to have. It could be the opposite.
We could be Dallas.
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