Mike Red, Root$ If one were to sit back and discuss producers from the Northside who don't normally get their due, George Young and Mike Red would be 1 and 1A. Think a mixture of Stephen Curry and James Harden, a backcourt of light- and dark-skinned sampling fools who choose to lift the sounds they grew up with and around: bouncy synths; angled hi-hats and handclaps; and thundering bass.
Red has been doing this with renewed vigor for the better part of two years now; his "Jammin' Screw" stickers are prominently displayed at gas stations near Bush Intercontinental Airport and beyond. He can be your tour guide through different wards of the city or just play quixotic rapper who wants to smoke and watch the ladies.
Root$ is Red's third tape of the year, following a collab with Rai P and his own Still Holdin' V. His thin voice, an instrument where the most baritone he can muster is backing it with an 808, remains calm even when he's discussing his own form of emotional hurt. Women play a secondary role, with Red either taking aim at those who have done him dirty or offering his hand à la Randy Savage to Miss Elizabeth.
It's neat in a way. Red plays like a Third Ward pimp half the time, rarely giving himself enough air to be anything else. When he digs into the slight repetition of "Focus," we're left considering three things about him.
First, the guy who was smoking his troubles away on last year's Smoke N' Soul is either gone or taking a break. Next, "Stuntin' On Em" shows he and George Young can ape the interplay between Scarface and Too $hort on "Fuck Faces" quite well. Lastly, Mike's Root$ can quite easily be considered a template on how to make some middle ground between West Coast funk and Southern Baptist-fried riding music. The victor? Your car stereo. The loser? Anybody who thought Mike would come with something different.
Best Song: "A Million/Jammin' Screw" -- Honorable mention goes to tape opener "James Harden," but all of Root$ can be summarized between the lines in "A Million," while B-side "Jammin' Screw" landed Mike on 97.9 The Box. One track is Houston from chorus to breakdown, while the other has financial dreams above everything else. Download Root$ here.
Stockz, IGNORANCE Believe it or not, this city has seen few conscious efforts to craft music with a message. Either the message is recycled into that same self-serving, win-in-spite-of-adversity rhetoric we've been handed down for decades or it espouses flat-out nihilism and pleasure above anything else. Happiness is a choice; the same can be said for being ignorant.
So why would a rapper like Stockz, someone who's spent his brief career waxing on teenage aspirations and the troublesome ideas of what youth represents, create an EP solely based upon thinking with his left brain? Easy --$ it's a hell of a lot simpler to do. The production on IGNORANCE kicks up bass and hi-hats, sidesteps any means of a low BPM and builds off anarchy, or at least a sneering and careless flippancy.
That's why crass moments like "Love It" (with Rai P) exist in the same vacuum as "Bop to the Top." Both Bro Dini productions swivel around, doing their best to raise hell and then leave. As a rapper, Stockz could choose to step outside the box, but he's already laid out a template where he ad-libs the entire thing and still coasts to a perceived victory. "Knockin" gives a face to police intrusion and blow-my-high frustrations, while the rest of the tape serves to benefit only one man -- a wiry, fresh-faced rapper who cares for little else at this time in his life.
Best Song: "Bop to the Top" -- if you're scoring at home, "Bop to the Top" scores one for any fan of Project Pat's "Chickenhead" and Ludacris's "Ho": Women will want Stockz' ends, echoing the tape's general theme. Here it just gets comical, with a nagging female voice listing demands and Stockz just shaking his head before delivering an Earl Campbell-size stiff-arm to free himself. Buy IGNORANCE here.
TRACKS OF THE WEEK
Chedda Da Connect feat. Bun B, "Dunk On Em" Last I checked, when we start making odes to Houston sports teams, things go downhill for those teams really, really fast. And maybe letterman jackets get involved, too. Having already given us one spirited dopeboy take-off with "Flicka Da Wrist," Chedda Da Connect's "Dunk On Em" gives props to every single Houston Rocket who can at least touch the rim.
Bun B is just icing on the cake here; now if he could only use his clout to change the damn jerseys.
More #NewHoustonRap on the next page.
GT Garza, "Young Mexico" Remember earlier this year, when we made the reference point that GT Garza is heavily tied into religion, particularly his Catholic upbringing? Remember how we said that, along with his own Mexican heritage, that gives him the kind of straightforward idealism that not too many even dare to stick to? You get a whiff of that with "Young Mexico," on which Garza's voice still sounds like a windup toy ready to attack. There's nothing super-imposing about the video except for Garza himself being firmly in control.
Marc Haize, "Toronto" The Mike Lowery days of Marc Haize determined that his sound shouldn't be anywhere close to traditional Houston haze (no pun intended). Instead it's ethereal and almost R&B at times, and has gone worldwide. "Toronto" dips and dives behind handclaps and Haize's own singing, influenced greatly by the week or so he spent at that city's North By Northeast festival earlier this year. By the way, no one region is creating late-night mood music better than those 416 kids. Nobody.
Mike Jones feat. Slim Thug & Deuce, "3 Grams" Ladies and gentlemen, we have a 2005 Swishahouse reunion! In 2014, weed quality is just as big a topic as it was when Snoop Dogg briefly morphed into a strain of ganja. On "3 Grams," Mike once more lists out how people want to hang with him now that he's smoking good while Slim takes a LeBron James mentorship role, where there's not much left to prove except that he can do it on a daily basis. The repetitive chorus, boasts and brags make "3 Grams" about the most Mike Jones-esque Mike Jones track we've heard in a minute.
Roy O feat. Scarface, "Stay Tru" Scarface rapping on a beat from TrakkSounds is equivalent to an already well-established veteran finding another outlet for his greatness. Trakksounds behind the boards is the closest thing Houston has to a young Mike Dean, and Roy O, the latest artist being steered by the producer, takes his thin, conversational flow and turns him into a sometimes wide-eyed corner boy.
"I ain't Slikk the Shocker," Roy says before rattling off the other members of Master P's TRU group, and thank God you aren't too.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
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