Saturday, for the first time to our knowledge since 2011, my best friends all found themselves occupying the same space and time as one another. I know it sounds sappy, but certain questions and answers don't come up when in the company of friends. You leave work alone; you talk about glory days and inside jokes that only you get and things of that nature.
I'd love to have those moments far more often, but hey, two of them live in Austin, where the Flaming Lips and Kanye West were closing out the X Games, and we told ourselves, "Nah, we're good on seeing Juicy J; let's hit these go karts and arcade instead."
Now what, pray tell, does all of this have to do with Houston rap? Easy: familiarity. Tuesday is a rather big day in the Houston mixtape community, with BeatKing's Gangster Stripper Music 2 and ShoStoppa's The YSL Project both coming out. Both are highly anticipated, both come with their own aura of fame (one definitely more than the other).
But besides all that, the days leading up to both tapes have led to artists like Zavey finding his footing after what seemed like an eternity between releases; Doughbeezy deciding getting rich by way of robbing guys in purple Jason masks is key; and hey, Kirko Bangz once more waving the carrot of an album-release date in front of us, with no real answer to show for it.
Zavey, Survival of the Wittest Familiarity: 33 percent
The word on Zavey has always been about one key component, his dexterity as a rapper to say witty things on top of soulful production. That's about it in a sense, a common strength for Houston rappers that could be considered a weakness in every other area. Zavey'is just "dope," but just may not exactly cut it.
Which sucks, because that's an insane criteria for rappers who make it, and fans are asked to adhere to it. Everyone else seems to float into this ether of "B+ players" (word to Daniel Bryan). Survival of the Wittest -- I'll assume he purposefully lost the second "I" that would have made "wittiness" -- is a mixtape of old and new tracks, a collection of his loosies recorded over the past couple of years tied together off the strength of his favorite group of producers, Stunt N Dozier and The Prodeuser.
Best Song: "Wine & Dine" feat. Le$. A lot has changed since this song was originally recorded. Yet here, the guitar licks from Jerry Butler's "One Night Affair" and the insane level of bass carry it to new heights, even with Le$ calling his native New Orleans home again and Zavey still as objectionable towards certain topics as possible.
"Wine & Dine" doesn't survey Survival of the Wittest in full, sticking somewhere near the back end as Zavey uses Michelle Pfeiffer's Dangerous Minds tactics to present himself as a revolutionary, a conscious rapper who smokes the pains of the world away. That's a half-truth. Zavey just prefers to be a rapping-ass human being who still sneers at the fact his university of choice actually goes to school on Labor Day. Stream It Here
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Doughbeezy, "Bumpin" Familiarity: 213 percent (Doughbeezy is omnipotent, don't forget this) Doughbeezy in a video equates to a few "normal" things occurring. His idea of normal means smoking, comedic punches with a wide cast of characters, or simply cruising and hoisting up the H like it was the Sword of Omens.
"Bumpin" marks his first time since maybe "Grind" where Dough's thoughts on film can be interpreted as menacing and straight-up. Here he robs people because he's serious about making it, a metaphor we all know consumes any rapper. But Dough especially. The grimy direction of Evesborough Films' Danny Ocean and Greg Noire that Dough doesn't need to convince you his impending rise will be documented -- he has to.
Kirko Bangz, "I Ain't Gotta Lie" Familiarity: 75 percent (everyone knows Kirko, not everybody knows the song)
It's June. It's supposed to be the month America zeroes in on Kirko Bangz' career with a microscope and lauds the fact he's about to drop his debut album. Yet, it's June. In a radio interview last month, he told 97.9's G-Man & Chile that the album was coming this month. This was during his promotion for "Hoe," back when YG was at supernova status in terms of rap buzz and Yo Gotti was an awesome white-wearing cocaine-slinger from Memphis (he still is, thankfully).
So in its weird way, "I Ain't Gotta Lie" is a teaser, with Bangz talking a ton of shit and ready to smash your girlfriend and her girlfriend at any given moment. Just let us get the album, Warner Bros., that's all we ask.
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