OMB Bloodbath says.
That should be your first introduction to OMB Bloodbath, the pint-size dynamo from Third Ward, who is covered head to toe in tattoos. Everything about her screams Houston, and everything about her screams an adopted masculinity, from her walk to her talk. As conservative as Houston rap is in regards to making stars on the radio and then some, OMB Bloodbath is an outlier. Not just because she’s a woman or that she’s gone on record as not being attracted to men or rapping sexually like some of her peers. It’s because Houston has, up to this very point in life, produced many a female rapper, many a talented female rapper, but not a single out-and-out star. The closest in this current generation of rap acts? Just Brittany, who last week released a spastic freestyle over Jay Z’s “Takeover” instrumental in support of women doing whatever they want to their bodies. She also mentions her Cash Money/Young Money days and how Lil Wayne had someone else in mind to be the first lady of the Young Money label.
In the last seven years, we’ve had pop-up moments from female rap acts who made sizable dents on radio. Candi Redd’s “Independent” arrived in 2009, Just Brittany clawed her way through with the brash and sexualized “Call Me For That Good”; so did M.P.S’s “Dat’s My Lil Dip” and BeatKing’s “Crush” in 2011. All of this was preceded by two significant moments: Choice, a Rap-A-Lot staple who rapped about lewd acts with men well before Lil’ Kim or Foxy Brown were around, and then there was Carmen Sandiego. Not long after Juvenile released “Back Dat Azz Up” in 1998, the Latina picked up the Mannie Fresh beat and made her own version of the record strictly for Houston clubs. The version we know and love ended up on Perrion, a mixtape that arrived shortly after the single. Her Sandiego album arrived in 2001, featuring Big Pokey, Lil’ Keke, Papa Reu and more. The Sandiego version of her hit record obviously couldn’t share all of the Mannie Fresh influence, so whistles and hand-claps were added in a weird duality of Houston G-Funk and New Orleans bounce. Years later, Sandiego would release a followup tape; Carmenmonoxide firmly secured her emeritus role in Houston rap.
More recently, from Tawn P’s rangy mix of gospel vocals and hard-hitting lyrics to Lyric Michelle’s poetic activism, Genesis Blu’s open-eyed material, Nessacary’s Ohio-to-Texas rap gymnastics and even Justified's braggadocious material, the other side of Houston rap's gender spectrum has always had sizable talent — just no one willing to take a giant chance and make it all work. Which brings us back to OMB Bloodbath, who handles herself far differently from any other previously mentioned name. “I’m not one of those rappers that’s purely influenced by rappers; I’m influenced by singers too,” she says. “I’m more about telling a story. But you gotta know the difference between rapping club music and telling a lie.”
There’s a breakneck intensity to OMB Bloodbath, whenever she feels necessary. I don’t know when Meek Mill, Shy Glizzy (now Jefe) and Lil Durk’s “Chi-Raq” became a bona fide mixtape monster that every female rapper had to show and prove on, but Bloodbath took the beat head-on two years ago for “Shootston,” where she absolutely demolishes it in a riddle-for-every-rhyme scheme while detailing dropping bodies and then some. Given the cruel nature of Third Ward at times and how often the tattooed men and women of her Escape From Section 8 documentary will tell you, there is literal PTSD trapped inside there. There is also an uncanny ability to transform all of this into a survival-of-the-fittest flow that is an absolute must-have in the city. The entire Escape From Section 8 mixtape parlays on such ability; hardscrabble rap acts such as Cal Wayne, fresh off a bid, and Haroldlujah, who is serving two years for theft, attest to this.
Comb through enough of OMB Bloodbath’s YouTube page and you will end up right back in Third Ward, near the infamous Cuney Homes. Her biggest records tie together the yo-yo of struggle and success. On “Same Boat,” she daydreams about robbing a nearby store but backs off when the idea of taking jailhouse chances crosses her mind. When she does dabble in excess, especially with women, the tone is often goofy and sort of surreal. Quick example? “Shooters Everywhere”: “Got a bitch from the Nickel, I had met her up in Fifth/ That hoe wanna fuck me but I made her fuck the click”; “Krazy,” feat. Trae The Truth: “Just got a new freak and she bout to cum." Want the alternative to that? “Coulda Been”: “We could have had two kids in a white house with a picket fence…” Both the drawl and the frame of reference are accurately Houston. The two biggest outsiders who have championed her music? Monica and Missy Elliott, right as the “So Gone” Challenge had begun to take off.
Her peers have already begun singing her bona fides and then some. As much of a tough talker as OMB Bloodbath is, she’s still conscious about outsiders encroaching on her birthplace. “White folks is building condos to get us ran out the hood/ They tryna call Third Ward Midtown, how that shit sound? Where a historical place is a playground for the now,” she raps on “Not So Gone,” arguably one of her biggest lyrical highlights. She’s not an incredibly new face, but she’s damn near a veteran with more than a couple of rounds of sparring under her belt. Regardless of what her end game may be, there’s one thing you’ll forever categorize her as — a rapper, regardless of gender labels.
“I’m not too concerned about people saying, ‘Female rappers don’t do this,’” she told SayCheese in 2016. “I’m breaking barriers and it makes me feel like I’m unstoppable. The only person that can stop this shit is me.”
SONGS OF THE WEEK
HOGG BOOMA, “Watch Me Shine”
There are multiple ways to convey struggle. Hogg Booma, the emerging heavyweight from a little ways south of Houston, rides nothing but melody on his Turn Up 4 a Bag mixtape. “Watch Me Shine” is the crux of the entire tape. Here you get everything you need to know: His father’s locked up and he’s ready to grab whatever dollars may be necessary to change his family’s life.
JAY-VON feat. NOAH NOVA, “Part 2”
Call it a sequel to last fall’s “Get Right” if you want, but that’s a bit of a misnomer. Jay-Von is still stacking one-liners a step slower than the beat to fit head-nods in. Noah Nova is picking up tales from the Hotel Derek and the more stressful times of 2010 that better prepared him for now.
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KILLA KYLEON & NESSACARY, “Talk Is Cheap”
The self-proclaimed Mr. & Mrs. Smith spend most of their “Battle of the Sexes”-style EP trading barbs about hatching money schemes and lobbing tons of punch lines. Kyleon is pretty much ageless in this respect. Most ballplayers may lose their athleticism, but never their jump shot. Kyleon will drop a fire 16 and then jump out the gym when called upon. Riding the jazzy production, Nessacary damn near aligns with Kyleon bar-wise, making for a potent on-wax couple.
THE ASPIRING ME, “TSH (Flexing)”
TAME, the twangy-haired son of Big Mello, released his third album, 98 Briargate & 11 Almeda, Tuesday night. “TSH (Flexing)” jumps off the page with lounge-act piano keys and supreme confidence. Any rap song built off the mind-set that you got suspended from your job is an absolute win, regardless of how you feel.