Houston's history is dotted with albums that, fairly or not, have been swept aside. We'll examine them here. Have an album that you think nobody knows about but should? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Killa Cal-Wayne About My Brother's Business (mixtape, 2008)
As a rapper, Killa Cal-Wayne is still mostly an unknown name more than two levels above the street. He was born and raised, if that's what you want to call it, in the margins of Houston's Third Ward, shuffling between bad and worse home situations.
As such, Cal-Wayne's voice is sharp and biting and doused with anger; he most assuredly belongs in that "new gangster" rapper category that J-Dawg, Yung Redd and Jay'Ton currently dominate. Among the many horrible things that have happened, his brother's murder seems to have had the most resounding effect.
Y'allmustaforgotability: 97 percent
Ninety-seven percent is only three points away from a perfect Y'allmustaforgotability score; still, this number feels a little low. Seriously, who knew about this guy before reading this column? Ram from Optimo Radio, Killa himself... and that's it.
Best Song on the Album: "What Would I Do"
Several tracks from this tape felt prickly and unfinished, like Cal-Wayne was feeling around in the dark a bit for his groove. And that's understandable, and maybe even a little expected. But this song, this song is absolutely splendid. It alone is reason enough to look forward to future work him.
He took a sample from Nipsey Russell's "What Would I Do (If I Could Feel)," that super creepy song he sang when he played the Tin Man on The Wiz (a bold, unexpected choice for a sample), then let loose an unreserved rampage of what sounds like years and years pain and hurt in one of the most heartbreaking verses of the year.
More impressively than that, he somehow managed to make it seem not at all like posturing or tough-talk thuggery. It was completely free of self-aggrandizing motive. It was raw catharticism (is that a word?), like you had accidentally walked in on him praying and he didn't hear you so he just kept going. A portion of the opening verse:
I've been going through this struggle daily And I ask you God, What'd I do to make you hate me? I'm the only male left up in my generation I know I don't mean nothing to you and you 'bout to take me. I asked you time and time again, Will you protect my brother?
Build a fortress for my sister and around my mother. But Lord you took 'em, all we ever had was each other. Born in the gutter, grew up hard as a motherfucker. And they say my cousin Brandon died at 25 naturally
Started with a seizure, ended up in a casket. Now I gotta be the father to all these families Asking for your help will you please try to answer me?
Fuck, man. we wanna slit our own wrists after typing that out.
Best Hijacking of Another Artist's Song: This is a toss up between his reworking of J-Dawg's "Ride On 4s," which remains to be a lock for the Ten Best Beats From Houston Rap Songs Of The Last Few Years list, and Lupe Fiasco's "Superstar." Take your pick, you can't go wrong. (Unless you pick "Superstar." Then you'd be wrong.)
Lupe, by the way, had long been taken in by Houston rap fans as their own for going in for the city on different occasions. But he recently got the stamp of approval from "the streets" for his ballsy showing of support at Trae Day, as well as throwing a lifeline to Trae in his re-do of Ricky Ross's "B.M.F." Crazy. Who would've guessed he'd be the guy to stand up?
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Worst Song on the Album: Easy. "Weekend Love." Just in case it's never been said: It is not necessary for every rapper to include a love song on his or her album.
Most Unexpected Pairing In A Song: We made this category up special for this tape. Why? Because in "Houston 2 Harlem" Cal-Wayne references both Jesus Christ and child molesters. And what's more, he did it within a three second span of each other. Any time you have a mention of a child molester preceded by a hat tip to our Lord and savior, you pretty much have to work that into a write up of the album that it happened on.
Obscure Fact(s) You Can Pawn Off As Your Own To Make Yourself Look Smart:
• Cal-Wayne grew up in Cuney Homes. A few people that moved out of Cuney because it was a little too rough for them: Satan, the bad guy from that God of War video game, serial killer Ted Bundy, Hitler, Die Hard Bruce Willis, Michael Myers, The Kraken, the guy from the circus that eats glass and nails and shit, Hacksaw Jim Duggan and Paul Bunyan.