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.
O.N.E. Last O.N.E. Standing (Self-released, 2010)
O.N.E. is a bit of a paradox. When placed back to back with his brother, the mile-a-minute party organizer/rapper/occasional vest-wearer H-Kane, he is measured as being slightly modest and always demure. He speaks, walks and exists all in the same manner: firmly, but quietly. He's easy to overlook, frankly.
Put a microphone in his hand though, and he's a whole 'nother person. He's like a bully in a sandbox, knocking over kids' castles and stealing their little plastic shovels and shit*. It's a remarkable, instantaneous transformation. He doesn't turn green, but he might as well.
His talents are most easily identifiable within the battle-rap setting. O.N.E. has an impeccable sense of timing when performing a cappella, making him all but unstoppable if he decides to aim the entirety of wit and fury at your forehead, and that's almost always a death sentence when recording an actual album (See: Tha Emcee, Jin). But O.N.E. mostly avoids that on Last O.N.E. Standing, his lone solo release from last year.
*Hereafter, any time a rapper has an especially dominant performance, he will be said to have gone into Bully In A Sandbox Mode.
Y'allmustaforgotability: 91 percent
Best Song on the Album: "Chain." More on this in a second.
Best Feature on the Album: The pinch-mouthed Propain nabs this spot for his showing on "Dafiant" [sic], wherein his about-to-explode rage plays perfectly against O.N.E.'s naturally distilled demeanor.
Argument You Immediately Have With Yourself After The Album Is Over: Have I been unnecessarily dismissing Lil Flip?
There is no shortage of good tracks on this tape, but "Chain," which features a marvelously fringe-free (and occasionally squeaky) verse from Lil Flip, is among the best. It's chippy and smart and semi-thematic and O and Flip fit together like puzzle pieces. Listening to it, it's very easy to see how Flip was, at one point, the most commercially famous rapper in the history of Houston rap.
A Separate, More Involved Argument You Immediately Have With Yourself After The Album Is Over: Are people implicitly biased? (Answer: Yes.)
On "Disgraced Nation," O.N.E. starts with this:
"A disgraced nation, never really healed from the past so all around is misplaced hatred."
It's a pungent, insightful line that pokes the notion that everyone has gotten over that whole slavery thing with a stick. Beyond the punch lines and pseudo-assertions*, O reveals himself to be heady at times, which, in part, helps explain why he's yet to blast off into the rap stratosphere.
It's just hard to convince a DJ that someone rapping about civil oppression and lobbing accusations of socialism at George W. Bush is the most efficient way to get a club hype.
*At one point on the album O postulates, "I guess that I'm God-like." The dissectability of that statement is splendid.
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Obscure Fact(s) You Can Pawn Off As Your Own To Make Yourself Look Smart:
O.N.E.'s family name is Brock, which is traditionally a name reserved for either professional wrestlers and superheroes. Somehow, he became neither. The premise of the Labeling Theory doesn't appear to be entirely correct.