Roosh Williams, T2 the Ghetto Hippie, Kyle Hubbard, George Young, Def Perception Walter's Downtown March 7, 2015
It's probably nothing he set out to accomplish, but Roosh Williams kind of can't help but be a symbol of Houston's diversity, both within the rap scene and without. Not only is he just about the only jaw-dropping Persian rapper from the city that we've ever heard of, but his fan base is made up of a veritable Rainbow Coalition of black, white and brown kids hungry for flows harder than any they can hear on the radio these days.
So while Saturday night's show at Walters Downtown was rightfully a celebration of Roosh's biggest release yet -- his new album Unorthodox -- it was altogether fitting that the lineup was stacked with a strong and diverse lineup representing every color, creed and sneaker preference proliferating in the H-town underground circa 2015. If there was a common thread binding them all together, it's that each performer arrived thoroughly steeped in the syncopated lyricism of classic '90s hip-hop.
Northside rapper/producer George Young made his presence felt early with engaging lyrics about the Astrodome and other crumbling local institutions, like the Astros. But at least one blogger in the crowd was completely blown away by local hip-hop live band Def Perception. Proving once again that hip-hop sounds amazing when plugged in, DP flawlessly blended jazz, funk, soul and rock into an irresistible form of hip-hop that had people howling.
The six-piece ensemble, which features drums, keys, bass and turntables, assembled to absolutely wreck the joint between emcees. I couldn't help but wish they could've served as backing band to all of the night's performers, and I'm sure I wasn't alone.
Still, Kyle Hubbard didn't need a lot of help up next for his homecoming set. After a yearlong exile from both Houston and hip-hop, Hubbard was clearly relishing every second of his time onstage, performing new songs including his return single, "Rip the Page," and a homesick rap that was possibly the first in hip-hop history to sample Dean Martin's "Houston."
Kyle had a lot of fans and friends in the building, and they were glad to see him back home at last. After delivering "Along for the Ride," the standout from 2012's You're Not That Special, he told everybody to get reacquainted with seeing him around.
"I'm back, and I'm out for blood," Hubbard said.
After another quick-hitter from Def Perception, T2 the Ghetto Hippie came out next and killed. Wearing his long locks in a samurai bun and his pants perilously low on his scrotum, T2 won over the crowd quickly, dancing across the stage with boundless energy to his woozy beats while he delivered a tight and aggressive flow. The Ghetto Hippie wasn't afraid to smile up there, and he had reason to: the highlight of his set was a closing rendition of "Hustletown," his recent collaboration with H-town icon Z-Ro. Put simply, T2 held his own with the King of the Ghetto. His upcoming album, Southwest Side Story, is going to convert a lot of skeptics.
Story continues on the next page.
Capping off such an impressive lineup would be no easy task, but Roosh Williams had been preparing for this show for quite a while. As a dedicated NBA fan, the rapper clearly knows the value of teamwork, because he brought a crew of performers with him to help ramp up the showmanship. After arriving onstage in a Bane mask and straitjacket, Roosh unleashed his tommy-gun flow on "I'm Extraordinary," he brought out a sexy belly dancer to entice the audience during the pleasingly moist "Persian Rug."
There would be more dancers, including a hypnotic hoop dancer, who delivered the sort of spectacle that even part-time rap fans could appreciate. There were more guest rappers, too, like T2 and Guilla. As he dropped verse after verse, Roosh appeared slightly winded a time or two, but the crowd forgave him easily. He was working awfully hard up there, sweating up a storm and rapping so fast that even longtime backers were left shaking their heads in wonder.
From top to bottom, it was as strong a show as Houston rap has seen so far into the year, and fans were in no rush to go home afterwards. With an ear toward the past and an eye toward the future, Saturday's slate of performers provided a charismatic and engaging bridge between the streetwise authenticity of classic Houston hip-hop and the big-tent coalition of rap fans that will make up the underground scene of the future.
Personal Bias: Ghetto hipster.
The Crowd: Young; multi-colored.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Roooooooosh!"
Random Notebook Dump: Love to see more hip-hop at Walters.
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