2014 might have seen Houston embrace its trap side harder than any previous year. The visual side of local rap didn't offer much change, though, moving more into singular-focused shots of artists and their surroundings. The issue here is that some of the city's more provocative videos -- Doughbeezy's "I'm From Texas," DeLorean's "Picture Me Swangin'" remix and a few others -- won't necessarily see the light of day until 2015, sadly missing this particular list but getting a huge leg up in the run for next year.
Even the most splattered and visceral images, those that made Maxo Kream's "Lewinsky" video for example last year's best were relatively gone in 2014. In their place stood plenty of posturing, self-aggrandizing shots that brought Houston artists' love for standing in certain spaces front and center.
With apologies to Just Brittany's "Something Different," Doughbeezy's "Bumpin" and Lil Keke's "It Didn't Matter" (to name a few), these 11 of the year's best videos all decided to either dance around the concept of superhero talk or embrace it head-on.
11. BeatKing feat. Gangsta Boo, "Come Off Dat" I've been afraid of Gangsta Boo since 2008. Back when Gucci Mane was barely scratching the surface of releasing mixtape after mixtape, his Hard to Kill tape dropped and "Stick 'Em Up" decided to be the anthem between me and my friends. Has Gangsta Boo always been threatening on record? Yes, even when being sexual on OutKast's "Call Before I Come" and before that on Three 6 Mafia tracks.
"Come Off Dat" just kicked in plenty of old, nostalgia Three 6 moments from the horrorcore approach to BeatKing in a Jason mask. It bats leadoff on their Underground Cassette Tape Music mixtape which has gotten so much praise it made a Rolling Stone year-end listicle. Thing is, you see Gangsta Boo rap the things she says. You see BeatKing turn Halloween into his own personal twerk playground and you literally have zero idea whether to be afraid or aroused. And that is a scary damn feeling.
10. Travi$ Scott feat. Young Thug & Rich Homie Quan, "Mamacita" This will not be the only time you see Travi$ Scott's name pop up in regards to the end of the year in Houston rap. It is also not the only time you will see love for his Days Before Rodeo mixalbum, which showed up at our doorstep this summer and expanded on the game plan that Owl Pharaoh revealed last year.
On the surface, "Mamacita" is a near holy trinity of new-age weirdo rap. There's Young Thug spastically dancing and flaying about with his almost skeletal six-foot frame, and Rich Homie Quan, who seems normal even though he reminds many of David Ruffin. Then there's Scott, letting his body be surrounded by zombie strippers, plenty of post-apocalyptic imagery and Christ references, among other things that stand out. The fun part? That there may finally be some middle ground where Houston's noncomformist flamboyant side can exist with its grit-and-floss side and everybody is aware of it.
9. Fat Tony feat. Trpl Blk & Akhl Sesh, "Insecure" Oh, to have dated Overweight Anthony then versus dating him now. In the summer, weeks after we had already laid out our mid-2014 best-of list, Fat Tony snuck in "Insecure," a track dealing with flames past and present featuring Trpl Blk and Akhl Sesh. The concept was decent enough on record; watching it stretch to perfection on camera is even better.
You see, unless you pin down a high number of your exes and parade them around in a circle in a Christmas Carol-like twist, something like "Insecure" may not work. Instead, our director here slices around certain instances and fixates Tony and Blk on a double date where past and present may collide. Argue it down or not, Fat Tony and company always try to put a little something different when it comes to presentation. Remember the "U Ain't Fat" video?
8. T.H.E.M., "Shaolin Blow" Know what's a different course of action? Turning into the literal hype for a fight. Since the dawn of "bro life," a gym playlist has been as essential as spray-tan oil. T.H.E.M.'s "Shaolin Blow" is as Wu-Tang as it gets for the expressive and eclectic Houston collective, with karate kicks in the background and multiple verses all geared towards individual skill sets.
So why would you pay attention to watching a bunch of guys, who may or may not truly exist, watch two dudes prepare for an MMA fight? Easy. There's a slick inner storyline working within "Shaolin Blow," one of Danny Ocean and Evesborough Films' overlooked talents. The ability to tie in conflict is key with sharp cuts and focuses on each fighter thinking each may come out on top. Only winner here is the director and the soundtrack he's basing the story on.
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7. Kirko Bangz feat. August Alsina, "Rich" It happened. We finally got a glimpse into a different facet of Kirko Bangz for a national audience. "Rich" is no different from any other moment-of-clarity speech that Bangz has delivered on mixtapes in regards to taking care of his mother or family. However, the label green-lit something that stretched Kirk Randle from being a lothario or "Drake-clone," as those lazy media types have cast him, and instead made him humble.
The thing about "Rich" from a visual aspect is Kirko is trying to make ends meat by any means and his own hubris of wanting it fast be his undoing. It's a common dig for anybody who has taken a crash course in coming-of-age drug tales. At least it gave those who think bigger of Kirko something to run and tell everybody about.
6. Sauce Twinz feat. Flame, "2 Legited" If you want to watch a superhero in action, watch Sauce Walka. Another video on this list shows where he's possibly toned it down, but "2 Legited" shows how one-half of the Sauce Twinz really gets down. From the onset, the point here is to show off what Walka can do when turned up to a 10.
There are women, plenty of women, and the guy hopping out of the red coupe with all of them on his arms and his pants barely holding onto his waist is a hero to plenty. Walka and company completely take over the Mosaic high-rises, turning the same spot Kirko Bangz used as a moment of serenity for his own debauchery. The crew eats good; lives even better in the eyes of The Sauce Factory. They're just making viewers plenty aware of it.
5. DeLorean feat. Scotty ATL, "Lately" Last year, DeLorean used Atlanta as a second home, a red-clay paradise to where much of Grace was delivered in various ways. There was the creep and ride of Tha Bluff for "Breathe" and Chad Tiennes' splash of colors and isolation on "Sing On Key." The flame wasn't extinguished on DeLorean's love for the new "Black Hollywood," just opened up even more.
Sitting on the stoop and surveying the land is all "Lately" makes itself out to be. DeLorean on screen has been about a few things, honesty being chief among them. Even when he's possibly getting hustled by street cats, his eyes stay focused on what's in front of him. It's simple, rather effective but DeLorean decides with "Lately" that he still is that little ghetto boy.
4. Doeman, "Andele" What Jorgey Films had with Le$ was car culture and glimpses of glamour behind the wheel of a BMW. What he has with Doeman is something different and more powerful. Some directors and some actors try to pull the best out of one another every minute. DiCaprio has Scorsese; Christopher Nolan has a wide range of actors and actresses. Jorgey Films has Doeman and in turn, they've become the Mexican-American DiCaprio and Scorsese.
Rap-wise, on "Andele" Doeman runs into that brief stretch of time when DiCaprio was beloved for What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet -- it's not Titanic, but it's coming real close to that moment. Here Doeman gets pitted like a hero; a scarred man who understands family loyalty supersedes any macho lone-wolf nonsense. Hence the mention of his car accident here, of his pops still going to work and his heritage of being a runt in a family of boxers. You root for Doeman the same way you root for anybody else: he's engaging as shit.
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3. Slim Thug feat. Sauce Twinz, 5th Ward JP, "Errrbody" Since his departure from major labels to go mostly DIY, Slim Thug hasn't exactly made a big-budgeted video in a while. He has no need to, considering that life for him in some ways is basically a million-dollar movie and the rest of the world happens to be co-stars and extras. "Errbody" represents the loudest track from his Thug Thursdays 2 track and it introduced The Sauce Twinz and 5th Ward JP live and in living color.
First off, it's hot as hell shoot wise if Sauce Walka is the main person dripping marathon sweat while staring at the lens from DJ Young Samm asking about clown rappers and wondering when their time was up. There's plenty of pistols displayed, plenty of boss posture from Slim; ultimately, this is the first Slim Thug video in quite some time where getting to the point is as literal as you think. Considering Sancho Saucy and JP work in moments of brevity here, it's a fascinating look into the latest arc of Slim's career, as he works as a conduit not only for himself but others.
2. Yves, "Juice" Danny Ocean and his Evesborough crew didn't decide this year was the year they'd jump all over the place with the visuals. Keeping Yves Saint into a gritty, New York-esque rap shot for his "Juice" track did wonders, however. Black and white tracks, plenty of gumption and drive, flashes of fangs and gold teeth.
If Yves wanted to make a video strictly featuring the things that make New York viscerally appealing while tossing in Texas pomp, "Juice" was it. Considering the hazy, blurred out visuals that followed suit from his Sincerely Yves EP, the best of the bunch found Yves trapped in bits of the '90s and early '00s, with little glimpses of Ol' Dirty Bastard for good measure.
1. Propain feat. Rich Homie Quan, "2 Rounds" A club video, one featuring a pretty famous dancer/model (Lira Galore), cameos from plenty of big names in rap at the moment (Young Thug, etc.) and plenty of Houston iconography to make it feel big budget yet homely. Propain's "2 Rounds" clip may be from a record that gained most of its steam a year ago and then tapered off near the summer but it's a definite hit with a video to match.
Michael Artis took cues from his forefathers, Dr. Teeth & Mr. Boomtown with plenty of his shots here, close moments of Propain and Rich Homie Quan while also making his celebration seem quaint. Pro has always enjoyed stunting in some areas, remember the "Say I Won't" video proudly putting Hiram Clarke on a jumbotron. "2 Rounds" just made it a bit more natural, in the rapper sense at least.
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