"There was so much..."
You could take that however you want but it's true. Houston rap offered so much in 2014 that it caused a slight delay in trying to properly rate it for a year-end review. That's right, a delay.
There are probably more than 1,000 Houston rap songs that filtered through someone's speakers in 2014. Only 12 of them will truly matter in the long run; or at least will mean something to you going into 2015. You will christen your children to these songs, you will carry them with you until you die and then your children's children can tell stories about how you did the whip to some of them. You heard them on either of the city's two traditional rap stations, which yielded more gravity towards local music on the airwaves than maybe in decades. It all worked, and we're all the better for it.
12. Kirko Bangz feat. August Alsina, "Rich" For those who have been taking notes about Kirko Bangz, they know his more introspective and fulfilling stuff like "Vent 3" off of Progression V somehow gets buried beneath the narrative that he's a playboy who only wants life's excesses and nary of the vices. He did a lot of revealing in 2014, namely falling in and out of love with a stripper and how he's more focused than ever; but he also found a balance with "Rich," utilizing August Alsina's boy-on-the-corner croons to prove a point about his own songwriting capabilities.
Trying to ease his mom's concerns and making sure he keeps the family satisfied, "Rich" became the first record in Bangz's catalog presented to a national audience that proved it indeed was "bigger than him" in regards to his own success. Kirk Randle can run and prove things, but it'll never be enough if everybody around him can't win either. That's "Rich" in a nutshell.
11. D Boss feat. J-Dawg, Slim Thug, Paul Wall & M.U.G., "Big Ballin 2K14" For a time, the most memorable freestyles from Houston hailed from the Northside. Yes, "June 27th" owns much of the city's freestyle lexicon; same for Z-Ro's "Mo City Don," but those Swishahouse freestyles -- namely "Drank In My Cup" and "Big Ballin" -- owned a chunk of attention for years, decades even.
D Boss was yet another trap artist who saw room to eat in 2014. Updating a Swishahouse classic with three key ingredients that made the House what it was in its heyday was essential. Getting a verse from the late M.U.G., whose death remains maybe the one truly bleak moment about Houston rap in 2014, was icing on the cake. Plus, there's no getting away from that "Ball of Confusion"-style production flip.
10. Slim Thug feat. Sauce Twinz & 5th Ward JP, "Errrbody" Maybe in October, when my non-music-critic friends usually get ahold of whatever is buzzing in the city, is when I had my first actual conversation about Slim Thug's "Errrbody". The first quotes, of course, came in regard to Sauce Walka's ad-libs, 5th Ward JP's blatant announcement of what set he bangs and why people hate him regardless, and whether or not the song even belonged to Slim in the first place.
It's a Slim record, definitely, an alley-oop that not only shows he's capable of working with younger acts; see him reverting back to almost peak Slim mode on his "0 to 100" freebie with DeLorean & Doughbeezy. There's a few life lessons to get out of "Errrbody," including how to address someone as sweet ("chocolate cookie"), why people won't combine to make money and the fight-or-flight idea of feeling froggy.
9. BeatKing feat. DJ Chose, "Stand Behind Her" We would be remiss if there was not a single selection from BeatKing on this list. Namely because as an entity, performer, social-media giant and parent that we all can trust, BeatKing gets one thing right about MCing better than almost anybody else in the city: presence and command. He's made strip club records before. He's commanded radio for far longer stretches than what "Stand Behind Her" has. He works with DJ Chose in a realm where the both of them just vibe off one another like Penny & Shaq in the mid-'90s.
The Ray Rice punchline may stick to being something we only remember in 2014, but the rest is standard BeatKing. Now if only he taught us how to deal with a certain woman in front of us to begin with.
List continues on the next page.
8. Sauce Walka feat. Flame, "Legited" It may be bare bones. It may have the most repetitive chorus of 2014, but for some reason or another "Legited" became yet another club staple for a rapper who's shown in other solo moments (the J-Dawg channeling "Black On Black Crime") that he can humanize his own gaudy personality.
Here are two examples of Sauce Walka's personality dominating everything within a four-mile radius: "I made your bitch get naked on FaceTime, I saw more than her titties...Legit in the county, I was whupping niggas for a piece of a brownie." That's like James Harden straight punking the rest of the league into admitting he's the best 2-guard in the game.
7. George Young feat. KDOGG & Rob Gullatte, "Creative" People used to give George Young a shit-ton of grief for not releasing Ventage sooner. That he held on to it just as long as his belief that the Astrodome should be blown up for the sake of the Texans' future. Even though some of the tracks from said tape existed in previous spaces ("Phat Beach"), "Creative" found its way to do two things meticulously well.
Traditionally, Houston rap has been in favor of rappers who are impressed with their aplomb. But the city has also stuck with some rappers who seem just as capable of having a beer and scrapping together check by check in order to survive. Young, along with KDOGG and Rob Gullatte, deals with the latter of these two groups; sometimes, true grit wins out.
6. DeLorean feat. Mitchelle'l, "Picture Me Swangin'" The question is going to be this, are you going to look back and enjoy DeLorean's "Picture Me Swangin'" gloss-and-gleam record more than his squelchy, man-on-the-corner banger "Lately"? The answer is both but in terms of making people gravitate towards his Look Alive project, "Picture Me Swangin'" earned all the gravitas.
For all the great things DeLorean has skill-wise, crafting a radio single eluded him in 2014. No matter how hard we rooted for certain tracks on any of his previous tapes, "Picture Me Swangin'" won out thanks to a '70s-blaxpoitated bump from producer Cory Mo and an "all eyes on me" feel to it. Now if we could have only gotten the video to place a nice bow on things.
5. Chedda Da Connect feat. Boston George, "Flicka Da Wrist" Fred On Em, to his credit, has crafted far denser and more spaced-out tracks for people. However, Chedda Da Connect takes the kind of space where you only need a bevy of drums, a few synths and little to nothing else. Drop "Flicka Da Wrist" in the right setting at the right time and expect bodies to sway and move. There will be a 700 percent increase in makeshift culinary chefs, trust me on this.
"Flicka Da Wrist" broke Chedda Da Connect into this weird Houston rap world, the one where you get instantly labeled something from the moment your first song breaks. Cruel world, but if we know anything about Chedda, making money and continuing to do so is going to be his catalog from here on out.
4. Sosamann feat. Sauce Walka, "Did a Whole Lot" If we really learned anything from Bobby Shmurda getting more charges lobbed against him than the number of people who hit the Shmoney Dance this year, we learned that you can brag about your dealings in the street as long as you don't name the names of your crew members in a song later on down the road. That, sadly, becomes evidence.
Sosamann, on the other hand, can claim to have put a hole in somebody the size of a bagel on the hyperactive "Did a Whole Lot." Sauce Walka, who already admits to plenty of things on wax, can tell you who he's slept with, what gun he's carried and how much dirt he's done to get to this point. Bro Dini and the Trackwhippaz gave the clubs something here and Sosa can now say he was an oracle -- he made another song that made the whole club rock.
List continues on the next page.
3. Z-Ro, "Walking Hard" Before the summer was up, Z-Ro's "Walking Hard" had assumed the mantle as the best song of 2014. Beanz N Kornbread know how to twist not only emotion but also cadence and style. They can take Z-Ro, one of their prized collaborators, and take him to many places. "Walking Hard" took Z-Ro to flipping the Isley Brother's "Footsteps In the Dark" to wax poetic about riding candy in the summer, his own mentality as a man from Mo City and fighting temptation to avoid being once more part of the Texas Department of Corrections.
Only Ro and Beanz N Kornbread could make a happy, shimmering rap record where they could care less about what you think about them.
2. Doughbeezy, "I'm From Texas" Anytime you compare the size of your rims to that of your six-year-old child, you're putting yourself in rather distinct company. Doughbeezy has always relied on wit more than force to get his point across. On "I'm From Texas" he decides to use both, one being Trakksounds' elephant-in-the-trunk-sized drums and chants and Dough's charm to highlight everybody who may find themselves a fan of his and of the state at large.
Then there's the video: post-apocalyptic, soothsaying moments from Pimp C and DJ Screw and Dough draping himself in the flag of the Lone Star State to prove where he called home has its own history of insular success.
1. OneHunnidt feat. E.S.G. & Bee Honey, "Screw Culture" When I wrote about "Screw Culture" in early October, who knew it would finish the year as the top song of 2014? Many are going to argue against it, and they're going to lose. As often as Houston embraced its trap sound in 2014, those songs could get thrown in a DJ mix and eventually fade out: good for the moment, but not all-time.
"Screw Culture" remains OneHunnidt's best song because of what it sets out to prove and achieves. It's a radio single that insists on body-rocking slow, not puffing its chest out. Trakksounds contorted Tevin Campbell's bubblegum-smooth "Can We Talk" for Bee Honey to glide over and E.S.G. to run through a list of legends he ran with and happened to be contemporaries of. It's a tough-as-nails rap record that deserves more exposure on a daily basis.
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