The H-Town Countdown, No. 10: OG Style's I Know How to Play 'Em!
Roughly 84,000 rap albums have been released in Houston since 1989. We're counting down the 25 best of all time every Thursday. Got a problem with the list? Shove it. Just kidding. Friendship. Email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Rap-A-Lot/Priority, 1987) There are any number of reasons that you could point to as to why this album should've made the list. Here are a few: 1. It's one of the earliest Rap-A-Lot albums to be released, back before the label really got its hooks dug in and had its wayward formula for producing regional stars formatted. This is identifiable by OG Style's young and charismatic MC, Eric Woods, who seemed to arrive already pristine in style. The group's aura leaned towards his will, resulting in a clear East Coast bent. Culturally, it is a measuring point for where the Houston sound was (or, rather, was not) at the time. You needn't look much further than "This Is How It Should Be Done," which flips Eric B. and Rakim's "I Know You Got Soul," for an example of that. Or you could just to listen to six seconds of any song. Either way works.
2. Historically speaking, the album is a gem, due in no small part to the fact that both members of the group have passed. New copies can be had for about $168. Also, the history of "OG Style" can be somewhat confusing -it started out as a duo formed by Eric "The Original E" Woods and DJ Boss, but after DJ Boss left to pursue another venture Woods kept the name for himself - which seems like it makes it feel even more important somehow. And that bleeds into this next point.
3. This album serves the speculative nature of music historians and critics wonderfully, as there are several underlying components that have never fully been vested. For example, most obviously, there is a somewhat hostile vibe to a few of the songs because they were (allegedly) subtle shots directed at then label mate Raheem. Incidentally, this helps to give what might otherwise be considered mundane tracks an enviable amount of gravitas. More curiously though, is that it's explicitly stated within the album itself that the title of the LP was to have been Funky Payback, and there's a song on the album with that name. Obviously, that is not the case, so this seems a fairly humdrum point to bring up initially.
However, it's entirely feasible that the duo had every intention of naming the album Funky Payback and Rap-A-Lot changed the title simply because they wanted to. Remember, this is the early '90s. At the time, Rap-A-Lot likely was already eyeing that aggressive image of urban dystopia and discord that the Geto Boys perfected. "I Know How To Play 'Em!" is a considerably more belligerent title than "Funky Payback." Who's going to be intimidated by an album called "Funky Payback"? It sounds like a bad blackspoitation movie or a sex move that involves the butthole. So the misnomer might be one of the first signs we get that Rap-A-Lot would ultimately see fit to treat their artists however the hell they wanted to, so long as it served the label's own ego. In which case, that would be huge. Of course, all of this is conjecture, which gets us back to the core of the original premise of this bullet: music critics are smarmy worms who like to extrapolate tiny bits of information into thesis statements. This album lets you do that magnificently. But the real reason that this album actually made the list is simple: Our wife knows all of the words to one of its songs.
Rap is to our wife what good manners and common decency are to our two-year-olds: not some shit you're going to find in the same room together. Which is why it blew our brains out when the "Free World" skit came on while we were listening to the tape a few months ago and she started rapping along. She literally knew every single word. Imagine getting into your car to go to work tomorrow morning and finding a dead body in the backseat. The face that'd you make when you first saw the body, that's the face we were making while she was rapping the song. We would have been less surprised had she suddenly grown wings and flew out the window. When we asked her why she knew the song she dryly responded, "Dude, everybody knows this fuckin' song. Get a clue." And then she grew some wings and flew out the window. No shit.References11. Z-Ro, Let The Truth Be Told12. Street Military, Don't Give a Damn13. DJ Screw, 3 N' Tha Mornin' Pt. 2 (Blue)14. Trae, Restless15: Chamillionaire, Mixtape Messiah16: Bushwick Bill, Little Big Man17: SPM, Never Change18: Swishahouse, The Day Hell Broke Loose19: Chamillionaire and Paul Wall, Get Ya Mind Correct20: Z-Ro, The Life of Joseph W. McVey21: Ganksta NIP, South Park Psycho22: Big Hawk, H.A.W.K.23: K-Rino, Time Traveler24: Pimp C, Pimpalation25: Big Moe, City of SyrupRead the rules of The Countdown here.
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