The H-Town Countdown, No. 12: Street Military's Don't Give a Damn
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. Street Military Don't Give a Damn (Wild Pitch, 1999)
Surprise. Kids, meet Street Military. If you know who they are, then you no doubt sing their praises at parties, business meetings, funerals, whatever. If you don't know who they are, don't feel too badly. They've somehow slipped their way into "It Might Make Me A Houston Rap Elitist That I Listen To These Guys Still" status. Street Military was a five-member rap team made up of four MCs (KB Da Kidnappa, Lil' Flea, Pharoah, Icy Hott) and one hypeman (Nut) that peaked early in the mid-'90s. For some reason, Icy Hott is regularly listed as an accompanying DJ and Nut is listed as a rapper; however, this is incorrect. KB confirmed this in a recent interview. And since he a) has a video or two of himself on Youtube knocking people out; and b) carries a snake around town that's so large it literally wears its own necklace, we're inclined to pretty much never question anything he ever says. Snake be damned, at the beginning of writing The Countdown, we had every intention of leaving these guys off the list. We really, really did. We even specifically mentioned them as not making the cut during our precap of the rules. But, ultimately, their seven-song strong thunderstorm of an EP, Don't Give A Damn, had two things going for it that just could not be ignored.
Actually, to clarify a bit: There are six legitimate songs on the EP; the seventh is an outro. But really though, even that one is kind of significant, because it mimics Randy Travis' "Forever and Ever, Amen" - except that in Travis' version, where he talks about the depth of his love, SM croons about the relative size of their testicles. Genre-jumping is something just about every Houston MC has come to perfect since the late eighties. SM didn't invent it, but here they flipped it about as unabashedly as anybody ever would. Anyhow, there were two big things this almost-album had going for it. First, despite being only a handful of songs long, DGAB is way influential. It has been mimicked/hat-tipped/copied/sampled to no end. Street Military was among the first to offer up that Tommy gun-spit that went nationwide in the mid-90s - rumor has it that Eazy-E checked them out early n their careers, only to later link up with the similarly-styled Cleveland based fivesome Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - and helped pioneer the rolling-thunder gangster rhythm that they used with such great intensity. It melded over time to become one of the two most recognizable rap sounds to come out of Houston.
Working backwards through Houston's rap discography, you needn't look any further than Z-Ro's Cocaine to see Street Military's fingerprints. He blatantly hat-tips them at least four times, including naming a song after Don't Give A Damn and likening himself to the incarcerated Pharoah on "Type Of Nigga I Am," which is actually a title taken from the B-side of Street Military's first cassette. Not coincidentally, Ro's version also features that signature Street Military-esque sound swell. Z-Ro is so meta. Secondly, the album cover* is damn near iconic, and just might be a perfect representation of rap culture in 1993; a picture of all five guys sitting in KB's older step-brother's '63 Impala, flat-brimmed hats and pre-Locs Locs, the sun reflecting off the windshield in a manner that somehow allows you to see each of them without really seeing any of them. This was likely an accident, but if you're feeling particularly assholish, you could probably argue it was meant as a parallel of Ralph Ellison identifying the non-identity of black men in American society in Invisible Man. You'll probably want to be smoking tobacco from a pipe when you make this assertion; it helps. *When we interviewed KB, he was literally standing in the yard of the house where that picture was taken. "Yeah, at my Aunt Margie's house," he laughed. How can you not appreciate that?
So why have you (possibly) not heard of these guys? DGAD was released originally as the third album from SM through Beatbox and Wild Pitch, both of which are often blamed for SM's lack of national acclaim. And it's mostly because of a terrible marketing blunder.
The most representative track off the EP is the title one, an aggressive, unforgiving, cut-up, bassy punch in the mouth. But Wild Pitch elected to campaign the somewhat more polished, noticeably more West Coast-ish "Tears Came From Making This Dream," invariably leading to little more than approbation from music purists and Texas rap-heads. Nobody outside of those two groups really recognized the depth of what they were doing at the time. Said KB of the snafu: "I don't know what the fuck they were thinking." SM eventually went by the way of the underground underdog, splintering off and releasing individual or duo albums along the way. Sure, there will never be another proper Street Military album released - Pharoah is serving a 509-year bid for aggravated assault and kidnapping, and Nut was murdered in a drive-by a little more than a decade ago - but from a cultural standpoint, that might actually make this album even more important. Can't believe we almost didn't include this on here. If you see us in the street, please punch us square in the nose. Thank you. References 13. DJ Screw, 3 N' Tha Mornin' Pt. 2 (Blue) 14. Trae, Restless 15: Chamillionaire, Mixtape Messiah 16: Bushwick Bill, Little Big Man 17: SPM, Never Change 18: Swishahouse, The Day Hell Broke Loose 19: Chamillionaire and Paul Wall, Get Ya Mind Correct 20: Z-Ro, The Life of Joseph W. McVey 21: Ganksta NIP, South Park Psycho 22: Big Hawk, H.A.W.K. 23: K-Rino, Time Traveler 24: Pimp C, Pimpalation 25: Big Moe, City of Syrup Read the rules of The Countdown here.
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