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.South Park MexicanNever Change
(Universal, 2001) A few months ago we interviewed a Northside rapper named Coast for Artist of the Week. One of the things we mentioned about him was that lyrically he had a remarkable ability to deliver a powerful sentiment without feeling at all forced. It's not an easy thing to do (see: 85 percent of all rappers). But as good as he as is at doing it, he's only about half as good as South Park Mexican was on 2001'sNever Change
. Nobody before or since has marshaled the dejection and isolation a lot of inner-city Mexicans feel) near as well as SPM. It's one of the things that made him so necessary. For example, on "Real Gangsta" (When Devils Strike
, 2006), which tells the story of how a kid is pulled into the hustle, he wraps up a kid's entire youth by mentioning that even when his mom finally was able to buy him some new shoes (on sale), "She didn't know, she bought the wrong color/ and they stayed in the closet all summer."
Anybody even remotely close to that type of situation knew exactly what he meant and how shitty a feeling it is/was to always have to worry about gangs, even before you were a part of one. He didn't hyperbolize it, he humanized it. It's the single most powerful moment of that album, and on about 15 of the 17 songs onNever Change
, he elicited that same feeling. "Habitual Criminal" tangentially touches on the unending cycle of incarceration in the inner-city youth experience, a song made especially poignant by him choosing to describe "beautiful kids making honor roll/ 10 years later they on parole." "Bloody War" is an agonizing war cry where the obvious hurt in his voice - say what you will about him, but he has always come off as being acutely aware of his own futility - turns his tough-guy talk into little more than a realization that he may never really matter.
In "Mexican Radio," a remake of the same named song by Wall of Voodoo and the album's accidental magnum opus, he seemingly ambles on about nothing (cars, weed, gambling, strippers, Fruit Loops, astronauts, Kotex) before you realize he's talking about everything (abandonment, human connection, religion among the poor, drug abuse). And those three songs come only a third of the way into the album. The rest is just as strong. It's easy to disregard SPM and his entire catalog now, and you wouldn't be thought irrational for doing so, but retrospectively this was the only way it was going to end. He had to go to prison. It had to be for a long, long time. And it had to ruin his career. Somehow, it validated everything he was talking about. And weirdly, it kind of made all of his music better, especially this album.References
No 18: Swishahouse'sThe Day Hell Broke Loose
No. 19: Chamillionaire and Paul Wall'sGet Ya Mind Correct
No. 20: Z-Ro'sThe Life of Joseph W. McVey
No. 21: Ganksta NIP'sSouth Park Psycho
No. 22: Big Hawk'sH.A.W.K.
No. 23: K-Rino'sTime Traveler
No. 24: Pimp C's
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No. 25: Big Moe'sCity of SyrupRead the rules of The Countdown here.