The Rocks Off 200: Noon, Rapper With a Lot on His Mind
Photos by Marco Torres
Who? The Houston rapper who goes by Noon, or Noonston, has a pretty compelling tale to tell and an easy flow, so we'll just let him take it from the top, as unfiltered as one of his rhymes. Here he is:
Who I am is a question I think I just figured out. My whole life has been one big ball of confusion. I'm very proud to say I'm from the Houston Heights -- not the Heights people know today, though, I'm talking back when the street lights didn't work and we moved from duplex to duplex. Confusion started the day I was born. I was switched at birth with my cousin DJ ill-Set, who was also born on the same day in that same hospital.
I grew up this half-white, half-Colombian kid who loved everything about hip-hop. My parents used my grandmother's address to put me in a better school, and that confused me too. At times I felt out of place because I didn't have the things my classmates had. I thought the friends I had in the neighborhood were good enough, and I didn't like that I couldn't go to school with them. Plus I think I had the first case of ADHD and I got into a lot of trouble at a young age.
My father was from that old-fashioned school of discipline. So I spent a lot of time grounded to my room. He was the type that took away anything that plugged into a wall, so all I had was paper and homework. I naturally hated homework, so I started writing raps around the age of eight. I thought if I could write cute raps about how great my parents were, I could get off punishment sooner. So for me it started at a very young age. Its always been escape for me.
Home Base: Noon resides in the Scarsdale part of southeast Houston, where he moved at age 15 and is now the location of his newly-opened Fam-Base Studio. "It was out here where I really got my feet into the ground with hip-hop," he says. "We had freestyle sessions every day at lunch and all the pep rallies. I stayed in the same apartment complex as MC and radio host Kiotti. So we would shut it down, so much so they cancelled pep rallies because we got everyone too excited. We always argued that if we were performing country songs the teachers would join in and sing along."
Other nearby personal landmarks in Noon's story are the original SF 2 store near Almeda Mall (back then, it was just SF) and Pablo Garcia's studio The Music Lab, where Noon says he recorded alongside fellow artists Screwed Up Essay, Lil Spill and Chuckstar.
"I'm proud to say that I am a Music Lab alum," he says. "It's out here that I also linked up with Lunaface Promotions, a company that has looked out for me since the day I met them in 2005. It's 2014 now and I'm honored to have title with the company and perform some of the greatest shows Houston has to offer."
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Why Do You Stay In Houston? "I stay in Houston because it's magnetic," Noon offers. "I've lived in Arkansas and East Texas, but no matter where I go, I just feel Houston pulling me back. This city is so much of who I am that its even become part of my stage name, Noonston Tx. People ask me what that means and it's simple: me and the city are one. That no matter where I go I carry Houston with me.
"My father fled Colombia to make a better life for us and he chose Houston as his home," he adds. "How can I leave that legacy, especially when I'm here carving out my own. Houston is who I am and I'll probably ask for a small piece of it to go in my coffin when I'm laid to rest."
Story continues on the next page.
Good War Story: "My war story is an internal one," explains Noon. "At very young age I formed my first rap label FreeVerse Entertainment with my longtime best friends Nic Names and Nathan Hart.
We were the kind of friends that if you saw one of us you probably saw all three of us. One night we were out at a local bar performing an open mike. After my set time was over we left the venue and I proceeded to drive Nic home. We actually got into a heated argument on the way to his house. He extended his hand to me as a gesture of goodwill, but in my anger I declined and drove away.
The next morning I awoke to multiple missed calls from Nic's family and friends. After I dropped him off at his home the night before, he went inside and cooked himself some food. He fell asleep before turning the stove off and a fire started in the kitchen. That fire would end up being fatal, and Nic passed away.
The year that followed was the toughest year of my life, but things were about to get worse. My last real friend and fellow labelmate DJ and bass player Nathan Hart was diagnosed with oral cancer at the age of 27. I couldn't believe that after losing Nic, we'd have to watch Nathan go through chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
Nathan fought a hell of a fight. After multiple surgeries to remove tumors that just keep spreading, Nathan went in for one more round. He fought a fight he couldn't win, but he fought it like a true warrior, fearless in the face of fear.
When Nic passed it made me turn away from music. Nathan's passing made me vow to never give it up. I vowed that as long as I have air to breath and a voice to speak with, I'm going to use it to connect with the people I love. There isn't a day that passes that I don't think of them and there isn't a song I write that isn't influenced by them. Today FreeVerse Entertainment lives on, with new pieces but the same principles:
Stay loyal, stay strong.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "The cliques," Noon sighs. "It's ridiculous. I know so many artists, and they are all good guys, some of the hardest workers in the scene. But sometimes if they book a show with promoter A, promoter X,Y and Z won't book them.
"It's a bad business model," he continues. "It's honestly hurting our culture in ways I don't think people understand.
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, E.Eternal 1999
- Three 6 Mafia, Chapter 1: The End
- Juvenile, 400 Degreez
- OutKast, ATLiens
- Lionel Richie, Definitive Collection
Best Show Ever: "My best show is a memory I'll have for life," says Noon. "In 2012 I was given the chance to open for the Pharcyde at Fitzgerald's. I knew I had to live up to the history that stage carries. The world's best have performed on that stage, so I wanted to pull out all the stops.
"I called on my stepfather guitarist A.J. Ramos, and my cousins DJ Nando1 [and] drummer Andres Aya, as well as my rhyme-mate Ryno," he continues. "We rehearsed so much, we sold over 100 tickets and we performed in front of a crowd that knew every word of our songs. We brought an energy that felt electric. On that night we became the band known as The Population."
Noon is getting ready to release something he calls "The L.O.C.U.S. Project," which he says stands for "Look Out Cuz Ur Surrounded." It's something he dreamed about as a child and represents his "becoming a full-grown man on the microphone."
"I'm writing this project as a father, a future husband, a blue-collar worker, a concerned citizen, a person that's felt the grips of addiction [and] an artist who [has] lost his closest friends and bandmates," Noon explains. "I'm taking on a lot of issues that cause a lot of divides. This is a project certain groups of people will really dislike. I'm talking about Washington D.C. and calling out politicians by name, corrupt people in all of our political parties.
"I'm even taking a trip there to write the last few songs on the steps of the Capitol," he continues. "To be in there in that element, doing research and gaining fresh perspective. We live in a world now where everything is documented. Everything is filmed and rights are lost daily. Privacy will soon be a thing of the past and this project takes that on too.
"Everything from Michael Hastings to Ted Cruz is touched on," offers Noon. "I don't expect it to be a project to spark a hit record or new dance. It's just one man's convictions on record, a man who's no longer confused about who he is."
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
Matt Cash, Clear Lake's Cassette Tape Wailer Jason Smith, Alkari's Space City Rocker DJ Penetrate, All Lit Up in "Neon Lights" Catch Fever Is Catching On Renée Jonard, Princess of Noise Pollution Junior Gordon, Big Man With a Big Sound Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player Damien Randle, K-OTIX Man of Action Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man DJ Good Grief Knows How to Have Fun Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC
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