Trae and Z-Ro: The Hakeem Olajuwon/Clyde Drexler tandem of Houston hip-hop, if The Dream spoke with a deep voice and Drexler's face was frozen in a perpetual snarl. Arguably the best one-two punch Houston has ever witnessed, over the years these rapping cousins have connected on several slam-dunk throwdowns.
They've also had their share of differences that kept them apart for sometime. But word on the street is that they're cool again. If we're lucky, we'll get some new music from the Assholes by Nature duo. For now, you'll have to settle for their older material. Dig in.
10. "My Momma" Album: A.B.N., Assholes By Nature (2003)
Z-Ro lost his mother when he was just six. But in the brief time they had together, Dorothy McVey filled her son with some life lessons that probably weigh heavier as he gets older. Ro and Trae send those feelings forward through the crackling, sunlit filter of "My Momma." If you listen to this long enough you might even forget where you first heard the beat.
9. "Still Watching Me" (feat. Jay'Ton & Lil' Boss) Album: A.B.N. Mixtape
Remember "Keep Watching Me" from Guerilla Maab's 1999 debut, Rise? This freestyle follows up on that effort, this time with ABN jacking Dr. Dre's "The Watcher." Ro's verbal sparring with Trae puts this one in that rare company of superb non-album cuts. Although most rappers would've retained the original chorus, Ro whipped up a new concoction from scratch.
8. "Rain" Album: A.B.N., It Is What It Is (2008)
A song with this much melody shouldn't be this hard. But when Ro talks about "making it rain" he's not talking about drizzling ones on strippers. Z-Ro kicks things off with his rapid-fire rhymes and melodic singing. Then, Trae comes in with his synthetic flow to seal the deal.
7. "Everyday" Album: Z-Ro, The Life of Joseph W. McVey (2004)
When Trae and Z-Ro collaborate, the latter usually holds down hook duty. "Everyday" flips the table on this formula with some great result. Trae shows off his own singing talent, while his partner in rhyme gets his mind right.
6. "In My City" Album: It Is What It Is
"It's the things that's on my mind, when I be sliding by in my city." So goes the poignant hook to "In My City," the moment when Ro's frustration and paranoia come into focus. This is what it would sound like if "Cause I Love you" and "Overnight Celebrity" bought a couple 40s and went for a Saturday cruise in a Cadillac.
5. "Ain't No Turning Back" Album: Trae, Losing Composure (2003)
All of Trae's desire and determination to succeed and Z-Ro's unbridled confidence uncoiled in one breath. Simply amazing. Sidenote: Z-Ro often drew comparisons to 2Pac in the past because of their eerily similar vocal inflection. Exhibit A: "Ain't No Turning Back."
4. "I Found Me" Album: Z-Ro, King of Da Ghetto (2001)
Ro opened 2001's King of Da Ghetto by flipping the middle finger to everyone who's ever pissed on his grave. In the family of Trae and Ro's discography, "I Found Me" and "No Help" are practically cousins.
3. "1 Night" Album: Z-Ro, Let The Truth Be Told (2005)
Nothing unites Trae and Z-Ro like a heart-tugging eulogy; "1 Night" is a perfect example. The two rattle off a roll call of dead or incarcerated homies they wish to see again, "if only for one night." You can't help but feel their pain.
2. "Who's the Man" Album: It Is What It Is
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Ro and Trae have perfected their one-two punch at this point. To the benefit of ABN fans, "Who's the Man" emerges as a smooth, effortless collaboration. As an added bonus, another H-town masterwork Screw's "Pimp the Pen" is also immortalized in the refrain and in the title.
1. "No Help" Album: It Is What It Is
As soon as that deceptively smooth piano loop drops, you think these dudes are about to sing you a lullaby. Instead, they kick you in the teeth. "First of all, fuck you to every one of y'all." Wait, what are those things standing upright at the base of your skin?