Some rappers happen to be thoughtful, intelligent people. Every Monday, Rocks Off will have some of them here discussing issues relevant to their culture.
This Week's Panel: Jack Freeman, Dallas Blocker, Leelonn, Patrick Sims, Senze
Not Invited: Ja Rule
This Week's Prompt: You all have had some songs with some fairly tough rappers. What's that relationship like? Is it mutual respect because you're both talented? Do the rappers look down on the R&B singers because they're not viewed as being as overtly tough? Or do the R&B singers see the rappers' thugliness as being graceless, abrasive and counterintuitive?
Disclaimer: Normally, this is a round table discussion among prominent Houston rappers. However, in no uncertain terms, there has been a rise in Houston's male R&B talent recently. And since we are unforgiving fans of the music, we reached out to the city's best R&B dudes to get their perspective on some things. This is a two-part series. Here's last week's installment. Ahhhhhhh, yyyyeeaaahhhhh. We're doing this for the nine-trey.
Jack Freeman: It's really ironic to ask because some of the guys that I would vote "Most Likely To Leave The Studio To Catch A Body And Come RIGHT Back With Blood On His Hands" are some of the most genuinely friendly, funny guys I've been around.
It's also ironic because if people had any idea of the abrasive, disrespectful, riot-worthy rap I listen to in my car, they'd swear I was auditioning for the Geto Boys. But it's a mutual respect. I think rappers respect because often times we're here doing things that they would do themselves if they could (sing). And they generally let me do whatever I want on the hooks, so I appreciate them trusting my ear so early in my career.
Dallas Blocker: I've been working with some of the more known Texas rappers for a while now. It really never made me feel any kind of way because I was used to being in that role. See, I went to Kashmere High School, Key Middle School and was used to dealing with street cats.
One code that people have to know is Be Yourself. A street dude will always respect that. I believe your gift will make room for you and that's what it did for me. I'm very grateful for my track record, which includes Trae the Truth, Z-Ro, Slim Thug, Lil Flip, Paul Wall, Tum Tum, Rob G, Lil Keke and many others. I learned never to be something I'm not, but at the same time be all things to all people.
Leelonn: I see it more as a mutual respect. I usually work with rappers that I am a fan of, whether it be before hand or common interest in music. That keeps the sense of hunger and the explosion of creativity for both of us.
Also, I try to have some kind of relationship with them so I can know the type of person they are before the music is recorded. I don't consider myself a fan of the typical "thug" rapper or "thug" style in music. I lean towards music with a timeless meaning.
Patrick Sims: There's definitely a mutual respect. I've worked with a few rappers and they all make the same "I wish I could sing" comment, just like I wish I could rap.
Rapping seems fun and like a more expressive form of artistry. But it is true, singers are always viewed as "soft," which is why singers try and act all hard core now. I sing and I express my emotions, I keep a fresh fade and my jeans actually fit - sorry.
But I don't feel any need to sing on stage in a wife beater and fitted, or tattoo my entire body to prove I'm just as "hard" as you. The hybrid singer/rapper isn't for me, and the double standard doesn't bother me. A rapper can wear whatever, say whatever, and do whatever, because at the end of the day, his thugliness always prevails. It comes with the territory, and I'm not phased by it.
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Senze: Anytime I'm in the lab with a hip-hop feature, I view them as an artist creating just like I would. It's no different than if I was doing a hook for them. It's all love, it's all respect because they're there to make the record hotter. In most cases I'm very familiar with the feature's music and track record as an artist, and usually a relationship has been built outside the studio as well.
I don't think I would work with anyone that I didn't consider talented or that I didn't think could bring the same energy and creativity to a record that I have. Features are used to enhance an already solid concept and idea; it's like icing on the cake. And usually as R&B artists, we seek after that hip-hop feature to cross-market the record and give it that street credibility sometimes needed to solidify the commercial success of the record.