Houston is the definition of a metropolitan sprawl. Though the city itself may not be that expansive, surrounding suburban cities like Pearland, The Woodlands, Katy and Spring are commonly accepted as an extended part of the Bayou City. As Houstonians, we take pride in music that represents our city, whether it is King's X, Bun B or Blue October, we gladly claim it as ours. However, for those who live on the outskirts, that H-Town pride does not compare when you hear somebody shout out the county that you’re from, or another city that is the size of your own. The songs on this outer-Looper list give me that sense of pride that I imagine people from Luckenbach feel when they hear that Waylon Jennings classic.
10. TRAVI$ SCOTT, “I Can Tell”
The Missouri City native, who attended Elkins High School in Fort Bend County, dropped a line into the 13th track on his major label debut, Rodeo. He ends the first verse by telling the listener, “I can tell you about them nights in Fort Bend.” The song talks about his journey from working in a home studio to working with one of the most successful rappers ever, Kanye West.
9. Z-RO, “Mo City Don"
This really wouldn’t be a list of Houston-ish songs without Ridgemont’s favorite son, Z-Ro, who actually goes by the stage name of MO City Don now. This song is not popular just among residents of Missouri City; it’s a Houston classic, a playlist staple. If you don’t know the words to this song, you might not even be from Houston, much less Mo City.
8. ARCADE FIRE, “The Woodlands National Anthem”
Although the Grammy-winning indie band has long been based in Montreal, the Butler brothers paid tribute (of sorts) to their teenage home on their debut album, released way back in 2003. I’m not sure if The Woodlands has an official city song, but this one should be in the running if it's looking.
7. BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, “Sugarland"
This is another song (an outtake from Born In the USA) that finds its way onto this list by way of a happy coincidence. Springsteen croons in the beginning that he’s “sitting down at the Sugarland bar,” which instantly evokes images of Flying Saucer and Pennison’s, which is where I think you’d most likely find Bruce if he ever ventured into Sugar Land.
6. Z-RO FEAT. GUCCI MANE & CHRIS WARD, “Haters Got Me Wrong”
The Mo City Don finds himself on this list twice, not because of himself but because of one of the artists featured on this track with him, Gucci Mane. As you may or may not know, Gucci was recently released from prison, and on this track he reminisces on his time “locked up in Fort Bend County.” It seems even the Trapgod has had some trouble on the outskirts of H-Town. Here's hoping things go a little more smoothly this Sunday at the Ayva Center, not terribly far from Fort Bend County.
5. DRAKE FEAT. TRAVI$ SCOTT, “Company"
This song made the list for two reasons. First, no, Drake is not from Houston, but he sure loves to rep the Bayou City. On this song, Jimmy from Degrassi expresses his desire for a girl from Houston while holed up in the St. Regis off Briar Oaks, and can you blame him? The second reason is the man featured on this track, our old friend Travi$ Scott. This song was the 14th track on the 6God's quasi-album-quasi-mixtape If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late, which got a tremendous amount of attention; just another example of Scott doing huge things in music. It gives me chills every time I get to the bridge where Scott says he’s “on a Mo City trip right now,” because Drake is the biggest thing in the rap industry right now and to hear him putting his hometown on like that, on someone else’s release, is just spectacular, to put it plainly.
4. LEADBELLY, “The Midnight Special”
This short two-minute song from the blues legend Leadbelly is our second to depict troubles with the law on the outskirts of Houston. The Midnight Special is a train that rode by the old Sugarland Prison, which is now called the Beauford H. Jester Pre-Release Center. Says Lead Belly:
If you're ever down in Houston, boy you better walk right
And you better not squabble, and you better not fight
[Notorious lawmen] Bason and Brock will arrest you, Payton and Boone will take you down
You can bet your bottom dollar, that you're Sugar Land bound
3. MAXO KREAM FEAT. THE SAUCE TWINZ, “Astrodome”
Southwest Alief Texas (SWAT) native Maxo Kream teamed up with fellow Houstonians the Sauce Twinz on this track from last year’s #Maxo187. Now, I don’t fully endorse the subject matter behind this song, which includes a plethora of Houston suburban areas, including Missouri City, The Woodlands, Katy and Pearland. As expected owing to the presence of Sauce Walka on this track, there is also a ton of colorful, zany wordplay.
2. SUGARLAND, “Sugarland”
You knew the country band from Atlanta who took their name from Sugar Land would make an appearance on this list. This song is about the lead singer’s formative years in the Houston suburb, and definitely depicts the city as far more country than it actually is. I mean, we have a Torchy’s and a Whole Foods right next to each other; I think we’re a long way away from riding our horses to school, if anyone actually does that. Regardless, it’s definitely cool to say there’s an award-winning band that took your city’s name (albeit misspelled) as their moniker.
1. SLIM THUG FEAT. CHAMILLIONAIRE, PAUL WALL, MIKE JONES, BUN B, Z-RO, TRAE THA TRUTH, LIL' O, BIG POKEY, MIKE D, LIL KEKE, ROB G & YUNG REDD, “Welcome 2 Houston"
I know what you’re thinking: “I thought this list was about songs that aren’t about Houston,” and you’re right; this song fits in just as well as any of the other nine. This nine-minute cypher is practically a definitive who's who in Houston’s storied hip-hop history. However, Chamillionaire hails from Jersey Village, Z-Ro is from the Mo and Bun is from Port Arthur. This song creates an aura of friendship among all of these guys from different corners of the city, and shows even though they might be from the Southwest, or the North, they are all from Houston at the end of the day.