Musicians frequently discuss their new albums, especially just before they are released, and often the discussion concerns the act’s motivations for producing the music — what mood they were in when this track got laid, or which of their musical influences are being summoned on that song.
But, Houston rap veterans Dirty & Nasty know how they feel about life and art; they’re far more interested in what you are thinking. That’s the thrust behind the duo’s new release, Knowledge Is Queen. As OG Nasty Nique, a.k.a. the Texas Chainsaw or Tominique Roots, puts it, “everything and every feeling referenced or invoked is purposefully done so to not ignore your initial feelings upon listening to the project. Take those feelings, examine them and deconstruct them and really dig deep and ask yourself ‘Why does him saying this make me feel this way?’"
That’s the kind of thinking that separates OG Nasty Nique and Dirty Dog D — sometimes known as D3 or David Landry, depending on the occasion — from other rappers. It’s the mindset that makes Dirty & Nasty a favorite in the 2016 Houston Press Music Awards’ new “Woke” category. And, it’s a key element of Knowledge Is Queen, which will be celebrated with a release party Friday night at Nightingale Room.
It’s a moment for all Houston music fans to celebrate, not just fans of Dirty & Nasty or Roologic, the label they’ve been working with since spring of 2015. The night is going to feature incredible music from the band and opening act Brew; but, it’s also going to be a reminder to all Houston musicians that name recognition and solid gigs come from an ever-necessary blend of talent and perseverance. That blend is required for building a 10-year music career, a milestone Dirty & Nasty will reach in February 2017.
“I am a native Houstonian,” says D3, noting he grew up in Houston’s Fifth Ward. “We met at the University of St. Thomas, here in Houston, in 2003. We were doing music separately and decided to come together and do a side project in 2007. I reached out to Nasty and one other person — Fat Tony — to do a three- person rap group; however, when Fat Tony started doing his solo thing, Nasty and I started to do the group together.”
OG Nasty Nique said he hails from “the Hillcroft, West Airport, Fondren, West Bellfort area of southwest Houston,” and was doing solo work in that area exclusively until he and D3 teamed up. Since then, he says, “We've performed in every kind of venue possible outside of a sports arena. We've done shows on boats, dive bars, houses, art galleries, community centers, on the street, festivals, colleges, elementary schools, the House of Blues, vape shops, parking lots, restaurants, Hot Topic, malls, studios, breweries, backyards, rooftops, smoke shops, etc. Basically, any imaginable terrain for a show, we've done it.”
D3 says the band has gigged with legends like EPMD, The Pharcyde, Paul Wall, Rhymefest and S.U.C., as well as up-and-comers like Alfred Banks and Marcel P. Black. They've hit stages in Atlanta, Denver, Los Angeles, New York and points in between, taking their music to the masses outside the Bayou City. No matter where they’re heard, Dirty & Nasty delivers more than just beats and rhymes. Their Woke nomination is the band’s third HPMA nod.
“We, as a group, were ahead of the curve in Houston as far as saying and making political statements in our music in relation to black freedom and empowerment. Awkwardly so. So much so that it cost us some opportunities for a long time,” OG Nasty Nique admits. “People don't like when you upset deeply held ideas that they felt to be true. People don't like to be wrong, especially in matters of race. I'd like to believe we saw a tide and wave of consciousness coming four to five years ago, but honestly the issues we address as a group have existed since the inception of this nation and haven't ever gone away, it's just cleverly evolved and mutated.”
“We knew from the jump that our projects, while not always ‘conscious,’ would have a concept and have a deeper-than-surface-level meaning," chimes in D3. "As things began to happen in this country, we, being the kind of artists that we are, began to draw inspiration from those things and write about them. What we would like to see occur in society is the system of racism/white supremacy replaced with a system of justice, meaning ‘to make sure that no one is being mistreated and that the people that need the most help, receive the most constructive help.’”
This week’s election and its reverberations might make Knowledge Is Queen essential listening for some people for some time to come. Dirty & Nasty was aware of that before ever knowing the election results.
“Rappers have always been, since Day One, the reporters and the representatives of downtrodden blacks and Latinos," explains OG Nasty Nique. "Rap in itself is literally a political act by birth because it was a direct inner city reaction to law and order doctrines, Vietnam vets returning home mentally shattered, the heroin, and later crack, epidemic in inner cities and the lack of programs and resources being provided to those citizens in the inner cities. We like to believe as a group that we are carrying on in the tradition of not only hip-hop but all African forms of music. Music has always been a vehicle for telling our story, the ugly one that nobody wants to hear.”
Musically, the new album's roll call reads like a Who’s Who of present-day Houston rap. The band’s labelmate Genesis Blu makes an appearance. Cloudopolis artists Mark Drew and Guilla are featured, as is H-Town rapper Mr. X. There’s an appearance by an artist who is identified as (…) on the album, though OG Nasty Nique says, “I don’t even know how they want that pronounced.” Producers include Purple Bastard, I Dream In Stereo, and KewlBeanz.
Beyond tomorrow’s show, fans should be looking for videos soon for “Get It” and “Royals,” two of the new tracks. New Dirty & Nasty merchandise will soon be unveiled. Like many other acts, the band is finalizing its 2017 concert calendar, so check its Web page for approaching show info.
Listen to the new album. Ponder how it makes you feel. Maybe Knowledge Is Queen will do for you what others did for Dirty & Nasty.
“Ultimately, all I want our music to do is the same thing Rage Against the Machine and Nas' music caused me to do — pick up a book and start learning about the world around you and how we interact with one another," says OG Nasty Nique. "The music is the red pill or the rabbit hole; from there everyone takes their own journey to enlightenment and liberation. We just try to be the spark that starts the forest fire.”
Dirty & Nasty celebrates the release of Knowledge Is Queen 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11 at the Nightingale Room, 308 Main Street. Roologic artist Brew opens. Free.