Books

How Two White New Yorkers Created the Ultimate Portrait of Houston Rap

If this weather's got you interested in curling up on the couch with a warm blanket and a good book, you're in luck. Sinecure Books has just put out a great one: photographer Peter Beste's Houston Rap, a years-in-the-making picture book detailing the locals and locales that have defined the city's hip-hop scene for more than two decades.

If you're envisioning a few dozen pages of gold grills and Cadillacs, go ahead and stop right there. This may be a coffee-table book, but it's no superficial treatment. Beste set out to create a historical document of a very specific time and place in the American experience. Since 2004, he's been snapping photos in the streets, clubs, studios and living rooms where H-town rap has been and continues to be a way of life, and he brought in writer Lance Scott Walker to help collect an authoritative oral history of the scene and its major participants dating back to its earliest days.

Scarface and Mike Jones are in there, sure, as are as plenty of guns, gold and drank. But you'll also find arresting images of boarded-up storefronts, after-hours strip joints, overgrown parking lots and the colorful people who populate such places. Houston Rap is the most intimate and detailed portrait yet of the faces, places and problems in Houston's oldest remaining black communities -- not to mention the bass-heavy soundtrack to daily life there.

So how did a couple of white dudes living and working in New York City come to spend nearly a decade diving so deeply into such a closed-off, localized world? Turns out they were hooked early, as music-obsessed kids growing up on the fringes of what was once considered just another anonymous 'burg in the great hip-hop wasteland between NYC and L.A.