This may be the city of candy paint, sippin' lean, and bangin' screw, but the nature of art is progress, and the nature of progress is change.
Houston's hip hop community today is dynamic, multi-layered, and light years beyond its original "chopped and screwed" aesthetic. Its artists range from old school lyrical poets, to new school experimentalists, and everything in between. A new wave of underground and undiscovered artists is pushing the city's music scene forward in ways once unheard of for southern rap.
The following is a rundown of the city's five most exciting underground artists. Names not within the mainstream (yet) but familiar to those who frequent the trenches of Houston's independent music scene. Each one is as uniquely different from the next as they are from the swang and bang mainstream of Houston rap.
After nearly a decade of pursing music as a career, refining and defining his musical style and personal brand, this Prairie View A&M alum seems to be comfortably cruising in his own lane. Tim Woods' initial entrance into the music industry was met by a long run of obscurity. Perhaps missing a certain degree of intrigue or a defining characteristic, his music now clearly possesses what it once missed.
Over the past two years, Woods has released a string of projects that have served to focus and define his artistic identity. The singer/rapper from Houston is now undeniably in his zone. From his trademark flower headband, to his beautifully styled and directed visuals, Woods is an artist playing by his own rules.i
Both a vocalist and rapper, his songs tend to fall anywhere on the spectrum of modern music. Sometimes hip hop, sometimes R&B, sometimes straying as far as indie rock/funk. Tim Woods' musical style seems both fully formed and entirely uninhibited.
Though still planted firmly in the underground, the Tim Woods come up may be fast approaching. His Mulch Mondays project is a weekly track release promoted through professionally produced Instagram videos, and he was recently featured on Tobe Nwigwe's popular weekly project, Get Twisted Sundays, on the track, "TEN TOES". Both projects have generated significant local buzz, likely increasing Woods' clout by the day.
Raymond Auzenne, or RYMNA (pronounced "Ramond A"), has been making music for a long time. Much longer than some of the industry's most famous mainstream artists. He's one of those guys who's always around. Whether backstage at a Suffers' concert or working in the studio with Mannie Fresh and Steve O Valdez, RYMNA is the guy everyone knows. One who seems to always be working on a new project.
In 2015, he signed to Roologic Records — the independent label founded by local DJ and indie music veteran, DJ Baby Roo. His style fluctuates from scratch heavy east coast beats and rapid-fire lyricism, to a more alternative and rhythmic brand of chill rap. His latest drop, "Walter Mallone (Chevrolet)", falls in the latter category. The spacey beat and laid back west coast vocals set the tone for this nostalgic track about an old family truck.
Raymond and his camp are constantly in the studio and recently released a slew of singles on Spotify. Though not exactly tailored to the radio top 40 crowd, Raymond's raspy voice and unique work ethic do not seem to be going anywhere soon.
In fact, you can probably catch him doing a live set somewhere this weekend (hell, he might be on right now).
If you haven't heard the name BuddieRoe yet, then you're probably not familiar with #HTownRapBattle. The hashtag turned MC battle was an attempt by Houston's own Doughbeezy to support local rappers through social media. Rappers from across Houston posted their best one-minute verses on Instagram with the hashtag, #HTownRapBattle. The challenge generated more than 3,000 responses and culminated in a live showdown of Houston's best underground talent.
The winner of the event's first ever competition was none other than young Buddie Roe. The win catapulted the Southside native into Houston's hip hop major leagues seemingly overnight. Roe followed up on his big win with an appearance on Slim Thug and Doughbeezy's 2018 Motorsport freestyle, but not before releasing his debut single, "Southside Basquiat", in late 2017.
A biographical tale of growing up in South Houston, the song is both a genuine representation of the artist's life and a triumphant fusion of hood and art culture.
BuddieRoe merges raw lyrical prowess with heavy trap influences to create a sound that is Houston made without being Houston specific. Time will tell if this young talent will continue his current upward trajectory or not, but it is clear the city is rooting for him.
Danny Watts is not a typical Houston rapper. Perhaps that is why he found his creative outlet, mentor, and record label all in LA.
Last year, Watts released his freshman album, Black Boy Meets World, through Authors Recording Co.; the LA- based record label of underground hip hop icon Jonwayne. Like his boss, Watts operates on a lyrical and creative level that most in the rap game do not dare aspire to. His monotone yet melodious voice is reminiscent of Tyler the Creator, and he possesses a refined, poetic writing style not typically seen on debut albums.i
Watts reportedly wrote and recorded his entire album over the course of a single week in LA. An impressive feat regardless of the output, but an almost inconceivable one given the album's production and writing quality.
After a two-month tour with Jonwayne earlier this year (one that forced him to quit his 9-5 job and focus on hip hop full time) Watts is likely hard at work on his next project. Whatever that project is, he will be challenged to top the unusual success of his first release. Fans from Houston to LA wait patiently for the outcome.
WOLFE de MÇHLS
How does a guy with two pictures on his Instagram profile and almost no identifying information online have a track with Big KRIT and tens of thousands of views on his YouTube videos? The answer is entirely unclear, but one thing is certain; WOLFE de MCHLS may be Houston's most mysterious and fascinating artist.
Somewhere between rapper, singer, and producer, WOLFE's music is both visceral and hypnotizing. Chopped and screwed influences meet hyper-chill electro vibes on nearly all of his intoxicating tracks. His music is nostalgic, not of a particular era or genre, but of something intangible and unique to the listener.
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We know little of WOLFE's current projects, current location, or even appearance. His persona is mired in mystique. a link on his IG bio leads to an project on Apple Music from 2016 titled, Naked. The 14 track album seems to be WOLFE's only official multi-track release.
Whatever his current or future plans, it seems unlikely that such a unique young artist would disappear entirely from the scene just as he hit his creative stride. Fans continue to flock to his social media pages and YouTube channel, likely awaiting a surprise release from the eclectic artist.
Whether a new project will ever come is a secret only WOLFE knows. The rest of us will simply have to wait and see.