Screwston, Texas

A-KAZA: Anatomy of a Houston Battle Rapper

Having cut his teeth with the dons of Rap-a-Lot Records. namely Scarface, A-KAZA's music is now independently his. As his brother, Stanka, puts it, “A-KAZA has chosen not to be a puppet in the industry. There is no-one who can control his sound. When it’s time to release a single or video, it’s just done. We ask nobody but the breadbox (wallet)!”

While he has collaborated in studio with the likes of Kirko Bangz, Lil Keke, Lil Flip, Killa Kyleon and Paul Wall, A-KAZA is now on a mission to school the streets with the essence of hip-hop: the battle rap. His flow can be seen on Houston Bar Code YouTube channel. Here he is considered one of the prominent voices of this genre. For those slightly under a rock, battling is where two MCs rap against each other for three rounds and judges decide the winner. (Please do not confuse this with the pitiful poetry slams in Houston put on by the ubiquitous Emanuelee Bean.)

Houston’s rap battles are rooted in a culture that is prominent throughout the nation. Some of these events have sponsors such at Remy, Bad Boy and Redbull. This culture saw a revival in places like Atlanta’s Mic Club started by DJ Ox (RIP) and Drez of 4Kings Entertainment. Its popularity can be found strewn across with celebrities showing up to see the battle as if it were a heavyweight title fight. At Houston’s Bar Code, opponents need to fulfill several categories: wordplay, delivery, presence, style, wittiness and scheming. The last one is where A-KAZA chooses to shine.

A-KAZA says, “Scheming is when a rapper takes a theme such as television show titles, characters and characteristics and uses them to win a battle.” He spits a bit to demonstrate his verses and curses: “I’ll show you the art like Martin/ Hold up where you goin'/ Not to work, Tommy/ Come back here so I can whip and Nae Nae you/ Don’t go far cause I know how you like to Gerome roam/ Just take yo ass back home!”

This type of wordplay is a crowd favorite, as it pulls on many pop-culture references. When mentioning the various places, times and characters the MC can tap into many people’s consciousness during a verse. The reference to Tommy from Martin Lawrence's '90s sitcom Martin is telling us that the opponent has no job or skills. The reference to whip and Nae Nae conjures up the over-the-top Sheneneh (Martin’s neighbor) as well as the popular song by Silinceo. He further lets his opponent know he is a pest by evoking Jerome the pimp from the show. In just that short verse A-KAZA has let the audience (judges) know what he thinks of anyone trying to battle him.

People should know that he comes with a sword and peace. His single and video "New Jacks," featuring Al Crocka and Madman Charles, is a manifestation of this sword. His crew lets us know that “they run things off in da city!” A-KAZA starts off with a declaration that any Ninja in his crew's vicinity will be executed; he is essentially putting up-and-coming rappers on blast. In the words of KRS-One, “We run de town!” A-KAZA illustrates this through the visual theme of robbing some young cats who are trying to sell, uhhhh, syrup in his hood that it will not be tolerated, Maa-FUCKA!

A-KAZA’s peace can be seen in the love that was recently shown by Wrist Gang Smokeshop, who featured him as the headliner for their one-year anniversary block party. Here, DJ Alief rattled the corner of Mallow and Cullen streets with what he calls the only "real Underground music pool.” Soon, A-KAZA pulls up and parks his blacked-out BMW as the party’s centerpiece. As folks young and old gathered, A-KAZA greeted the people, autographing them with hugs and a multiplicity of handshakes and dap. The love for him in Houston is truly legit. Now, let’s see if it is enough to keep up his battle-rap winning streak.

A-KAZA performs during Klondike Kat's birthday/welcome-home party this Saturday at Bar Republic, 6015 Hillcroft; 6-11 p.m.

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