On January 20 of last year, Rocks Off first discovered an unsigned Houston artist by the name of Preemo. When we stumbled upon him on MySpace, he was an unknown.
Amazing what a year will do.
For all intents and purposes, Houston's Preemo had seen his better years as a rapper, briefly signing to the Los Angeles label that in 2001 made R&B singer Amanda Perez an MTV sensation for about as long as it takes for you to snap your fingers.
But Preemo was sitting on a haymaker, Concrete Dreams, nothing short of a remarkable album that our own Shea Serrano ranked second on Rocks Off's Top 10 Houston Rap Albums of 2010. More remarkably, it beat out every relevant Houston rapper you can possibly name, except Trae, whose music just got on a Nike commercial, for the love of God.
He's caught the eye of Paul Wall; future collaboration pending. And Wall's road manager Gu of SLFEMP Management has recently become Preemo's manager, opening doors for him in the industry.
No longer an unknown right? Wrong.
After all that's happened for Preemo in the last year, outside the tuned-in tight circle of hip-hop heads in the city, Preemo remains largely unnoticed among fans of the rapper-drenched Houston independent scene despite being widely acknowledged as among the three or four best unsigned rappers in the city.
His mixtape trilogy, The Magic Bullet, hopes to change all that.
The Magic Bullet stands up to the best projects released in Houston this year and we predict it will endure. It's as enjoyable and refreshing as the current local mixtape to beat, Delo's Hood Politics Vol. 2.
The Magic Bullet aims to take after the bizarre but impressive path the original magic rifle bullet took from the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository through 15 layers of clothing, seven layers of skin, approximately 15 inches of tissue, a necktie knot, four inches of rib, and a radius bone on November 22, 1963.
Preemo's Magic Bullet is nothing that sinister, just terrific beats that possess anything from odd Gotham-like melodies to jazzy piano keys to angelic, heartstring-jerking samples fire off his signature silky-smooth vocals that deliver sharp-tongued, chin-up, always intelligent, witty and insightful, heart on sleeve lyrics. Like the Magic Bullet theory, this mixtape zig-zags between biography, hip-hop politics and musical metaphors.
In truth, this mixtape of original beats makes a very worthy attempt at replicating the magic of Concrete Dreams, but time tells the tale. The Magic Bullet took 11 days to create; Concrete Dreams three years. And that's really all you need to know. Flight 713 and Strange Brew fall in accordingly, in that order.
Forensic ballistics on The Magic Bullet reveal:
"When She Started" refers to hip-hop. As the mixtape matures, "She" will possibly age to be its best and most important track. It fearlessly points guns at fans of hip-hop who don't buy albums and takes it to slimy promoters who sell the music dream to aspiring artists referring to the popular art of getting rappers to sell tickets in order to perform at shows.
The first one's wining/ I call 'em all Merlots/ Said they love hip-hop but ain't bought a CD since they put Pun on the mural/ You should find an MC to believe in/ Even if it isn't me so be it then/ Want to know why hip-hop ain't poppin'?/ Look in the mirror/ You're the reason.
"So Damn High" is emotional, if you know the backstory. It has lots of moving parts melodically. It's airy and dreamy and if you know Preemo's discography, you'll agree it ranks with "New Pistol," (Concrete Dreams) "The Ultimate Truth" (Dreams) and "Just Shoot Me" (Flight 713) as some of his very best work.
"The reason that track is so emotional for me is that every beat gives me a picture," Preemo says. "The song was done. I just needed to hear the beat. That beat symbolized to me my stepfather giving me music. It was like a father giving a son something. That's what it represented to me."
"High" was written shortly after Preemo found out about his stepfather's Parkinson's disease.
"Fly With Me" makes you think that maybe Preemo's second calling is as an ornithologist. It's a conceptual and creative song about birds, and is hella effective - a head-bobbing track that brings back K-Szzle who was featured on Concrete Dreams' "Choose Your Adventure."
Amongst the birds and the pelicans/ These words are my feathers with/ Hollow bones I'm able to roam up where the heavens is/ My bird's eye view got ya'll lookin' all irrelevant/ When it comes to dropping my shit, I'm never hesitant.
"Chemical Imbalance," featuring Hollywood FLOSS, is a sarcastic anthem, mocking the psychological crutch (i.e. a chemical imbalance) folks often use to justify their craziness. In this case, Preemo puts haters in his crosshairs. FLOSS makes a very respectable cameo.
"Stand Up Guy" gives a slept-on, fly Houston rapper, Rel the Chosen, a place to display his very overlooked lyrical ability. The soulful, '70s-like beat is a proper platform for Rel, who knows a little something about rapping over soul. The track also features Spokane, WA-based, Sintax who doesn't shy away from making a strong showing next to Preemo and Rel.
"My Letter to Ice Cube" is self-explanatory. This track ventures into the several days and nights Preemo spent with Ice Cube at Lench Mob Studios in Los Angeles while recording the former N.W.A. member's album Laugh Now Cry Later (2006). Paying homage to his favorite childhood rapper, Preemo raps:
This is my letter to Ice Cube/ Never got a chance to tell you thanks, now I'd like to/ This is my letter to the don/ Paying my respects/ Had to put it in a song.
Fittingly, The Magic Bullet was partly recorded, mixed and mastered by R&B singer Deonis Cook in Dallas, the city in which The Magic Bullet Theory was born and changed America.
"The main idea was, 'I'm about to kill it ... with a bullet,'" Preemo says. "The Magic Bullet is the most famous conspiracy theory. I knew The Magic Bullet would have that kind of impact. I knew after The Magic Bullet, it would change everything."
When the original magic bullet was fired, it did change everything. Will history repeat itself when Preemo fires off his own?
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Download The Magic Bullet here.