Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

DJ Mr. Rogers is over there, being all DJ Mr. Rogers.

It's approaching midnight on an obstinately warm Wednesday evening at Scott Gertner's Sports Bar, and Rogers is standing behind a laptop on a computer stand on a table on the patio.

One of Houston's very best DJs, Rogers is confident if not altogether cocky. His assurance manifests itself in a peculiar, robotic fashion.

There is no Lil Jon in his blood. Mr. Rogers is not wild when he works, rather subdued, calculated and maybe a little nerdy. Generally firm-footed, he rocks in place a little when the thump of a new song arrives.

As the song kicks, he juts his head forward and back a few times, he furtively glances toward the crowd, then sets his eyes back at his screen. He's focused, waiting for the next moment.

Rogers plays only snippets of songs, as most good DJs do. He blends together the most interesting parts of each, stealing their energy and then discarding them immediately.

He has done charity work for the Pink Ribbon Project and various student organizations. He has orchestrated appearances by Texas rap personalities, free of charge, at various schools throughout H.I.S.D. on countless occasions. With aspiring DJs, Rogers has made numerous trips to Guitar Center, walking them through the process of what and what not to buy.

He is a kind person, but when Rogers is working — bending the intent of a song towards his will — he is brutal and parasitic. Give me what I want, then get the fuck out.

Rogers categorizes songs by subgenre association. If he notices a substantial number of Louisianans in the crowd, he may weave a few nominal sissy-bounce artists together. He categorizes songs according to philosophical doctrine, as in the rigid environmentalism of UGK's "Let Me See It" (2001) and Lil Wayne's "John" (2011).

He builds his mixes intellectually because he is an intellectual. Rogers has a degree in Computer Engineering Technology from Prairie View A&M University, but his reaction, and sequencing, are visceral.

Tonight, like every night, the movement of the crowd is fluid. The patio-dwellers occasionally break to shout out Rogers on Twitter, hoping for a retweet to his more than 19,000 followers. From 12 a.m. to 12:10 a.m., these messages crawl across the feed:

@DESZ84: @DJMrRogers got scotts live den a bitch.

@PartyBoyDJz at: As usual @DJMrRogers goin in at Scotts...

@DJAudiTory: Just got to #Scotts. And its too packed. A nigga really want some wings and a drink. Lol. #shoutout to @DJMrRogers for this live mix.

Rogers wears camouflage cargo shorts, a backwards-facing snapback hat, and a red, white and blue tank top that reads "Cream Team." A curious Audrey Hepburn tattoo covers the inside of his right bicep.

Rap is in the thick of a transition from the canonized gangster exploits of Tupac, et al., to the liberalism sanctioned by Kanye West's ascendancy. Rogers's shirt, a nod to the United States' fabled 1992 Olympic basketball "Dream Team," stands for the same thing as the man wearing it: Stylized capitalism.

Mr. Rogers has, through a confluence of diligent work and circumstance, positioned himself to become a legitimate kingmaker DJ. Perhaps.

Suggest he's a kingmaker, though, and all you get is a heavy breath, a "Maaan," and a sigh. Then, on the patio of a Southwest Houston Taco Cabana the night before, Rogers gives a walkthrough on how he has hoped to become just that.

Rogers has built up his reputation organically, sharpening his lance at clubs and larger and larger-scale college events. In 2004, less than two years after he began DJing, he backed his way into an alliance with Slim Thug, capturing ears by helping produce a string of regional hits including Trae's "Swang," Durrough's "Walk That Walk" and Party Boyz's "Flex."

He has secured DJ residencies in other cities, and engineering credits with all sorts of artists from Pharrell to Gwen Stefani. (Remember when Slim Thug accidentally recorded that track?). Recently, Mr. Rogers has begun pushing his name out further, seeking out New Era rappers such as Curren$y and Mac Miller for collaborations.

Premier DJ/producer hybrids have always rated nationally. Right now Don Cannon and DJ Drama come to mind, with unnecessary-screams enthusiast/general blowhard DJ Khaled keeping pace with both in terms of current hype.

Cannon and Drama have passively petitioned for Texas as a hip-hop state, hosting Trae's and Kirko Bangz's most recent mixtapes, respectively, but neither has ever fully championed the state to a national audience the way a homegrown model would.

The late DJ Screw is, for sure, a legend, and history already treats him as such. As early as 1999, Sam Houston State University offered a class called "The History of Rock and Roll," with Screw's impact on music in general as part of the curriculum. Michael "5000" Watts and OG Ron C are monumental stories as well, each having helped carve Texas's name into the firmament for more than a decade.

Both continue to influence Southern rap's arc today. Watts has unexpectedly (and enjoyably) embraced the Dubstep genre, while Ron C has polished Screwed and Chopped music into a pensive art form; despite the aggressive title, his Fuck Action tapes are quite intricate and complete.

But from that generation to Mr. ­Rogers's, there has been a gap. Some younger DJs have the necessary skill sets to reach marquee status in town — namely Ebonix, who has 97.9's brand and considerable clout behind him, and Rapid Ric, another heralded performer and perennially growing name chasing the same kingmaker designation.

But many argue that ­Rogers, who is young, black, talented, handsome and has an ­official mixtape (S.U.S.H.I.: Shit U Need to Hear Immediately), appears the most ready, the most proactively eager, the most ­professionally packaged of the bunch.

The only thing he lacks is a viable partner. Every big DJ became big by helping break an artist nationally. Drama and Cannon had Jeezy, T.I. and that whole lot. Khaled had the Terror Squad and then Rick Ross. Who does Rogers have?

"I don't know," he allows. "That's the thing. I'm ready. There's a lot of ­talent in Houston right now."

In 2005, Houston was the center of the hip-hop universe. With rap's zeitgeist currently up for grabs and the possibility of a renaissance at stake, it's inching back to its former glory.

And at the moment, from the ­vantage point of Scott Gertner's Sports Bar ­patio, it looks like it's all spiraling back to a fashion­able red, white and blue tank top.

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Shea Serrano