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. We don't know how many times Michael "5000" Watts has hosted a mixtape and didn't chop and screw it down. We can't imagine it's been many. We don't know how many times extremely respected producer Happy Perez has heard an artist on MySpace, called him up and put him on a song with Chamillionare. We can't imagine that's happened very often, either. But we can tell you it took only one listen to Jeremiah Morin, better known as Mayalino, for us to want to know more about him. When we started to write about Houston's Latino hip-hop landscape, it was artists' established reputations that drove us to their music, which drove us to write about their lives. It's changed a bit as of late. With Coast, Preemo, V-Zilla and now Mayalino, their music drove us to them, which allowed us to develop our own reputations of them, which drove us to write about their lives. That's how it happened with this rapper from the Magnolia section of Houston's Southside. We were in Zilla's dungeon (studio) when we first heard Mayalino, and Zilla told us the reason we haven't heard of him is because he just got home from prison a few years ago. He was right. Mayalino entered prison at 21 as a D-boy (slang for drug dealer) and member of the J-Block street gang which wasn't Crip or Blood affiliated. Rather, they had a directive to make money, and lots of it, and they sold drugs to get it. He left prison at 26 as a member of Houston's Tango Blast ("Together Against Negative Gang Organizations"), referred to by authorities as a prison gang, but not by its own members because it was created to protect those who didn't want to be part of a prison gang. And there's no leaving that life. In fact, Mayalino, now 28, has to ask for permission before releasing certain tracks that address certain aspects of life as part of Houston's Tango Blast. "People think why does (my music) sound so real, because it is real," Mayolino tells Rocks Off. And this is where he draws the line in the sand between him and other Latino rappers in H-Town who, he says, rap about a life they might not lead and do what he feels is a cheap regurgitation of a style of Houston rap versus carrying a legacy in a respectable way. "Most Latin artists in Houston are people that are trying to be like old school Black artists," Mayalino says. "It offends me automatically. You don't take their rhymes and try to make something of that as a Hispanic. Lots of people don't respect the rules of hip-hop." In Mayalino's world, hip-hop is a competition, like when he was a teenage "B-boy," or break dancer, winning national competitions in Los Angeles before a car accident forced him out of impromptu, acrobatic body slinging. In the B-boy world you straight-up battle, a fact that serves as an important analogy and makes Mayalino's argument worth a listen. If you're battling someone and they do a series of head spins, head slides and jackhammers, then you probably want to do something different to counter. Mayalino thinks some Latino rappers in Houston should look at hip-hop as a competition and do something different. Because the bigger picture, Mayalino tells us, is that today there isn't a Texas rapper idolized outside the state like Jay-Z is here. "Paul Wall, Chamillionare, they have money, but go to the East Coast and they are not being idolized," says Mayalino. "I'm trying to get there."
If the last two years of progress are any indication, he'll have a shot at contributing something to Houston hip-hop, at the very least. After getting out of prison, he released 7 Days, because he says it took seven days to produce. After one day of posting it on MySpace, Mayalino tells us Happy Perez called him and put him on a track called "All You Know" with Chamillionare on Perez'sSelf Employed
Mixtape. His next project,Truth Spoken
, dropped in December 2009 with all-original production. "Michael Watts hosted his own version [ofTruth Spoken
]," he says. "He personally said, 'you're from Houston but you're not a Houston rapper. I don't want to chop and screw this. This is something brand new from Houston so I'm going to do something brand new and not chop and screw this." So here's our take. Maylino told us he wants Rocks Off to host a mixtape, so automatically he's our favorite rapper in the universe. OK, seriously,Truth Spoken
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is an incredibly impressive album. Mayalino strains his vocals so his tone is between whispering and plain talk level, like he's whispering loudly. We dig it. Look, just download the damn album because describing voices isn't one of our strengths, but trust us that it's a great addition to your "new music" playlist in your iPod. If you're not a fan, you will be one by the end of track four. While Mayalino's statements are no doubt extremely bold, if street credit and rapping really well hold weight in hip-hop, then he's heavy as hell, so people should listen to what homeboy has to say. Do we want to see Screwed samples go away? No, because we need our fix of our city's syrupy sound, but do we want to see more artists like Mayalino rise up and add more definitions to what it is to be a Houston rapper or demonstrate what a Latino rapper is capable of? Yes, because some artists should be able to walk their path and not be "screwed" with, even if they are from Houston. "When I look at hip-hop, it's me," he says. "I treat it as a gang. Hip-hop is my gang. I'm gonna sleep and walk with it." Hell, we'll walk with you, Mayalino.Download Truth Spoken and 7 Days here. As of press time datpiff.com was trippin' so bear with the site or try baconandgreaseradio.com. Follow Mayalino on MySpace and Twitter. Rolando Rodriguez is the managing editor of www.redbrownandblue.com. Follow him on MySpace and Twitter.