The 20 Best Houston Rap Tapes Of 2017 (20-16)

Fat Tony helped create one of the best years in Houston rap music, ever.
Fat Tony helped create one of the best years in Houston rap music, ever. Photo by Mekael Dawson
Last year either felt like the longest year ever or the shortest one, depending on your deposition. In the last four months alone, the city of Houston has witnessed a 500-year flood, a World Series win, a franchise quarterback arrive and a snow day. We also may have had the most diverse stretch of rap releases, ever.

Unlike prior years where Houston rap remained embedded in certain cliques and circles, it blew up to various stretches of the internet. Soundcloud and internet presence became a more significant priority. Even as some artists who blew up from the platform regressed a bit in 2017, other artists stepped in and made sure their voices were heard. Simply put, rap dominated Houston in 2017, to the point where the few moments that haven’t been rap -related still found a way to circle back to the genre.

As long as the New Houston Rap column has existed (going on almost two plus years now), the standard thread has been a multitude of releases from artists such as Delorean, Le$, Doughbeezy, BeatKing and more. Last year added more names, all of them twisting away various styles of production. All bending flows and verses to craft what they thought was the best possible material. Let us start remembering the best of 2017, projects 20 through 16. If we had to push this list to take in honorable mentions, it would include Anti-Lilly's return, It's Nice Outside, De'Wayne Jackson's Don't Be Afraid, TrakkSounds' The Other Side, T2 Ghetto Hippie's Double Cups & Taco Trucks, Tim Woods' Stranger Strains and Jay-Von's Fuck A Title.

Tony Dark

20. TONY DARK, The Tony Dark Experience
The bearded alchemist of Houston had a proposition in 2017 to bring in all of his favorite rap voices (Kvng David, Doeman, Brice Blanco) for one giant comp tape. The Tony Dark Experience pilfered a few OutKast hints and drags (“Better Dayz”), soulful two-steps (“Revelations”) and carried plenty of heat in regards to rapping ability, structure and Tony Dark’s wizardry behind the boards.

An obsessive with sound and cohesion, Dark found his groove when considering that patches of his work have always navigated that East Coast brick cold, cut your teeth rap atmosphere populated by Conway, Westside Gunn, Roc Marciano and others. When he lent his sound to those who do their tinkering (see Bobby Earth’s two appearances on the opener “Famous” and closer “Internet Woes”), it allows Tony to dive even further into hues of bleak piano programming and drum arrangements. It’s far more than drinking and marauding with the Waxaholics whenever possible. The Experience asks if you’re in yet and then grabs you by the collar to drag your ass inward.

Hogg Booma

19. HOGG BOOMA, Turn Up 4 A Bag
Flow singers were the rage once upon a time. Big Moe was the original gold standard as he would fluctuate between Screwed up carols and Houston slang and standard rapping. Z-Ro took that mantle head on and made it a focal point of his summer album, No Love Boulevard. Hogg Booma sits between those two acts as someone who sings about the ups and downs of street life but also is charismatic enough to make it seem earnest and crucial knowledge.

Turn Up 4 A Bag didn’t attempt to reinvent the wheel or create a stranglehold on the genre. It floated around as a project aimed at getting to the money. “Soul Bleed” gives the tape its entire ethos though. There’s a point in life where you can’t go back to where you were before. Hogg Booma may bleed Texas City, but he sings and hustles for his mom and his son. Get it how you live, by any means necessary.

Izzar Thomas
18. IZZAR THOMAS, Somewhere New
Izzar Thomas is one of the literal representations of growth within music. Once upon a time, Thomas was a streamlined rapper who attacked beats like Russell Westbrook loves getting to the rim. Or how James Harden is angling his way for a foul call. Somewhere New subtracted all of that headspace and instead invited melody and whimsy.

“Blank Trip” details a long drive out to California while obscuring Route 66, “Wav” carries a low stakes approach in regards to song crafting but yields high results and bounce and “Soon” carefully outlines Izzar’s passions about getting to it with his people by his side. At best, Somewhere New is an album about the transition, about finding love and discovery of self. About being young and capable enough to acknowledge your mistakes while making sure you never repeat them.

Show Louis

17. SHOW LOUIS, Country Trap Tunez 2

Collectively, Show Louis released two tapes in 2017. Money Didn’t Make Anybody pulled in specific pieces of what made last year’s Love & Drugz such a special tape. Country Trap Tunez 2 linked him back together with PugTunes to create a leaner, far meaner moment. Show’s entire demeanor on wax is that of a Denzel Washington character, preferably Creasy from Man On Fire.

You know Show's pains and struggles, losses, and wins. He doesn’t hide them, and when it comes to rapping, he’s always moving forward. Country Trap Tunez 2 is a signal for all of the faithful Show fans, from the lethargic and fun shit-talk affair that is “Free Promotion” to the hardened waltz of “Can U Feel Me” and breezy, yet-even keeled opener “Faith.” Hard-nosed rappers like Show don’t come around too often, nor do they maintain the staying power of touching all corners.

16. FAT TONY, MacGregor Park
At his core, Fat Tony loves everything Houston. The former Overweight Anthony (thanks, Shea Serrano) has made it his life’s mission to not only press forward with sharing the culture beyond city limits but also stretching how fun he can make his albums. MacGregor Park is an ode to skate jams, to Sunday afternoons spent in Third Ward watching bowling ball Impalas glisten in the sunlight and more.

Named specifically for The L.A. Rapper’s own Houston theme song back in the early ‘80s, Tony’s tape travels and uses its short, 29-minute distance to cover everything from police harassment (“Ridin Home”) to his love of Whataburger and educating the world on how the criminalization of weed began in America. Ultimately, it crests around the tape’s closer, a swoon-style ode to the park and finally Third Ward. Never mistake Fat Tony for a poser. Always treat him like the tour guide you forever wanted to talk about the city.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell